Illinois Jewelers Stage an Elaborate Game of Hide-and-Seek

When Mark and Monika Clodius, co-owners of Clodius & Co. Jewelers in Rockford, Ill., were brainstorming possible promotional events, they had two mandates in mind: highlight the town’s natural beauty and create an explosion of engagement on the store’s Facebook page.

Clodius & Co. owners Mark and Monika Clodius

What they cooked up—the result of nearly 18 months of contemplation and preparation—is one of the most innovative retailer events we’ve ever come across.

One Aug. 24, the fine jewelry shop launched a six-month-long game of hide-and-seek where members of the community search for river rocks engraved with the company’s logo, guided by a mix of clues that are initially announced on local radio stations then transferred to the company’s Facebook page.

Clues so far have included a photo of a few houses with the tip “This is your view from this rock” and a photo of a slice of boulder with the note “To find this rock, go right at the fork.”

The retailers hide roughly four rocks a week in places like old hollowed-out logs and barbeque grills in the park, then ask their excavators to return the rocks to the store in exchange for a piece of jewelry.

A logo-engraved river rock that will be hidden many times over in the course of the hide-and-seek game (courtesy of Clodius & Co.)

All told, the shop will dole out $30,000 in prizes; the grand prize—a 1 ct. diamond valued at $8,000—will be awarded at the end of the hunt.

And there’s even a contest within the contest: Every rock bears a sticker on its backside that reads “You are a winner” along with a QR code that, when scanned, takes you to a specially created winner’s page on Facebook. Once there, finders are encouraged to post a photo of themselves for their friends to vote on. Each month, the person who gets the most votes wins a prize.

Every rock that goes out into the community is assigned a level—bronze, silver, gold, and platinum—and is attached to a certain prize. (An elderly woman in the community who etches gravestones engraved the company logo onto each rock.) When the winners come in to claim their prize, their pictures are taken and they’re entered to win the grand prize.

“The odds of winning the grand prize are really quite nice,” says Monika. “The contest runs for 28 weeks, so you’re looking at 150 people at the most in the running.”

The Rock River runs through the town of Rockford, which made incorporating its smooth, beautiful rocks in the promotion a natural. “Our local paper, the Rockford Register Star, does a feature called ‘What Rocks the Rock River Valley,’” says Mark, “and that idea kind of synthesized together with the idea of hunting rocks.”

Lifting the spirits of a community that’s been, well, rocked by unemployment (in 2009, the unemployment rate in Rockford was over 20 percent) was another goal of the game, says Monika.

“In 2009, we hosted a Christmas giveaway where people could nominate people who were deserving of a gift,” she says. “The outpouring was so tremendous that to this day we’re asked if we’re going to do it again.”

So far, say the retailers, the hide-and-seek game has had a similar feel-good effect on its players. “Some people spend hours out there hunting around,” says Monika. “They’re starting to form little teams and help each other—they’re so active on the Facebook page and they’re really getting to know each other. One of the comments we had on the Facebook page was that they were taking their entire family out because it was a chance to get off the couch and make new friends.”

The community building is paying off big online; the store’s likes on Facebook have tripled in four weeks.

But Mark isn’t expecting a large leap in sales. “We’ve never seen a quid pro quo from donating,” he says. “We understand that doing things like this does not have a direct result on the bottom line. But we keep it up and in 12 years we’ve grown from 800 square feet to 1,7000 square feet and 17 employees. We are at the point where we will donate to literally anyone who comes in to ask for something.”

After all, says the couple, the good will seems to always circle back their way.  “Now we constantly see new customers who say ‘I see what you did for the community,’” says Mark. “Rockford has made us a successful and profitable company. To give back will do nothing but help our image and make it more likely that people will come in when they have the need.”

JCK Magazine Editor