Don’t Rest on Your Laurels, Part 2

Last month we discussed adding a new line of jewelry. Now let’s examine how to launch that line as part of your ongoing marketing, advertising, and communications. Treat the launch like the birth of a child. If allowed by local zoning or mall rules, hang a handsome, specially produced vinyl banner outside your store announcing the line’s arrival.

If you have a freestanding store, contact a company that puts large funny characters on lawns announcing birthdays and newborns and have them create one for your new product. Who says jewelry sales have to be stuffy? Show some personality and give people a reason to smile. Jewelry is fun. Nobody frowns when they get jewelry.

Radio spots are an opportunity to share your excitement about the new addition. Support the radio campaign by showing some of the new pieces in newspaper ads. Reach out to your best customers with direct mail announcing the “birth” of your new collection. Create a postcard that imitates a birth announcement (length of chain, carat weight, etc.). Don’t forget to update your Web site and permission-based e-mail lists with pictures and a brief introductory announcement.

Nothing has more impact than a well-executed outdoor campaign using billboards, bus shelters, and backlit phone kiosks. Like real estate, it’s all about location, location, location! Three high-traffic billboards draw more attention than six mediocre spots for the same money. Accept nothing less than the best and ask the sign company for some extra signs in mediocre locations in exchange for your commitment to three premium-price boards. (Once you have some great spots, don’t give them up. Work with the sign company to keep the locations and rotate your message or products.) Vinyl billboards are more expensive than paper, but the colors are more intense and resist fading. In addition, vinyl can be cleaned, stored, and reused in different locations, allowing you to alternate your messages and amortize your initial production costs. Add a “snipe” banner to update an existing billboard.

The second most important element to a successful outdoor program is the message. Keep it simple. Less really is more, especially for outdoor billboards. The best boards convey no more than three thoughts: a catchy headline, the product itself, and your name or store logo—don’t clutter the board with both. Leave phone numbers and Web sites off until you’ve been up for several months and rotated several times, which establishes a virtual dialog with passing motorists. There’s no need to put up street addresses unless they’re well-known mall locations or something like “Next exit, go right.” Don’t forget signage opportunities in your regional airport and rotating backlit DuraTrans signs seen in malls, if you have a mall location.

Both you and the vendor/wholesaler will pay for the program, since both are investing in a joint future. Initially, and depending on the size of your order (not including the value of consigned product), the vendor will carry the bulk of the promotion cost. Over time, a larger percentage of the cost should shift to you, as is equitable. Before you purchase the new line, clearly spell out your advertising plans and make sure both parties, in writing, understand the scope and nature of the campaign and agree to it.

This concept requires a small leap of faith, backed by a clear understanding between vendor and store, of the objective, strategy, and tactics; mutually agreeable creative from a strong ad agency; thoughtful media buying; and specific sales training support. Your competitors are already doing it.