Where Are You, Sen. Proxmire?

Not that the jewelry industry needs another awards event, but something equivalent to Sen. William Proxmire’s Golden Fleece Award would highlight some stupid actions by some industry members. Sen. Proxmire spent 32 years in Congress and won recognition for his commitment to saving tax dollars and for his creation of the Golden Fleece Award, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense. The Golden Fleece Award was given to those in government or industry to expose wasteful spending and focus public opinion on the fleecing of the budget. What a great idea. It should be reinstituted. But I digress …

What brought this to mind was a recent ad campaign by a retailer whose message, in short, was: “We don’t sell conflict diamonds.” In itself it’s a positive statement. On the other hand, it isn’t so smart to present a significant negative concept to customers and prospects, the majority of whom have no idea what conflict diamonds are! It’s reminiscent of the salesman who once admitted to a buyer that the only objection he ever got to his line was that it was priced too high! The salesman was fired not long after.

It’s hard to understand how a concept such as promoting conflict diamonds could see the light of day. In the quest for differentiation, this retailer obviously thought he or she could create a difference in the minds of customers. The difference? Everyone else may be selling conflict diamonds!

Imagine a continuing focus on the topic from within the industry and from within the retail community. Successful advertising has a way of being replicated by other retailers. I suppose this campaign has not been successful, since no one else has picked up on it. Imagine how customers might respond to the ads: “What are conflict diamonds?” they might ask. “Why are they called by that name? How do you know yours are conflict-free?”

It’s unbelievable that anyone in his or her right mind would tee up a promotional campaign like this.

Any ideas for an award? How about adopting the acronyms relating to diamond grading? There could be an SI Award for a stupid idea. We could have a higher-level award recognizing superior performance, the VSI (very stupid idea). And finally, the dumbest idea of the year would win the VVSI (very, very stupid idea). The awards could be presented at a black-tie event along with the annual Darwin Awards, which bills itself as a “Chronicle of Enterprising Demises” that “salute[s] the improvement of the species by honoring those who accidentally remove themselves from it, thereby ensuring that the next generation is one idiot smarter.” (You can read about the “winners” at DarwinAwards.com.)

Sen. Proxmire, your wisdom, humor, and focus on stupidity are sorely missed.