Review Store-Brand Strategy to Stay on Track

Regular review of a jewelry store’s brand and brand strategy should be a constant in its operations, says Frank Proctor, of The Luxury Group, a marketing organization for the jewelry industry. “Store branding is a long-term strategy, executed over several years, so it should be monitored closely, with evaluation periods built in to the overall program,” he says. “It’s an ongoing process without an end, because there are always new customers to target and others to compete with.”

“Competitors, business, and customers are constantly evolving, and the jeweler needs to be on top of that,” agrees veteran jeweler and former American Gem Society director Robert Bridel, now president of Robert Bridel & Associates, a management and marketing consulting firm for the jewelry industry. “Whether the jeweler does this [review] internally or brings in outside consultants, he needs to know if he’s doing as well as he thinks he is,” Bridel says. “It’s too easy to be lured into thinking you’re doing better than you are.”

This is especially true for older, established businesses. “For a new store building a brand image, there are no bad experiences yet to erase. It only has to check that it’s delivering on its brand promise,” says brand and marketing expert Russell Krueger, chief executive officer of Acquire Marketing, which works with retail jewelers. “But the longer a business exists, the more important it is for it to constantly reinvent itself. An older store needs to create new perspectives and a new brand promise to customers. So, it should review what it is and what it’s doing on a regular basis, not just when sales go down or when there’s a business problem.”

“Business owners need to continually reassess [their brand and strategy] if only to see whether they are still attracting their target customers,” says branding expert and author Alina Wheeler. “Mature businesses, especially, may need to refresh their brand identity.”

A retailer and his or her staff should take note daily and informally of how business is going. “As you’re working, keep thinking, ‘How can I do this better,’ or ‘Is this working the way we want?’” says Krueger. “Compare your brand identity to who’s coming in to shop and who isn’t. Periodically look at your tactics and marketing, and ask yourself, ‘Am I on brand or off brand?’”

Most brand experts and jewelers recommend a formal review of brand strategy once a year. Some suggest even more often, for both new and established stores. When implementing a new or revised brand identity, says Proctor, it’s important to have brand-delivery benchmarks at six, 12, 18, and 24 months to review how effectively it’s being delivered.

Joseph Jewelers in Des Moines, Iowa, does a review every six months. Rasmussen Jewelers, Racine, Wis., has a store-brand analysis each quarter, as a whole business and by each associate, says owner William Sustachek. Martin Binder Fine Jeweler, in Valparaiso, Ind., has a structured review every year and informal ones at sales meetings. “We review everything going on,” says marketing manager Helen Flude.

Some experts recommend a major reevaluation and overhaul of brand identity, or at least major parts of it, every two to five years. Martin Binder, for example, reevaluates its look every few years, most recently in 2005 as it approached its 65th anniversary. “It was time to update our logo and tighten up our brand awareness,” says Flude. “We knew we’d get lots of attention from the media and consumers, and the old logo, featuring a diamond, was getting a little old and redundant. We wanted something fresh and modern, away from the traditional mom-and-pop look and more fitting for a contemporary store.”

The new logo, unveiled last year, shows a stylized gold necklace and uses a new type font for the store name. Flude says it lends itself more easily to imprinting store-brand awareness on its market. “We can detach the logo from the name and use it on stickers, labels, boxes, and stamps,” she notes.

Thorough reviews of brand strategy should be done away from the store, say some experts. “Never during business hours, but off site, so you can focus only on this,” says Wheeler. “And involve your employees. They’re the ones servicing customers daily, and they have tremendous insights you can benefit from.”

Bridel suggests an annual retreat with key management staff to review everything, with everyone reporting on their areas. “The owner/manager should already have a good idea of what’s happening in the business, but this is an opportunity for everyone to give their input and to tweak the business plan going forward,” he says.

A major review of your store brand and brand strategy involves more than advertising. It is, in Proctor’s words, “a 360-degree look at every element that makes your store significant in your marketplace.”

Bridel calls it a soup-to-nuts evaluation of everything in the business—products, turn, margin, store appeal, appearance and displays, sales growth, and average sales. “Don’t look only at figures, but at the whole selling experience, including the number of complaints, service and repairs, profit margin issues, and staff turnover,” he says.

Proctor also suggests reviewing your brand strategy’s effect on consumer awareness of your store, consumer and community perceptions of your store, and employees’ understanding and implementation of the brand identity.

Look, too, at “what’s doing well and where business is coming from,” says Krueger. “Is repeat business coming from long-term customers, new customers, or one-off sales?” Such periodic review is important to maintain core customers as well as for measuring new ones, he says. “It’s far more cost-effective and profitable to keep the customers you have and add more than to constantly solicit new business. Existing customers spend more money with you, are more loyal, and tell more people about you.”

There are other ways to measure a store brand’s market impact, as well.

Local statistics. A useful source is the data of TOMA Research, a 16-year-old Camas, Wash., firm that measures consumer awareness of local businesses. It’s available, for a fee or free, through local media that hometown jewelers already work with, such as newspaper, TV or radio advertising departments, or local ad agencies.

Specifically, says president and founder Mark Rood, the TOMA (“top of mind awareness”) survey measures who is thought of first by local consumers in a specific business category. “Most businesses don’t score as well as they wish and learn that they need long-term name-awareness advertising to succeed,” he says.

Form a chat group. Bring together independent jewelers outside your market. Meet once or twice a year at trade shows or each others’ stores to share notes on business performance. One of the most successful and oldest of these is the Retail Jewelers Research Group, founded in the 1920s. It has 17 well-known participants, all AGS members, around the country, who meet regularly at a member’s store to critique its operations.

Ask customers. “Invite two or three of your best customers and a couple of your salespeople to lunch or a cocktail,” suggests Krueger. “Tell them, ‘Here’s what I’m trying to do,’ and ask for their feedback.” This should be done periodically. Consider conducting sessions during slow periods, to allow an appropriate amount of time to the exercise.

Martin Binder Fine Jeweler sends a three-page survey to customers every couple of years to “see if we’re still heading in the right direction and whether the customers we have now are the same type we had before,” says Flude. To ensure return of surveys, the store includes a gift certificate.