Last updateTue, 14 Jan 2020 10pm

The opposite of branding

I once worked with a jeweler who built a grand staircase in the middle of his store. It ate up a lot of his space but actually went nowhere. He felt that this was branding. In a way, it was. Imagine people talking about the jewelry store dominated by the huge stairway.

Another example of this way of thinking is the crystal chandelier. How many high end jewelry stores have fancy chandeliers? Those store owners think the chandeliers create branding.

What do shoppers think of those chandeliers? Do they think they elevate the level of service? Do they think it suggests that the inventory is more impressive? More importantly, do they think it affects the prices? I think it scares customers and creates threshold resistance - makes people feel they cannot afford to shop at those stores, or that they will be perceived as inadequate or unworthy.

When I was much younger I did trade work for half a dozen stores. One of these stores provided me a work space. The office was small, but it was part of the store and big enough for me and my apprentice. This was a chain store in the center of a mall.

One day a customer came in to pick up her one-carat diamond ring which was to be sized. (It was the most valuable and rare diamond ring in the world, at least to her.) The staff could not find the job envelope. After a few minutes of looking, the manager came back to my office and demanded that I find it.

Well I kept pretty solid records and could not find it anywhere. At this point the customer was livid and screaming as loud as she could about what crooks we all were. I looked everywhere - no ring, no record of the ring.

The sales staff was freaking out looking for the culprit to blame and the manager was red faced and threatening to throw me out for losing this ring. I stayed calm and went to speak to the customer. “Do you have a receipt?” She did not. “Do you remember the salesperson who took in your ring?” Yes, she did remember that he was a short, stocky, balding man. “Was his name Dave, by any chance?” Yes, that was it. Dave was the manager of Reeds Jewelers, located across the hall.

Even though the two stores had different color schemes with the store name in huge letters across the front, the customer could not differentiate one from the other. That is the opposite of branding, also known as generic.

So there are two lessons here: First, never panic with a customer. Second, make your store brand different from your competition (hint: it’s not just about your color scheme, inventory displays or staff appearance.)

One of the better branding ideas I have ever seen was a ten-foot tall engagement ring in a fountain in front of a custom jewelry store. When you walked into the store, you walked through the shop to get to the sales floor. There were about a dozen jewelers working. It looked seriously impressive. There was no doubt that they created jewelry in that shop. That is branding!

Providing a memorable experience that is easy to describe makes it easy to share with friends. If you are a custom store, have images of your work everywhere. A few live items or loose gems would help, but you don’t need inventory.

If you are a blended store, then have a custom section so the customers can tell your creations from regular inventory. Show your shop! Have design consultants instead of sales people. Use a showcase to demonstrate your custom process.

The appearance of your store, your inventory and your staff should all send one cohesive and unique message.

Joel McFadden is an award winning custom jeweler based in Red Bank, NJ and the current and first ever Director of the MJSA Council of Custom Jewelers. He regularly speaks and presents demonstrations at industry events throughout the country. Contact Joel at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit www.jmdjewelry.com for more information.