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home | Feature Articles | Tough Question From Marketing Expert . . .

Tough Question From Marketing Expert David Knies: Are You Really "Branding" Your Business Or Merely "Labeling" It?
by David Knies

The branding phenomenon has hit the diamond & jewelry industry with dramatic force in the past few years. All links in the value chain -- retailers, designers, sightholders, brokers, manufacturers -- have responded differently.

Some have embraced branding, completely transforming themselves and approaching the market with innovative new products, services, business models and training programs. Others have designed a logo, bought some print advertising, and continued with business as usual. And others, of course, have responded by saying branding, schmanding.

Are you branding or labeling?

There is an enormous difference between branding and labeling. Labeling is simply the emotionless process of creating a logo, and putting it onto a shopping bag, a print ad, a store entrance or other sales and marketing materials.

There are countless examples of retailers, designers, sightholders and manufacturers in our industry who claim to have launched a branding campaign, when, in reality, all they have done is to spend some money on a labeling effort.

A real world example of a labeling campaign is what the airlines, cable TV providers, or cell phone companies do on a seemingly nonstop basis. Look at us! they shout to the consumer through enormously expensive TV spots, direct mail campaigns, in store marketing materials and signage. We have a new logo! We bought our competitor! We have new phones! We have new planes! We have a new jingle! We have new services to sell you.

But these companies missed an enormous branding opportunity: they never changed their customer experience. The cell service is still awful. The airline still treats you like human cattle. The cable company still tells you they will come between noon and 6pm. WHO CARES if they have a new label if their service still is awful? Why spend all that money on labeling if the experience is still the same?

Branding is the experience that the label stands for. Branding is what the label means, not what it is. When a consumer sees an Apple Computer logo, it signifies much more than laptops, MP3 players, and an online music store.

Apple's logo stands for cutting-edge design, innovative products that consumers desire and are fanatically devoted to, and a unique, special retail experience. Apple's branding -- not their labeling -- is what differentiates it from Dell, Sony, IBM, Gateway, Compaq, Rio and legions of competitors that offer comparable products. Anyone can make an MP3 music player  but only Apple was able to create the iPod, the iTunes music store and the Apple Store retail stores, and fill them with brand zealots that continue to preach the Cult Of Mac.

Ultimately, all branding activities create value -- for the consumer and for all the links in the chain that serve them. Consumers will always pay extra for brands -- the meaning behind the label. Branding moves the sales conversation away from price. Branding decommoditizes. A positive brand experience will convert a shopper to a loyal customer. Of course, branding is not cheap.

Consumers demand brands.

Every purchase decision we make is based on branding.

Try to think of the last time that you ~ as a consumer ~ made a purchase decision that was not based on branding. Everything we buy, even the simplest products and services, is branded, water, soap, utilities, even socks! It should be no different with diamonds, jewelry and watches. In fact, given the high average sale in our industry, the branding experience should be superlative! Isn't a diamond engagement ring one of the most important purchases in a person's life?

Should the customer be given a shopping experience similar to buying a used car, where a price discussion is one of the central interactions between retailer and customer? Or should they feel like they have acquired the perfect symbol of their love and emotion from a trusted advisor? Which one would YOU pay extra for?

Both retailers and brands provide a branding experience, and have the unique opportunity to provide a double-strength branding experience to the consumer.

Think about the opportunity that a retailer has to create their in-store brand experience. Add the power of the watch, jewelry, diamond and designer brands carried in store. What a statement of luxury, desirability, emotion and passion they are able to create! Does everything in the store reinforce this experience?

Are you branding or are you labeling? What experience does your label stand for? Is everything in your company focused on delivering this experience? Are you missing or losing business by not branding it?

David Knies is a marketing & branding consultant with over 15 years of experience in the Sports, Entertainment and Luxury segments, including most recent experience at Hearts On Fire as head of marketing.

Reprinted from "The Centurion, What Jewelers Really Think" industry e-newsletter published by H2 Consulting, Inc.

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