Google the words ‘brand quiz’ and you’ll be faced with over 18 million options to test your logo, colour and shape recognition skills using some altered versions of famous brand identities. The fact that there are so many search results proves how connected we are to the branded world — instantly able to recognise Coca Cola from its trademark font, or Pepsi from its swirling red, white and blue logo.
When you drive down the street in your car, the brand name is clearly visible on the front and back. The same could be said for the shampoo you buy, or the bread you eat. What makes jewellery interesting, therefore, is that there is no clear statement of brand on a piece. We may choose to buy something because of the brand, but passing on this brand message is difficult at best. A honed jewellery aficionado may recognise the four leaf clover shape of Van Cleef & Arpels’ Alhambra collection, the Bulgari serpent or the Cariter panther…but what about the average customer, who is already bombarded with messages 24 hours a day?
Many jewellery brands have come up with creative ways to incorporate their brand messages in pieces; whether done ostentatiously or subtly. Take for example Roberto Coin, which has long used a tiny ruby on interior surfaces of its jewels to tell a story of health and happiness. This subtle signature, although invisible to the casual observer, makes pieces special for the wearer, recognisable for collectors and, crucially, provides a conversation starter for coveted word-of-mouth recommendations.
Although the world of watches offers more opportunities for branding than fine jewellery, it’s not always possible to tell one timepiece from another on first glance. Gucci, for example, has tackled this by pushing its trademark green-red-green web stripe in watch straps and on dials.
Of course, companies with heritage are at an advantage in the branded world, largely because they have an iconic shape, motif or design that has stood the test of time. However, newer brands have also proven that generating awareness fast is possible, especially in the realms of technology and social media.
In the jewellery arena, Pandora has excelled with its signature charm bracelet, while Nomination has a recognisable look with its modular, composeable bracelets. In both cases, stripping away logos and brand names wouldn’t hinder the consumer from knowing which brand is in the frame; ensuring they both have a spot in one of the internet’s many brand recognition quizzes.
Due to its very nature, jewellery doesn’t offer the same opportunities for visible branding as other product categories, but could this be a good thing? Not only are customers bombarded with messages at every turn, they’re also becoming more and more distrustful of those messages and the advertising that accompanies them. Perhaps this is why then, according to a Goldman Sachs report on Millennial customers, that just 38 percent of 25-to-34-year-olds and 36 percent of 16-to-24-year-olds choose to buy branded.
In fact, the main motivators for purchasing a product among younger consumers is story-telling, engagement on social media, price and what they can tell others about the product. A can of Coca Cola may be a recognised brand, but what stories can customers tell their friends after purchasing it? Now imagine the scenario with a fine diamond bracelet and the options for showmanship and storytelling become far more exciting, regardless of whether it has a brand logo emblazoned on it.
In today’s climate it is not ‘what you’re doing’ or ‘how you’re doing it’, but ‘why you’re doing it’. Millennials are a cause-focused generation who want to know what you stand for first and foremost. In this culture an interesting breed of ‘anti-brand brands’ are emerging, whereby their brand mission statement is all about stripping the unnecessary away to streamline the conversation.
Emerging British watch company Freedom to Exist has developed its whole ethos around minimising the impact of 21st century branding on its products. Freedom to Exist creative director and co-founder, Kirsty Whyte, explains: “We wanted a little space away from the noise of branding and technology. That’s why, when you wear an FtE watch, we let the design speak for itself and keep our name hidden where only you [the customer] can see it.”
She continues: “Provenance and quality is becoming so much more important as consumers are becoming more design savvy. They want to invest in independent, well-designed product to show their own style and individuality, rather than having a designer name emblazoned across their belongings.”
Perhaps then, instead of worrying that they can’t compete in the branded world, jewellery and watch brands should take comfort in the fact that they don’t necessarily have to, in order to be successful. Now who can say that about a car, box of cereal or beauty produc?t