Jewelry Business Tips From Marketing Guru Steve Stoute

The Plumb Club hosted one of the most riveting speakers at this past weekend’s JCK Las Vegas show, former record executive and advertising guru Steve Stoute. The man who helped launch the careers of Mariah Carey and Will Smith, conceived dozens of game-changing advertising campaigns, and convinced Jacob the Jeweler to focus on diamond watches treated a ballroom full of independent retailers to a thought-provoking speech on how to market to the millennial generation. Below, some choice tips from his presentation.

Steve Stoute (photo courtesy of Tom Medvedich)

Be Curious

“You have to have an interest in the unknown,” said Stoute. “The value of cultural curiosity—and the innovation that takes place because of cultural curiosity—is invaluable to your business. Kodak didn’t accept that digital was a format that was gong to be accepted. They filed bankruptcy as a result of not being culturally curious enough to understand the consumer’s desire for portable digital data. You have to find that comfort in the discomfort.”

Stay Plugged In

“You want to figure out how to be lockstep with popular culture. You want to be part of the conversation. Being out of the conversation is the death of a brand.”

Don’t Profile

“You can’t market to a certain skin color anymore,” said Stoute, who authored a book, The Tanning of America, on the subject. “That’s over. Don’t assume because someone is black or Caucasian that you know what they like and need.”

Look Outside

“Do not get sucked into the vortex of the category,” said Stoute. “When competitive companies are constantly looking at only one another, you create what I call the sea of sameness. Every price goes down, but nobody’s standing out in the category because they’re all chasing the same conversation. Swarovski became the go-to product for customization—people customizing phones and iPads. They [evolved] and were the solution for this customized generation.”

Be a Storyteller

“You have to be in the business of telling an evolving story about your brand,” said Stoute, who cited the success of message-drive yogawear company Lululemon as a prime example of what having a strong philosophy can bring a company. “You have to have a social mission that builds a community—a product value or a philosophy that results in a community. With their Real Beauty campaign”—which featured full-figured women in their underwear—“Dove created a conversation about the definition of beauty. Even at a one-store location, you have to have something that’s uniquely your own. People should feel good when they buy the products, and feel there’s a social mission around that product or store. Then keep the conversation going. You can’t launch and leave. It’s an absolute recipe for failure.”