Precious Wires

The day before I wrote this editorial, I attended the Diamond Trading Company’s press briefing on its holiday advertising plans (see UpFront, page 26). I was impressed with what the team at J. Walter Thompson, the DTC’s ad agency, had to say.

For starters, the DTC team holds the same belief that we at JCK do—that just when you think you can’t afford to advertise is the time you most need to advertise. And rarely has it been as true as it is this year. This is one of the most challenging Christmas seasons anyone can remember in a long time. As if economics and war weren’t enough, this is also one of those years when Thanksgiving falls a mere three weeks before Christmas, and Hanukkah comes early. Sure, some super-organized people have all their holiday shopping done by the middle of October (probably the same people who alphabetize their grocery lists), but there are a lot of people who don’t even think about Christmas shopping until Santa comes down Broadway. Others start Christmas shopping on Dec. 23—when they realize they’d better get on the ball or they’ll be bunking in the doghouse with Rover.

So, the 2002 selling season is going to be an intense one—with lots of noise and lots of other products clamoring for the customer’s attention.

The DTC is responding by boosting its advertising spending 14% over last year’s levels, to the same level it spent for the millennium. They’re also making it easy—and free—for retail jewelers to participate in the campaign. And the best part is that they’ve got a fabulous lineup of ads—filled with humor, tenderness, and a lot of reasons to buy nice diamonds. While the JWT crew explained how the various segments of their ad campaign will have a halo effect over all diamond jewelry sales, I also believe (even if they won’t be happy with me for saying so) that it will have a halo effect over all jewelry sales, period, and that’s good news.

But the DTC can’t do it all themselves. It’s up to each jeweler to get the message out to customers and community alike that jewelry is the gift of love. While the American psyche has moved from last year’s shock and horror toward resiliency and moving forward, we have retained a heightened awareness of the fragility of life and the importance of relationships. Even if other “practical” products can justify their expense, there’s still an emotional sentiment attached to jewelry that a Palm Pilot doesn’t have.

Another potential boon to jewelers could come from this fall’s problems on the West Coast docks. While we don’t like to benefit from someone else’s misfortune, sometimes it just happens that way. (Ask the Philadelphia Eagles about the New York Giants’ touchback during the Oct. 28 game.) But as every day of the lockout translates to several weeks’ delay in getting goods to market, there is going to be a bit less for shoppers to choose from, at least in the early part of the holiday season. Jewelry, however, is flown in, so jewelers should be fully stocked with gift selections. Jewelry can’t replace the season’s hottest toys, and we don’t want to be thought of as the gift of last resort, but there’s no reason not to mention in your commercials that you have a complete selection in stock. Someone who had other plans may be motivated to choose jewelry rather than settle for a second-best gadget.

If this is the season when it all comes down to the wire, here’s a toast to making sure the wire it comes down to is made of gold, platinum, or silver!

From our house to yours, the very best wishes for a successful holiday selling season and a happy, healthy New Year.

hschupak@reedbusiness.com