The Art of Promotion

What do a bunch of people standing hip deep in freezing water wearing rubber pants and funny hats while trying to catch little fish have in common with an upscale jewelry promotion? Quite a lot, if you appreciate the promotional skills and efforts of a certain jewelry-store chain known for its robin’s egg blue gift boxes.

Sitting among 500 men and women in the Boathouse in Central Park at Trout Unlimited’s Spring Dinner, the connection between Tiffany and a group of passionate conservationists suddenly became clear. Tiffany was not only “talking the talk” but also “walking the walk.” Chief executive officer Michael Kowalski isn’t shy about putting Tiffany at the forefront of responsible business practices, and he obviously tasks his corporate marketing staff to bring him the right kinds of promotional opportunities to sponsor. They are in the process of creating ownership of Tiffany’s reputation. Whether it is environmentally oriented activities or human rights issues that affect the people who produce the raw materials that go into Tiffany’s jewelry (e.g., conflict diamonds), there is a heartfelt commitment to raising funds and awareness for jewelry-critical issues.

Kowalski isn’t content to hire public relations companies and spin stories to his company’s benefit; Tiffany & Co. is taking an active role and managing its image before it gets dragged into the politics, half-truths, and mudslinging games of the likes of Earth First and Oxfam.

Good jewelers understand that jewelry is a pleasure and a privilege to sell. People don’t have to buy it. Consumers with discretionary income must want to buy jewelry, especially from you. One can’t tell them to spend thousands of dollars for a fine Swiss watch or a beautiful piece of diamond jewelry. You have to ask them, often many times and in many ways, to consider purchasing from you. This is where the right kind of promotion comes in, because it’s another way to create a dialogue and develop an impression leaves a consumer with a positive attitude about the products you sell and your role as the purveyor.

To assess promotional opportunities for your store and the brands that want you to co-op an event, ask these questions: Is it real? Is it important? Is it sustainable? Is there a constituency of current and potential customers that can be brought to the event or with whom you can share your commitment to this cause?

While it’s acceptable to include some of the store’s ego (i.e., your ego) in the event, can you honestly say: “It was good for my store, and it was a great event”? If there is the slightest doubt about the purity of your motives, your intended audience will sense it and won’t respond with their hearts and minds the way you’d hoped.

In-store promotions need buy-in from the entire staff. Explain the concept of the promotion you want to run and discuss with them why you feel it’s important. Invite them to make suggestions and take responsibility for various elements that excite them. Their enthusiasm will inspire other staffers and shine through when they talk to customers.

Promotions are not just for the white ribbon/blue box set. Terry Burman, CEO of Signet’s Kay Jewelers, has taken ownership of a classic promotion and sold the program to all management levels of Kay. Watch the staff in his stores sell teddy bears around the holidays for the benefit of Jewelers for Children. You’d almost swear they don’t have time to sell jewelry. And the bears aren’t just add-ons; they often lead to a series of jewelry purchases. To date, millions have been raised, proving that customers respond to genuine, emotionally based promotions, whether they’re wearing rubber pants or buying teddy bears.

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