Bling

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal discussed the Internet’s impact on the music business. Despite the industry’s best efforts to accommodate itself to the Internet, so much music is downloaded from Napster-like locations, paid and unpaid, that the industry is losing significant sales revenue. As I read the article, the thought occurred that perhaps it’s the product that’s the problem and not the medium through which it’s delivered. Anyone who has waited for a traffic light to change and had one of these boom boxes on wheels pull up alongside with music blasting knows what I mean.

Thirty years from now, who among these rap stars will be remembered? Better yet, which of the lyrics will be able to be hummed let alone sung? Where is the timeless music of today?

I cite this example to complain about the use of the word bling so common today when referring to jewelry. There is a correlation between the word bling and gangsta rap music. That may in fact be where the word was coined. Every trade publication and consumer magazine uses the word liberally to portray product worn by this star or that celebrity on the red carpet or at some gathering of the glitterati. Bling has almost achieved normal status.

The word should be an affront to everyone in the business. It describes people far from the real world and the emotions that real jewelry is meant to convey. In reality the notion of bling is the antithesis of why people want jewelry or why they buy it. Consider, if you disagree, the Diamond Trading Company’s consumer advertising campaigns over the years. How many use Hollywood stars to promote the product? Think about Sterling’s Kay division’s successful series of television ads using the line “Every kiss begins with Kay,” which feature warm romantic scenarios.

Both the DTC and Sterling have learned that consumers respond to romance and the connection of romance and lifestyle with beautiful jewelry. This learning process is due to the consistency of their slice-of-life messages over a long time.

Hedda Schupak’s editorial in the March 2007 issue (“The Power of Fantasy,” p. 152) made the important point that most manufacturers’ promotional efforts feature product rather than lifestyle. But today, we hear more and more about the importance of the experience as the true driver of the consumer market at retail. Yet how often are jewelry consumers treated to an exceptional experience when shopping?

Creating that exceptional experience is the responsibility of each store owner. Look at your store through the eyes of your customers and truly see what it is like to shop in your environment. It needs to be fun, exciting, different, and colorful, and, perhaps most important, it needs to depict lifestyles that consumers aspire to emulate.

The music business is going through the throes of painful and dramatic change as a result of the Internet’s ease of delivery of their product, legal or not. I wonder how much of the talk about Blue Nile and other Internet retailers’ success is due to the industry’s product and price focus rather than selling the sizzle of romance and the life events that go with romance.

frankdallahan@ comcast.net