Swirk Jewelers

Swirk Jewelers has been a fixture in Kansas City, Mo., since 1910, but only in the past 15 years has the Swirk family taken advantage of its surname in advertising. “We just knew it would work,” says owner Brian Swirk.

He tested the concept of using the name creatively with the tagline “Swirk of Art,” and customers noticed. They told Swirk the ads were “catchy and cute.”

To ratchet up momentum, Swirk hired Jim Robinson, president of Robinson Advertising, also in Kansas City, to hone the concept. Robinson suggested using the Swirk surname as a verb. He thought a campaign based on the name would turn it into a brand by quickly grabbing a lot of attention. Initially reluctant, Brian Swirk finally agreed to try it. Robinson’s first ad featured a professionally photographed female model with the tagline “Swirk Me.” “There are lot of ways to read that headline,” Robinson says.

The taglines spawned multiple variations, including “Swirking Makes the Heart Grow Fonder,” “Swirking Enjoyed by Couples Since 1910,” “Swirk Her Once, Lucky Her, Swirk Her Twice, Lucky You,” “Girls Just Want To Be Swirked,” and “And Then I Swirked Her.” Customers started telling Swirk they looked forward to new versions because they weren’t “the same old boring jewelry store ads,” he says.

Eventually, the use of professional models was abandoned in favor of stock art of people and jewelry, and, recently, real customers. The latter is “more appealing and effective—when people are photographed properly,” Robinson says.

At press time, the store was appealing to community members (via a holiday gift guide in a local magazine) to register for a chance to appear in a future ad—and receive a $500 gift certificate. “[The winner] gets their mug shot on a billboard,” says Swirk. Entrants were required to be at least 21 years of age and had to visit the store to register. They also were required to be photographed when they signed up. The photos were compared to find the contestant with “the most personality.”

Swirk ads appear on billboards, in a Kansas City lifestyle magazine, menu ads for The Cheesecake Factory, the sports section of the local newspaper, and the luxury-lifestyle magazine of a local Mercedes-Benz dealer.

Evidence that the ads have improved business since their inception five years ago shows up in the store’s sales figures. Swirk points to a consistent 15 percent annual sales increase (previously growth ranged from 5 to 10 percent), and Robinson notes that the past fiscal year (which ended July 2008) was the best in the store’s history.

Pop culture appeal is another sign of success. Says, Robinson: “A number of high school kids on scavenger hunts have had to collect pictures of them being Swirked”—photographed in the store.

Reach Jim Robinson at (816) 716-6551 or online at www.robinsonad.com.