Standing Out in the Crowd

Symbols such as the Nike “swoosh,” the Coca-Cola logo, and the Tiffany Blue box are immediately recognizable to consumers on both an intellectual and emotional level, and each immediately sets the product apart from its competitors. But how does one achieve that stature?

“It’s a process,” says Andrew Sacks of AgencySacks, a New York advertising agency that specializes in luxury brands. “Our business is an art, not a science, which makes it more difficult.”

Although there’s no formula for creating a successful brand advertising campaign, advertising experts do follow certain procedures to develop such campaigns.

The idea. Sacks, whose clients include Verdura, Lazare Kaplan diamonds, and Cartier, says that in many cases, particularly in the jewelry industry, the most important element of a brand campaign is missing—the idea.

“The idea behind the campaign, the idea behind the message … should be strong, unique, ownable, and ultimately true to the product that brand produces,” he says.

Sacks also thinks jewelry advertising is too product focused. “I think an interesting thing to do is to pull out all the jewelry advertising and put it up on the wall and step back,” he says. “What you see in all categories and what you see in the advertising is pretty interchangeable.”

Deborah Scarpa, president of DJS Advertising & Marketing, Miami, which specializes in luxury brands, agrees. “One ultimate test of your advertising is that if you can put your hand over the logo and it could be anybody’s ad, then you’ve got a problem,” she says.

Research. To create a branding campaign, an ad agency needs in-depth knowledge of the client, its products, its competitors, and the market. “Most ad campaigns start with an art director or a creative director,” notes Scarpa. “If that creative director is working only from his opinion, then you’ve already lost. If he works within a structured process and develops the brand identity through that process, then you’re going to net something good.”

One element of DJS’s process is to print out a marketing and creative brief that includes a client profile, competitors, strengths and weaknesses, what the company “really” wants to be, and a plan on how to get there. “We do a complete research ‘X-ray’ of the product and services and its competitive environment,” Scarpa says. “Then we start coming up with ideas.”

The Shand Group, a Santa Barbara, Calif., advertising, marketing, and branding agency that developed an award-winning advertising brand campaign for Platinum Guild International-U.S.A. (“What Is a Moment Worth?”), also believes in conducting extensive research.

“What we do with our branding campaigns is learn as much as we can about the product or range of product and their inherent values,” says Joe Long, vice president of consumer marketing strategy. “We also identify target markets and learn as much as we can about how consumers best understand those products. Once we feel we have a grasp of both the products and the market, we discuss with our clients our recommendations for positioning the brand.

“Once we have arrived at a brand positioning that the client is excited about, we give direction to our creative team. The team comes up with an array of branding elements. Those elements could be anything from advertising, packaging, promotional campaigns, p.r. campaigns, and point-of-sale advertisements.”

The research includes consumer focus groups, a process that Long says takes four or five weeks to complete. “We work with focus group recruiters, decide on the market where we want to listen to these consumers, and then we establish a series of questions,” Long says. “Clients and members of our group can observe in a separate room the comments and interactions. We probe the customer and show them examples of ideas and get their reactions.”

Execution. Another vital component in any brand advertising campaign is execution, Sacks says. Proper execution includes care in selecting a photographer and taking the time to make a product look good. Another element is choosing media, which may include print, outdoor advertising, direct mail, and online.

Long says the Shand Group attempts to create a clear, consistent brand campaign that develops a relationship with the customer. “One of the keys to brand success is a consistency and clarity of the brand wherever the consumer encounters it,” he says. “Whether it’s at the store, in a newspaper or magazine article, or an advertisement, it needs to come through clearly, and it needs to be encountered repeatedly. Then, an essential part is establishing an ongoing relationship with the consumer. Even after the positioning and the messaging, it’s important that we create a strategy for what we call ‘relationship marketing,’ because consumers ultimately develop relationships.”

Preferred media. Consumer magazines rule the advertising world for luxury goods. Sacks, however, is partial to point-of-purchase advertising as a way to communicate the story of a brand to the customer.

“Baccarat and Waterford glass look similar at $200 and $40 [respectively],” he says. “Just comparing the two glasses without taking the story into account, it’s much more difficult to justify spending $200 for the glass. But with the story, you are buying into the life of Baccarat. It becomes a much easier sell.”

Sacks admits that one problem with point-of-purchase materials is that the agency or company has no control over how they are used in the retail environment. But he says there are ways to combat this. The Christofle silver company, for example, found an ingenious way to maintain more control over how its products are viewed in a store. “If you want to sell Christofle, you have to sell it from the Christofle display, which is a square table with a dome Plexiglas top,” Sacks says. “Retailers cannot put anything on top of the display. It’s brilliant and it ensures that Christofle has its own retail space in an environment that they cannot necessarily control.”

For diamond jewelry, he adds, point-of-purchase advertising is even more essential. “I think the whole branding story is particularly interesting in the diamond business, because there is no other business in the world where at the end of the day the products are comparable,” he says. “I’m in the market for an engagement ring. I was at a very fine Manhattan jeweler and went into the engagement area. In the case in front of me were 100 engagement rings from well-known brands—and no branding material in the room at all. I was shown diamonds very similar in size, color, clarity, and all the criteria, but the prices were vastly different because they were different brands. Without the support material of understanding why the prices were different, it’s really tough.”

The Internet also can be an effective marketing medium, as long as online marketing is executed strategically, says Long. “About 10% [of the overall budget] is not unusual for online marketing, but the budget for online is misleading in terms of effectiveness and reach,” he says. “One of the great benefits is that it is so cost effective. We reach hundreds of thousands—millions—at a fraction of the cost when compared with other media. But it has to be balanced with other media.”

Chris Weakley, vice president of account services for the Shand Group, says an Internet strategy can include online catalogs, advertising with search engines, and working with search engines to make clients’ sites appear near the top when consumers perform a search. In the case of the PGI campaign, it also includes providing links to partner Web sites and easily accessible educational information.

“We know that in the bridal category there’s a small window of time between when a couple makes a decision to marry and when they buy a ring. We’re working to ensure that we are educating [the groom] about the benefits of platinum at every touch point,” Weakley says. “Wherever he goes online, we’re hoping to insert ourselves in his path.”

Measuring success. The success of any branding campaign is measured not only in increased brand awareness and sales but also in meeting specific goals, which, says Scarpa, must be defined in advance. “If I’m handling several stores at once, it may be that they want to increase volume in one of their stores, or increase their business in exotic watches. Or maybe they just want to measure awareness.”

Another indicator of success is capturing new customers (those in the market for your product) and developing future ones (those not yet in the market for your product). Sacks cites refrigerators as an example: “If you are not buying or not looking and an ad still manages to capture your attention, that company has gone to the top of the list, so that when you finally do buy a refrigerator, you will have a predisposition for the brand.”

Another indication of success is the longevity of a brand campaign and how it evolves through the years. “A brand is not a static thing. If it becomes static, that’s a bad sign,” Sacks says. “I think you can have a consistent campaign as long as the execution of that campaign evolves. Jewelry is definitely not a campaign you do twice a year. It’s a lifestyle campaign. If the execution is strong and the ideas behind the imaging remain current, there’s no reason the campaign will not be successful for a long time.”