The watch industry has long recognised the power of branding to sell watches.
 
In fact a watch is no longer simply a watch in consumers’ eyes. A Longines is a Longines, a Seiko is a Seiko and a Tag Heuer is a Tag Heuer, etc.
 
Consumers do not, generally speaking, want to buy generic (ie, brandless) watches.
 
Therefore, perhaps not surprisingly, the jewellery industry has finally seen the branding light and begun to harness its power to sell jewellery.
 
Pandora is the jewellery brand renowned for leading the branding charge on the local jewellery market.
 
In 2005 the Danish brand was largely unknown in Australia and New Zealand but is now stocked in over 765 stores in Australia and around 95 in New Zealand.
 
Pandora marketing manager Jeff Burnes attributes the company’s phenomenal success to the quality of its jewellery – and the power of branding.
 
He says “building the brand” which “portrays an aspirational romantic image based on the special moments in one’s life” had been one of the company’s main priorities from the moment it launched on the local market.
 
“We now employ 11 people to market the brand in a wide variety of ways including advertising in consumer magazines, public relations, posters, POS, packaging and television advertising.”
 
Burnes says the company’s massive branding efforts have paid off with recent research showing that Pandora now has a brand recognition rate of 51 percent among the general public.
 
He says this recognition is a great advantage to jewellery retailers stocking Pandora.
 
“I think Pandora is now synonymous with quality and individuality so when we come out with a new design line it is easier for retailers to sell because people already know and trust us.
 
“I mean it’s one thing for retailers to have product in their store and hope people will come in and buy it and another to stock a brand like Pandora where customers actually come into the store asking for it.”
 
Another local jewellery wholesaler well aware of the importance of branding is RJ Scanlan – the distributor of Dora and Omnia wedding rings, Soho mens rings and Teno and Teno Yukon jewellery.
 
Stephen Brown, the company’s general managers, says the company only sold generic jewellery when it first began trading 35 years ago but branded products now account for the “the largest part” of its business.
 
Citing Dora as an example of branding success, Brown says there is no doubt that all of the company’s branded products would be less popular if they were unbranded.
 
“Until around eight years ago we sold Dora 18 carat wedding rings as an unbranded range,” he explains.
 
“We discussed the idea of making it a brand with the factory and they agreed so we created the brand name and put together a marketing campaign for it with advertising in bridal magazines, POS counter cards, brochures, posters, etc.”
 
“It took a while for the brand to make an impact but sales gradually increased.”
 
Brown believes that branding is the key to success at retail level.
 
“It is very difficult for jewellery retailers to market generic jewellery as the only thing they can really sell on is price.”
 
“For example, when people talk about generic gold jewellery all they talk about is price per gram but when you have a piece of branded jewellery the price per gram is not so important as it is largely sold on the brand and what that connotes to the consumer.”
 
Branding has also been critical to the success of Georgini jewellery which was launched onto the local market five-and-a-half years ago.
 
Georgini director Gina Kougiassays the brand, which portrays an image of “affordable luxury”, is advertised in consumer magazines such as Marie Claire, Harpers Bazaar, Instyle and Vogue.
 
 
She believes jewellers selling jewellery brands have many advantages over jewellers selling generic jewellers.
 
“It is easier to sell a brand as a brand is perceived as more trustworthy/reliable/glamorous,” she explains.
 
“With a jewellery brand, the jewellery is supported by the strong branding and the large amount of advertising dollars spent by the company (supplier).
 
“With branded jewellery the retail customer is buying into the whole ethos of the brand, they have seen the jewellery advertised and usually know what they want.”
 
Similarly Phil Edwards, the owner of Duraflex (the local distributor of Duraflex and Hirsch watch bands, Agenta sterling silver, Sashima pearls and Thomas Sabo jewellery) is equally convinced of the importance of branding in the jewellery industry.
 
He launched Thomas Sabo onto the Australian market four years ago because he “wanted a brand that could create a point of difference in the marketplace”.
 
“I wanted a brand that had an international presence, could continually grow and develop and that could ultimately make a statement in Australia,” he says.
 
Confident that Thomas Sabo met all his criteria, Edwards launched the brand, which had “zero” brand awareness, to initially skeptical retailers.
 
“At first stockists didn’t understand the power of international branding,” he recalls.
 
“Most of them clearly understood the power of watch brands but if you looked around the rest of their shops there was no branded jewellery – fortunately Pandora really helped change that whole landscape and pave the way for Thomas Sabo and other brands.”
 
Today Thomas Sabo is stocked in 250 stores across Australia and recently celebrated the opening of a flagship store in Sydney’s Queen Victoria Building.
 
“Retailers are now very aware of brands and the advantages they offer them,” says Edwards.
 
“Jewellery retailers stocking respected brands almost get a level of status or credibility as soon as a shopper walks past and thinks ‘ooh I know that brand, I’ve seen it advertised in Vogue or wherever’.
 
“In addition they automatically get all the support that normally comes with a brand (merchandising, marketing, advertising, POS, retail price points, etc) so basically they only have to man the store and sell it.”
 
Chris Barry, director of Arctic Wolf, the local distributor of Chamilia beads and bracelets and Diamonfire diamond stimulant jewellery, is also a strong believer in the power of branding.
 
She credits branding as a key component to the success of Chamilia, which was launched onto the local market in 2007 is now is over 300 stores in Australia and New Zealand, and is confident that branding will also be key to the success of the recently launched Diamonfire collection.
 
The company provides retailers with everything needed to sell the two brands including brochures, window stickers, website listing, display stands, jewellery boxes, posters and consumer advertising.
 
“In this day and age if a product isn’t branded customers simply aren’t interested,” says Barry.
 
“We are living in an age where almost everything is branded (clothing, sunglasses, shoes, toys, mobile phones) as this is the way that people, particularly the younger generation, like to shop.
 
“Brands draw people into shops – including jewellery shops.”
 
Craig Symons, the director of Osjag, a wholesaler of Breuning and Steel & Gold jewellery, is equally effusive about branding’s impact on jewellery sales.
 
“Branding gives customers more confidence in their purchasing decision as they can identify with the brand and therefore feel they’ve made a good purchase which they can show their friends and family.
 
“This brand recognition gets retailers half the way through making a sale before a customer even walks into their store.”
 
Mark McNeil from Lindsays (distributor of Morellato and Sector jewellery), is yet another believer in branding power.
 
 
Like Duraflex’s Phil Edwards, he believes that Pandora opened up Australian jewellery retailers’ minds to branding.
 
“Branding in the watch industry has been a big trend for decades and now branded jewellery has finally caught up,” he surmises. 
 
Likewise Najo managing director Jo Tory says branding has been critical to her products success – particularly in the last eight years since the company has made a concerted effort to build the Najo brand name.
 
“Branding is a very important part of Najo,” she says.
 
“I know everyone is branding these days but I have always wanted to give an identity to Najo. We now do a lot of advertising and public relations and supply retailers with display stands, signage, postage, DL cards, packaging and posters, etc so that the general public knows exactly who we are.”
 
Tory believes the branding drive is paying off
 
“We’re becoming recognised. People are going into stores and asking for our products. People are loyal to the brand and are waiting eagerly for the new releases.
 
Leanne Fine, marketing manager of Miller Diamonds, says that the company which launched Passion8 diamonds in 2001 and Passion8 diamond jewellery in 2008, strongly believes that brands create a point of difference that separates one retailer from the next.
 
“Strong brands eliminate the need to compete with discounters and internet sales,” she says.
 
“Strong brands further help build the store’s own brand image. With the right level of brand support and commitment and focus from the retailer, offering the right brand to shoppers invites even more foot-traffic into stores translating into higher sales overall. 
 
The company promotes its brands in a wide variety of ways including advertising and public relations in magazines, newspapers, newsletters, television and radio as well as in-store merchandising displays and POS.
 
 
Hot Diamonds marketing manager Rory Cowan also agrees that branding is extremely important for success in today’s jewellery industry.
 
“The Australian jewellery industry is not the most advanced industry in terms of brand development,” he says. “Most jewellery retailers have been selling their jewellery as if it is a commodity.”
 
Nonetheless, he says it wasn’t difficult to launch the UK brand locally as “everybody knew about the success the brand enjoyed in England and everybody wanted it”.
 
“We take consumer branding seriously at every level – store layout, advertising, public relations, POS, catalogues, etc.
 
“The Hot Diamonds brand has achieved some incredible things since its launch in Australia,” he says.
 
Defining the future
 
Indeed, most of the aforementioned brands have achieved “incredible things” in a market that was virtually brandless 10 years ago, and promise to do even more in the years to come as the branding trend continues its upward trajectory.
 
Pandora’s Jeff Burnes believes branding’s future in this country’s jewellery industry is guaranteed.
 
“I can see it (the jewellery industry) becoming all about brands,” he states.
 
“In Australia there have been a lot of jewellery price wars surrounding unbranded product as consumers don’t know the difference between one gold ring and another gold ring and therefore inevitably buy the cheapest one.
 
“A consumer buying a Pandora ring does however know exactly what they’re buying (a unique quality ring made out of the best possible materials) so they’re prepared to pay for the security of that brand name.”
 
Scanlan’s Stephen Brown agrees that branding is the “new direction” for the jewellery industry.
 
“Brands enable jewellers to present themselves to the market as something more than just another generic jeweller – brands tell consumers something about the jeweller before they walk into a store.
 
Likewise Duraflex’s Philip Edwards believes branding will become increasingly important to the jewellery industry.
 
“Gen Ys will make it so,” he says. “The younger generation is more brand savvy than ever before.”
 
“There will always be a place for the traditional jewellery store that makes jewellery but if a jewellery store doesn’t have a jeweller and doesn’t manufacture any products then, to a certain extent, why wouldn’t it take on brands?”
 
Similarly Mark McNeil from Lindsay’s is confidant that the branding trend is here to stay.
 
“In May this year I visited two large jewellery shops in Italy,” he recalls.
 
“They each had over 20 brands of jewellery. The branded jewellery all stood out with colourful advertising images and innovative merchandising supporting the product. They had a much smaller area selling generic jewellery, and it did not have a great presence in the shop compared to the branded jewellery.”
 
Meanwhile Miller Diamonds’ Leanne Fine argues branding will increase simply because “people’s lives are getting busier, noisier and more cluttered”.
 
“They’ll sift through all information to reach easy conclusions on shopping choices and their purchasing behavior will reflect as much,” she says.
 
“Strong brands that support and service retailers while at the same time create awareness and excitement amongst consumers will remain sought after. Aspirational brands that appeal to all segments – the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ – will continue to grow. Trusted brands that promise quality and deliver consistently will continue to be loved.”
 
Georgini director Gina Kougias adds that the jewellery industry has been turned upside down by the success of  branded jewellery.
 
“Most jewellers would have already found that “brands” sell. So yes I think that they will increase their branded jewellery buying but it still is a matter of choosing the “right” brands.”
 
Osjag’s Craig Symons’s concludes that branding is “an irreversible trend”.
 
“It gives consumers a certain degree of confidence that they’re buying a legitimate product,” he says.
 
Yes, like it or not, branded jewellery has arrived and earned its place on Australian jewellery retail shelves.
 
Indeed the question on many retailers’ lips should no longer be “To brand or not to brand?” but more simply, “Which brand?”

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