Packaging the Brand

If you don’t believe the package is a vital extension of your store’s brand, just think of the “little blue box.”The little blue box (trademarked as “Tiffany Blue”) is synonymous with Tiffany, one of the oldest and most successful brands in the world of luxury goods. Because of that box and the brand it represents, Tiffany can charge a premium for its products, and consumers will happily pay it. They have faith that what’s inside that box is the best in luxury, taste, and exclusivity.

“We have always felt that part of the reason that the box is so identifiable with Tiffany is that Tiffany has never lost sight of the quality of the craftsmanship, materials, and design of the product inside the box,” explains Linda Buckley, vice president of public relations for Tiffany. “[And] it’s connected to special occasions, such as engagement rings, birth of a baby, a new job.”

The box is so much a part of the brand that TheStreet.com tracks what it calls the “Tiffany Blue Box Barometer” as part of a diverse 21-company index called TheStreet.com 21, a financial Web portal created in 2003 to gauge economic recovery.

Tiffany founder Charles Louis Tiffany began using the color not long after he started the company in 1837. Over the years, the color has been used for all of Tiffany’s packaging and promotional materials.

“The packaging is unforgettable,” says Debra Scarpa, president of DJS Marketing. “The unique quality of the color and the consistency and the public relations around the box—they are the paradigm. They are it. The Tiffany color is now so synonymous with the brand that they ‘own’ the color.”

Brand DNA. There has been a push recently toward branding jewelry stores. Scarpa, whose company creates branding programs for companies that supply luxury goods and services, says that packaging and displaying jewelry and watches is a vital component of any branding initiative.

“To me, packaging and display is all part of the brand DNA,” she says. “If you think it’s the jewelry, you’re wrong. If you think it’s the advertising, you’re wrong.”

She continues, “Packaging affects pricing. Packaging is concentrated branding. It’s all there. The product, the emotion, its look and feel exemplify the store and product. It raises the expectation of the product.”

Scarpa and others cite another important aspect of packaging: It’s the one item, besides the product, that comes home from the store with the customer.

“It has shelf life,” she points out. “Generally consumers don’t throw away their jewelry packaging. They keep it, and it becomes part of the emotional response. It’s unfortunate that most clients see the package and display as an architectural task, while I see it as part of the communications task.”

Doing it for less. Packaging also may be one of the more affordable ways of advancing a store brand. Mike Kaplan of Rocket Box, a New York-based manufacturer of packages and displays, says many independent jewelers don’t have the funds to invest in a full-fledged branding program. However, retailers can create a logo for their store and incorporate that logo into their packaging.

“You can create a brand by putting together a logotype and trademarking it,” Kaplan says. “The packaging generally consists of taking a generalized, standardized piece of packaging and working the logo into the package. The box is a standard box but a little higher priced than what they would generally use in the store. But it is a standard box because it is a volume. The volume is sufficient to justify the cost of making a unique package.”

Color and confidence. Looking at how chain stores have incorporated packaging and displays into their overall brand is instructive. Helzberg Diamonds uses the color of its packaging to reinforce the “confidence and service” for which the North Kansas City-based chain jeweler is known, says chairman and CEO Jeffrey W. Comment.

“Confidence comes in a burgundy box,” is the slogan the store created four years ago to reinforce the company’s consumer image, he says.

“The burgundy box has been a part of our packaging for more than 20 years,” Comment explains. “Burgundy has been kind of a corporate color for us. If you stay with something long enough, you end up getting credit for it.”

The slogan is used for all literature, all advertising and marketing, and just about anything else the consumer sees. “It is rare that the one line isn’t underneath our logo,” he says. “We just sort of subtly incorporated it in all of our marketing.”

The burgundy box itself has changed little over the years, but what the box represents is a branding tool to solidify the company’s identity as a jeweler that provides excellent service—and that instills confidence in the customer, Comment says.

“We feel we are at the upper end of jewelers when it comes providing service,” he says. “That’s our niche. When we market with the male consumer we market that. The male customer is very receptive to that.”

He continues, “The slogan was a perfect tie-in. We literally have stories from male shoppers where they say to their wife or sweetheart [when giving them a gift from Helzberg], ‘I have great confidence this will make you happy.'”

Despite the examples of Tiffany and Helzberg, jewelers don’t place enough emphasis on the importance of color, Scarpa says. “A barrier I see with retail jewelers is that they are afraid of color,” she says. “I don’t think retailers realize how important color is. It often sets the mood of the brand through the packaging. And it can be easily associated if consistent with your products and services.”

New brand, new package. Consistency was a major concern of Mayors Jewelers when the Sunrise, Fla.-based company decided to update its brand. The packaging program alone took about a year to develop, says William Brown, Mayors’ visual merchandising director.

It was critical that packaging, visual merchandising, and store design complement the brand, Brown says. Developing a packaging system that reinforced the brand was a team effort that included Brown, other company executives, the marketing department, the manufacturer (Noble Packaging Inc. of Montreal), and an outside design team. For the initial order, Brown traveled with representatives from Noble to their factory in Asia to ensure quality and design criteria and to shorten production time.

The new brand and all of its components were introduced to the public in 2001. “We took the project from a prototype in August to delivery in stores for the holiday season,” Brown recalls.

In addition to the aesthetic issues, there were some practical problems to solve, Brown says. “Once the initial design was established, it was my job to incorporate the look and feel to all the phases of packaging, jewelry presentations, and displays,” he explains. “Beyond the sophisticated look of the box, the package has to be able to hold the jewelry or gift appropriately. The box and interior of the box must present the jewelry in the right light. That’s one piece of the Mayors brand that the customer takes home with them. That’s why it’s so important, and why we worked so hard on the details.”

The Mayors packaging program set standards that include what type of box to use for a specific type of jewelry and specific instructions on how to wrap the box using ribbon and wrapping paper.

The colors chosen for the box were aubergine (eggplant) with a “dune grass green” ribbon. Box tops are embossed with the new silver “Facets” icon, and the gift-wrapping paper features the “Facets” icon throughout as well. When tied properly, the ribbon prominently displays the Mayors name.

The box also was designed to be used in the store’s windows and display cases. How the boxes were to be displayed was worked out in detail and included in a book on visual merchandising standards as well as in-store training.

“It was such an attractive system that we introduced the box to the window and to the jewelry cases, reinforcing the brand from outside the store and at the counter level,” Brown says.

“It’s all about presenting the jewelry,” he adds. “It’s a sleek design, with a sophisticated material and color palette with a touch of green to add interest. Most importantly, it lets the jewelry be the star.”