For 13 summers, Bernie Robbins Jewelers has been hosting its Chic at the Shore events. And each summer the New Jersey–based retailer—with five stores in New Jersey and two in Pennsylvania—makes it a point to add a unique element to the annual summer series.
This year, its expanded catalog was the game-changer: The company introduced characters and a narrative into its product catalog—and used nearly double the number of usual pages in the process. Customers became so engaged with the summer romance between catalog characters Jason and Ashley that, at the season’s first trunk show back in July, many customers approached owner Harvey Rovinsky to compliment him on the innovative approach.
Bernie Robbins’ marketing director, Rebecca Hasson, conceived this idea early on in the Chic at the Shore summer 2011 planning phases. As discussions about catalog production advanced, other novel ideas entered the picture—namely, expanding the catalog from its usual average 24 pages to 44 pages to accommodate the added story line.
Baume & Mercier product shots get a nice play in this layout with Jason and some friends.
Another inventive concept was integrating a social media element into the actual layout. Mock Facebook postings, Twitter tweets, and text messages appear alongside images of the young couple at local hot spots, narrating the story of a budding summer romance on the south Jersey Shore (the locale of Bernie Robbins’ flagship, where Chic at the Shore events are held).
Ashley was a young woman spending the summer at her parents’ beach house, while Jason visited the Shore every weekend to meet up with friends. Of course, there are jewelry elements and store-branding messages inserted throughout the story and alongside the photographs of Jason and Ashley.
Ashley’s sister shows off her Hearts On Fire engagement ring.
As the relationship develops from the couple’s first chance encounter, jewelry and watches figure prominently into the postings and tweets as Jason and Ashley and their friends “paint the town red” (this summer’s catalog theme) at popular local bars and restaurants as well as favorite Somers Point scenic spots.
The romance finishes with a cliffhanger that can be found only on Bernie Robbins’ actual Facebook wall. But during the eight weeks leading up to the big finale, Hasson and her marketing team had customers routinely checking in on Facebook, where they could find updates on both the store’s weekend summer events (from July 1 to Aug. 27) and on the couple’s budding romance.
“Each week we’d post updates, reminders, and images of the trunk shows and special events, we also published ‘lost photos’ of the evenings out with Jason, Ashley, and company,” says Hasson. “There was a noticeable increase in activity on Facebook with comments leading to threads of conversation. It was exciting to watch as our Facebook page got busier throughout the summer as people followed the story from the catalog to Facebook and Twitter.”
By Labor Day, Hasson, her marketing staff, and her PR firm tallied their successes. Facebook “likes” increased by more than 20 percent. And followers on Twitter nearly doubled.
Harvey Rovinsky, owner of Bernie Robbins Jewelers
The approach was certainly about increasing “likes” on Facebook and followers on Twitter, but the creators had a larger goal in mind: making Bernie Robbins more approachable to younger consumers. One of the biggest challenges Bernie Robbins has as a fine jeweler is spending-threshold resistance from twentysomethings—an age group that has no problem dropping a few hundred dollars on shoes, a new handbag, or even a mobile device. But that demographic can also find fashion jewelry items under $500 or a Hearts On Fire diamond ring for around $2,000 at Bernie Robbins. “That was the central message we needed to get across using Jason and Ashley in this summer’s catalog,” says Hasson.
“This summer everything worked tremendously for us,” says Rovinsky. “The catalog was a hit, the events were well-attended, store traffic was up significantly over last year, and summer sales during July and August were a double-digit increase compared to 2010’s summer event.”