A number of years ago, and I was hired to create a website to promote a national marketing campaign for retail jewelers. The website served as the cornerstone for hundreds of jewelers who were using the same set of ads to promote a select number of products that were sold exclusively through those retail jewelry stores.
The goal of the marketing campaign was to establish a nationwide brand identity for the hundreds of participating retail jewelers. Participation in that brand identity would provide credibility akin to your local Ace Hardware store or Century 21 Real Estate broker.
The plan failed miserably because the marketing campaign focused too much on building the attempted national brand and detracted from the local credibility that the retail jewelers already had in place.
National Brand Recognition
National branding works really well for very large companies like Coca-Cola and Kia Motors. From movie theater pre-show commercials to Super Bowl half time commercials, from highway billboards to subway murals, from retail store neon lights to the neon lights of Time Square, these national brands can unify their marketing efforts to establish a long lasting awareness of their name.
The effectiveness of Coca-Cola's effectiveness is best seen in the southern states where everyone calls a cola drink a "Coke" even if it isn't a Coke. In much the same way I can imagine that back in 1915 people would refer to all cars as "Fords" because the Model T Ford was the first car that established a mass market even though Oldsmobile was the world's largest car manufacturer prior to that.
Kia Motors uses marketing campaigns to build brand awareness and to lead buyers to a worldwide network of distributors and dealers. However, each of those dealers also has their own local marketing campaigns.
Cola products are available at every convenience store, restaurant, and grocery store. You don't have to go very far to find buy a Coke or similar soft drink. On the other hand, you might have to think for a moment before remembering where your local Kia dealership is located. Perhaps you'd have to take a moment to recall a catchy TV commercial from a local dealer.
Intense, Long-Term Local Branding
Near my home in New Jersey there's a car dealership that once blanketed the region with their TV commercials and newspaper ads. Their slogan was "No gimmicks, just good deals." The dealership owner appeared in every commercial and soon became recognized as the face of his own dealership, thus creating his own brand.
A few years later his young sons started to appear in the commercials with a slightly altered slogan of "and remember what my dad always says, no gimmicks, just good deals." Fast forward to today and those sons have grown up and taken over the dealership and now appear in the TV commercials by themselves. They have carried the original slogan to this day, but every once in a while they still throw in the "and remember what my dad always said" to maintain that branded association for those of us who watched them grow up on TV.
Different Types of Brands
The word "brand" is used differently depending on who you talk to. Personally, I refer to Coca-Cola and Kia as national brands sold through local stores. They have a corporate identity, and they have various spokespeople. But their national identity rarely mixes with the local stores.
On the other hand, Sears and Staples are also national brands that operate many store locations. They both have national marketing campaigns to build their brand identities as well as to showcase the product lines they sell. They too have spokespeople.
Local retailers don't have the marketing budgets to get their names out like the national brand can. They have to rely on customer service, local advertising, and social media to build their brand. While their products are sourced through appropriate suppliers, every local retailer is responsible for their own brand.
When I was hired to help promote that national marketing campaign for retail jewelers, the company didn't correctly understand their relationship with the retail jewelers. They tried to promote a new national brand name rather than promoting the individual store names.
Walker Hardware is my hometown hardware store. Even though they are a fraction of the size of Home Depot, they always have everything I need. On the rare occasion that they don't have what I need, they can get it by tomorrow because they are actually part of the independently owned and operated Ace Hardware chain, which means they have a large distribution network supporting them. Superior customer service keeps them in business today even though Home Depot is less than 1 mile away.
As an independent retail jeweler you are competing with national chains, regional chains, local chains, and of course other local jewelers. Regardless of their size, those chain stores will probably focus their marketing on their company name, and to build the store's brand identity.
The truth is that people buy products from other people, not from brands. Every one of those chain stores has good employees that customers have come to know and trust, but those employees won't get their names or faces in TV commercials or in print ads. They might get an "employee of the month" photo on the wall if they're lucky.
Become the Personal Brand
Personal branding is where the independent retail jeweler can beat their chain store competition. Instead of spending all your marketing efforts to advertise your store name, you could promote yourself as the local jewelry authority and become the true face behind your store name.
How do you become the local authority?
Start by using the same personal photo across all of your social media accounts as well as in all your local ads. Make sure it's a good photo from which people will actually recognize you from. In other words, take a photo when you are dressed in your everyday average personal style.
People will start to recognize you once your photo has appeared in newspaper ads, on billboards, and even on grocery store carts. It takes a while to build the personal brand, but eventually someone will recognize you from your photo.
However, you'll have to do a bit more than clever photography, slogans, and ads to build a personal brand. You really need to openly promote yourself as the knowledgeable go-to person through ads, social media, and blog posts.
Drawbacks of Personal Branding
Although personal branding might produce a sense of local trust and a bit of fame, there are a few things you need to watch out for.
First, customers will always ask for you. Building a personal brand means you are telling people that you are the go-to person for their needs, so don't be surprised if customer walk in your store and completely ignore the other employees just to ask for you. Don't bother building a personal brand unless you actually like, and honestly have time to work the sales floor.
Second, everything you do and say publically will become a reflection of your business. Once you achieve a personal branding status as your own store spokesperson, all your public actions will reflect upon your store. So be careful what you say on Facebook. Don't get angry on Twitter. Don't post photos on Instagram of your drunken escapades with your friends.
You'll have to stay away from online topics of politics, religion, and anything other topic that might cause disagreement with part of your online audience. Additionally, your industry suppliers will start to watch your personal social accounts too. Mentioning a supplier in a negative way online could lead to a business break-up that hurts your customers.
Lastly, once you become the face of the business it becomes difficult for you to retire or sell the business without a loss of sales. It might take a few years to really achieve success as the local jewelry brand celebrity, so don't even try this if you are looking to retire or otherwise sell the business in a few years.
Personal Branding Succession
Ride the popularity of your personal branding success for a few years before slowly pulling yourself back out of the public eye. While the personal branding is a great way to compete in your market, you will burn yourself out if you try to sustain it long term. Also, your business will experience some growth issues if everyone wants to talk to you, and only you.
Work with your marketing agency to develop a plan to transfer your personal brand popularity back onto the business. Be ready to activate that plan before you burn yourself out.