By Ashley Davis
“Spinelli Kilcollin has done a dynamite job of creating a brand from one design concept,” says consultant Jenna Wise. "It has designer Yves Spinelli popping into the social feed at certain moments. It’s always educating about the product. It never feels like too much. The way the brand delivers content is incredibly on point.”
If you’re promoting a fine jewelry line today—or any product or brand for that matter—you have an almost too-generous arsenal of tools at your disposal, many of which won’t cost you anything.

SOTM19 Article Page 315x258You can launch a website, possibly with e-commerce to sell directly to clients.

You can host events, whether at your retail partners’ stores, at a pop-up space, or in conjunction with other brands.

You can tweet or post to Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. You can make videos and post them on YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook stories, IGTV (Instagram’s video channel), or Gen Z-favorite video app, Tik Tok.

You can create an email newsletter, hire an influencer, put an ad on television or online, even share brand-specific Spotify playlists. 

Given this plethora of options, you also could become overwhelmed and look into outsourcing some of these marketing decisions to a branding consultant/adviser/advocate/expert/digital marketer, but, wait, what do these labels even mean?

For a designer or jeweler, it’s easy to see how daunting crafting a marketing and branding strategy is in an ever-changing digital world, but there’s good news to having so many ways to connect with consumers.

Start Here
First of all, what is branding?

“It’s any aspect of the brand that is being expressed through any touchpoint that is public facing,” explains Jenna Wise, a brand consultant and advisor who works with companies ranging from publicly traded global giants to emerging, independent design brands. 

20191101 Branding sidebar JennaMeet the Experts: Coach recruited Jenna Wise directly out of college to join its new global web and digital media division and launch the brand on social media. The company was an ahead-of-the-curve digital and e-commerce leader, investing in the arena before many of its competitors. It was there that Wise met creative strategist Emerald Carroll; the two went on to create jewelry editorial website The Stone Set.“Building a successful brand is in itself a thousand little actions. It’s putting commas in the right place when you’re writing text … It’s defining a mission, values and what differentiates a company in the marketplace. It’s having the right imagery, it’s having a cohesive website.

“It’s a lot.”

And each action is important.

“All those touchpoints through which someone connects with the brand are an opportunity to establish a relationship,” says Mortimer.

“The rise of social media has made the barrier for entry for a brand much lower than it ever has been,” says Simon Mortimer, who worked as a creative director at agencies advising the likes of the BBC and Wimbledon and now owns his own creative agency, A-B-D.

He and other experts say that, regardless of the seemingly constant advent of new media platforms, a solid marketing strategy will always start with the basics, which requires a good deal of foundational introspection.

Before delving into the nitty-gritty details of branding, both Wise and Mortimer advise that a company, whether it employs one person or 100,000, must clarify exactly who it is and what it stands for.

“You have to start with articulating your brand,” says Wise. “What are its values, what is its DNA? I like to call it your ethos, which means, what’s your brand essence? What’s your reason for existing?”

20191101 Branding AlisonLouJewelry Brand Doing It Right: Alison Lou
“It sets a concise idea of what its jewelry stands for,” says Jenna Wise. 

She says successful branding means consumers immediately understand what that brand is. She gives Burberry as an example, citing its tagline: “Burberry is a global luxury brand with a distinctly British attitude.”

“That’s its ethos,” she says. “That’s the one line that sums it all up.”

Both Wise and Mortimer advise companies to create an internal set of documents explaining their brand ethos, essentially defining “the lens with which you approach every design and every opportunity that comes your way,” Wise says.

Wise calls these documents a “brand book,” which could be as brief as a one-page dossier. Creating and referencing it helps a company figure out what message it wants to send and check that it is doing so consistently in all marketing.

“[A brand book] can have things like your story, your manifesto, your vision, your values, personas, your target demographic,” she says. “It should distill your brand ethos, or the one-line descriptor on why you exist.”

Mortimer refers to these same basic documents as a “brand
platform,” and recommends breaking it down into specific categories, or “pillars,” which provide a useful exercise in crafting a company’s narrative.

The first pillar is brand mission, similar to what Wise describes as a brand’s ethos.

“That means, what’s your greater purpose?” Mortimer explains. “Why do you exist as a company?”

The next pillar is brand vision, defining where your company wants to go in the future.

20191101 Branding FoundraeJewelry Brand Doing It Right: Foundrae
“When you look through Foundrae’s social media you see a very cohesive feed and even the evolution of her jewelry over time," says Simon Mortimer. "You can see she’s been honing her craft, building her story and it’s nice to see the evolution of product because everything still feels cohesive.”

He says you should ask yourself: What are we working toward as a brand? Where do we see ourselves in the coming years? In what direction are we headed?

Even if you’re just launching, envisioning where you want to be in five years, or decades into the future, will help cultivate a brand platform that is evergreen and consistent over time.

“You have to be very consistent in your message or you will lose customers’ attention very fast,” says Wise. “A lot of people build for the short term instead of the long game and that’s a huge, huge misstep.”

The third pillar is brand muse.

That’s really understanding the audience you’re talking to,” says Mortimer. “A lot of the time, brands try to be everything to everyone and that just never works; you send mixed messages. But you can and should hone a very singular narrative talking to your direct audience. It’s good to have a strong understanding of whom you’re really talking to.”

20191101 Branding sidebar SimonMeet the Experts: Simon Mortimer got his start in graphic design, eventually growing into the role of creative director. In London he worked with several well-known companies, from sports teams to hotel chains. In 2014 he made the move stateside, continuing his creative work before launching his own studio, A-B-D Agency, an acronym for Associates By Design.After defining the customer, a company should further define itself, by its brand personality – the fourth pillar.

Mortimer says the easiest way to do this is to treat the company as if it were a person, describing what music she listens to, what car she drives or how she would introduce herself to a stranger.

A celebrity can be a good stand-in for this exercise. A brand synonymous with Natalie Portman, for example, clearly has a different personality than a company more in the vein of Miley Cyrus.

The fifth and last pillar is brand tone, or “how the brand communicates itself visually and verbally,” Mortimer says.

He suggests naming adjectives that describe the brand, like honest, personable, confident, humorous, courageous, quiet or humble.

“These words give you an idea of how you need to start communicating the brand,” says Mortimer. “If it’s bold and confident that’s a very different visual aesthetic and story than if the brand was sort of humble and personable.”

Defining a brand is the seed from which an overall marketing strategy will grow.

“When the marketing person is writing an e-mail or doing a social post or putting an ad out, using this platform guides how [she or he] talks about the brand externally,” Mortimer explains. “It’s basically putting parameters around those communication pieces.”

And while the brand platform, or brand book, can be tweaked over time, a company’s core values and beliefs should essentially remain the same.

Story, Story, Story
Now that you, Company X, have completed the above exercises to define and clarify who you are – you have a story to tell.

A company that does a great job of relaying its story is beauty brand Glossier, Mortimer says.

Glossier’s website, through text and imagery, emphasizes its focus on selling beauty products for “real people.” It’s a disruption to the traditional beauty industry model, in which executives use ads to tell consumers what beauty is and how they can achieve that look.

Instead, Glossier communicates that it’s creating beauty products inspired by and for the consumer.

“It’s very people-centric,” Mortimer explains. “It fosters a sense of community. It’s gender-neutral so it’s inviting everyone in.”

Having this kind of clear, resolute narrative helps cultivate a recognizable presence amid a sea of competition.

“When brands develop a story, it gives their audiences a very clear understanding of what the brand is about and what it’s trying to do. As the market gets more and more cluttered, this is what’s going to set [a brand] apart.”

20191101 Branding JacquieAicheJewelry Brand Doing It Right: Jacquie Aiche
Mortimer explains that, “Jacquie Aiche is building a story through more of a visual representation, sort of a lifestyle narrative. That’s a very good example of how the personality of the brand has come to life through visuals rather than verbally. On her Instagram you get a sense of who she is and what she’s about.”

Mortimer points out that, luckily, the jewelry industry is already well-versed in the power of storytelling.

A fine jewelry brand that’s doing a great job of communicating its story is New York City-based Foundrae, known for its emphasis on symbols that represent concepts like transformation and strength.

Designer Beth Bugdaycay and her team share and discuss what her jewelry stands for with their audience through digital and physical touchpoints.

“Every piece of [Beth’s] has a meaning behind it so the customer can start to build her own narrative,” Mortimer says. “Beth’s woven the story directly into the object itself. She’s inviting you, the consumer, into the story by allowing you to become part of the story.”

Whatever story a brand is telling, whether it’s a story of inclusion like Glossier or self-discovery like Foundrae, Mortimer stresses the narrative must be authentic, not simply what a company thinks its consumers want to hear.

“It’s like matchmaking. Here’s a brand, these are its values, and this is its story. Does that align with me as a consumer? If it does then great, I’ll become a lifelong fan. If it doesn’t, I’ll go to a brand with a different narrative.”

Do It for the ‘Gram
While there’s no wrong platform to utilize as a branding touchpoint, the best visual social media tool available for jewelry right now is Instagram.

“Instagram is the first place where someone gets a real flavor of what the brand is,” Mortimer says. “Anytime I hear about a brand, I go on Instagram and quickly scroll through its feed. If I like it then I might go to the website.”

Wise says companies can “distill the look and feel of the brand” on Instagram.

And no detail is too unimportant.

20191101 Branding JemmaWynneJewelry Brand Doing It Right: Jemma Wynne
“Jemma Wynne does a great job of direct selling," says Wise. "They’re good at communicating messages like ‘new pieces in’ or ‘DM us if you have a stone you want to reset.’ They’re great at educating the customer that they can be a partner if they have a stone or want to breathe new life into their wedding band.”

She recommends starting by picking an “eye-catching” avatar, or profile picture. The profile’s bio should be the brand ethos, that one line that shows what sets the brand apart. The bio is one of the first chances to show what a company is, so brands should avoid clichés and focus on what makes them unique.

“‘Fine Jewelry Made in New York City’ is not anything different,” Wise notes. “A customer should immediately get, ‘How is this different?’ and, ‘What can I expect?’”

The Instagram feed itself doesn’t need to follow an exact formula beyond presenting a cohesive narrative, which can be achieved through an overall style of imagery, a color scheme, or even the way captions are worded.

“People think there is one way to have a perfect feed and I don’t think that’s true anymore,” she says. “One of the biggest things I always tell people is, you have to play to your strengths.

“If you don’t have the budget for good photography or don’t have confidence in your own iPhone shooting skills, why not come up with one great creative text template and just put your favorite quotes, or make up your own?”

Wise also notes Instagram is moving away from the algorithm that rewarded frequent or specifically timed posting.

“People start to get a little fatigued when someone is posting way too much, trying to hit five posts a day. You have to find the right balance for your brand and realize social media is not a megaphone through which you’re just shouting stuff out.”

One of the mistakes Wise sees brands make on Instagram is “posting without purpose,” trying to follow the latest tips they’ve heard on when or how much to post.

More important than anything, Wise and Mortimer agree, is that an Instagram feed has to feel authentic. Companies must connect with the audience they have in a real and meaningful way.

“The minute people sense you’re trying too hard or that you’re presenting something you’re not, that’s the minute you lose all relevance and respect,” Wise says. “The companies that do the best set out to connect and engage. They don’t set out to just rack up a ton of likes and comments.

“I think the biggest mistake people make is that they amplify without meaning to connect. They only try to drive sales when they need to connect with people and educate them on what they’re creating.”

20191101 Branding LarkspurandHawkJewelry Brand Doing It Right: Larkspur & Hawk
“The brand is not posting every day but when it does, it posts the message in a very articulate, interesting and on-brand way," says Wise. "I also think it does a great job with editorial content, featuring a woman the brand admires, or things that [designer Emily Satloff] loves, which is one of the sections of its website. It understands how to take long-form content and distill it into short-form content on Instagram.”

Mortimer agrees, advising brands to “foster community through comments,” and “actually start up conversations.”

“[Instagram] just wants you to create beautiful things that are meaningful for your brand and to connect with your community. This can really be the deal breaker for a lot of brands to succeed,” says Wise.

Post It Like A Pro
Wise suggests brands treat their Instagram feed like the pages of a magazine, using it to create a narrative around their products.

“There’s room to really romanticize your product and share new discoveries and I don’t think there’s a lot of people who approach it like that. The ones who do are really smart and successful.”

And just as a jewelry company aims to deliver a personal experience in a store, it should approach social media with the same attitude, making personal concierge selling digital.

Wise gives this example: “To win a new customer you could direct message [her] and say, ‘Hey, thanks for following or thanks for tagging. We want to give you a one-time 15 percent-off code.’ And the interaction is private. This practice is already ingrained in a lot of successful brands’ marketing strategies.”

It’s these types of interactions that can make a digital relationship feel tangible.

“Today every consumer wants to feel like a VIP,” Mortimer concurs, “so how do we make those little efforts that make everyone feel a little more special?”

Instagram Squashed Snapchat – But Not Video
Video is a media type gaining ever more prominence – and a tool all brands should be directing resources to right now (just look at Gen Z’s fascination with YouTube influencers for a glimpse into the future of marketing).

Instagram Stories—the short videos that disappear after 24 hours or can be saved in an account’s “highlights”—were created to compete with the once wildly popular video and image platform Snapchat. Stories proved so successful that Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, has since introduced the feature, too.

Social media strategy is always evolving, but Wise says according to the latest information available on Instagram’s infamous algorithm, Instagram Stories are likely the best way to generate views right now.

20191101 Branding IreneNeuwirthJewelry Brand Doing It Right: Irene Neuwirth
Wise notes, “It’s really hard to have an eponymous brand and find a way to balance your brand and personal life [on social media], and I think she does a really superb job of that.”

“More people have a shot at seeing your stories, probably, and watching them all than seeing your feed.”

Mortimer sees video, whether posted on Instagram Stories, on the Instagram feed or on Instagram’s IGTV page, as an excellent method to create more conversation around a brand.

He advises brands to use video to show behind-the-scenes footage of the company so it’s much more transparent about the process—what goes into creating the jewelry, and who the people are working on it.

Being authentic entails sharing “a little more of the story, rather than just finished product all of the time,” he explains.

Companies should also take advantage of Instagram Stories tools, like the ability to ask questions and conduct polls, to further facilitate a dialogue with established and potential customers.

“The best thing a brand can have happen is when a customer buys a piece of jewelry, [she] becomes an advocate for the brand and extends the story further. If you can make that story easy and simple for [customers] to understand and articulate to friends and family, they become almost another marketing platform themselves,” concludes Mortimer.

Don’t Forget the Website
A website provides a destination where all conversations and connections forged through social media lead.

It’s also the place where a lot of jewelry brands are getting it wrong.

“I feel like I get confused on jewelry websites because a lot of the time, there is no story,” Mortimer says.

But a website can be a great platform to “talk about the story, the craft, your narrative, where you source your materials, who you are and share the behind-the-scenes view.”

20191101 Branding KataokaJewelry Brand Doing It Right: Kataoka
“Even though its biggest market is the U.S., Kataoka’s brand story is still very rooted in this idea of handmade, sustainably sourced artisanal Japanese craft," Mortimer explains. "Designer Yoshinobu Kataoka becomes part of the story as you go on its website. You can see him there making the jewelry so there’s also this little look behind the scenes.”

He says sharing a story through a company website is even more important than showcasing the product.

Wise agrees that websites filled with little more than jewelry product shots are missed opportunities for brands to gain customers.

Creating website content, such as articles talking about the brand, its founder, the design process or even interviewing other creatives aligned with the company’s brand ethos, are all ways to demonstrate what the brand is.

As traditional print media declines, consumers are more likely to consume their content from a variety of digital sources. Again, creating editorial content in the same vein as a magazine is a great strategy to set a brand apart.

“I think editorial [content] is critically important to any emerging or established brand,” says Wise. “That’s how you build your brand’s soul, other than having a great product that people believe in.”

Plus, she notes, a website’s content and keywords are essential for search engine optimization, or SEO, helping brands rise to the top in search results so they’re easily discovered  by consumers.

Creating editorial content can even form the basis of a company’s marketing strategy.

Wise advises asking oneself, what’s the long-form angle here?

“If you were to write a blog post or article about something you could then break it down into short- form content that could live on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, e-mail newsletters—wherever you have a presence,” she explains.

The same goes for imagery.

The long-form version of visual content is a collection campaign, comprised of at least 10-30 images, plus a one- to two-minute video that can be edited into smaller snippets. From there, individual images and videos can be shared across all channels.

Taking it one step further, Wise says that for paid media, or ads, brands can then distill that content into ad formats.

“And that,” she says, “is how you build a revenue-driving business.”

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Since 1906, National Jeweler has been the must-read news source for smart jewelry professionals--jewelry retailers, designers, buyers, manufacturers, and suppliers. From market analysis to emerging jewelry trends, we cover the important industry topics vital to the everyday success of jewelry professionals worldwide. National Jeweler delivers the most urgent jewelry news necessary for running your day-to-day jewelry business here, and via our daily e-newsletter, website and other specialty publications, such as "The State of the Majors." National Jeweler is published by Jewelers of America, the leading nonprofit jewelry association in the United States.