You must and will evolve your brand. You never get branding “done” because again, it’s like a living breathing person. People grow, we all change, and your brand will to, so be ok with that and enjoy the ride. If your brand isn’t growing and evolving, then it risks becoming irrelevant because the nature of branding is that it’s meant to speak to people, and people are always growing and changing. So pay attention to their needs and pivot, and pivot fast to be ahead of your competition.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Abby Sparks, the founder of Abby Sparks Jewelry located in the RiNo District of Denver, Colorado. She started this business because she felt like the jewelry industry was broken. Abby believed that the world deserved more than completely impersonal “point-and-buy” or “click-and-buy” jewelry buying process. So, she created the anti-jewelry store. There is not a single piece of jewelry to buy in her downtown design studio. Every piece of jewelry created by Abby Sparks and her team is completely custom made and one of a kind. No ring, necklace, or pair of earrings will ever be re-made because each piece is hand-crafted for the person it was created for. Abby believes that jewelry is one of the only things that is passed onto future generations. It needs to last a lifetime, and then some. She’s poured her heart and soul into this business, and it has payed off by creating a brand that is both trusted and loved by the people of Denver, as well as clients all over the world.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Tell us what lesson you learned from that.
I am not sure if I am that unique or funny on this one but I made many, many mistakes on instagram when I first started. I would post awkward pictures with bad lighting, part of my face showing, blurry shots of my product, inconsistent colors and looks, and just in general I really did not know what I was doing. Don’t even get me started on some of my copy- single word captions like “Stunning” or off brand phrases like “2 Legit 2 Quit”! So many failures on instagram. I had a hard time really feeling confident in my brand, and that came through on my instagram. What I learned was that its ok to make those mistakes though because only by failing miserably on instagram initially was I able better find my voice and my look and then to tackle instagram. Mistakes are not mistakes, only lessons. There’s always the archive and delete options too.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The jewelry industry is flooded with mass-manufactured, unoriginal fine jewelry. The majority of women have engagement rings that thousands of other women have, making the specialness of the ring and the life event a bit diluted. The industry is full of marketing and branding that includes pastel colors in baby blues and pinks, with overly sentimental language to go with it. My company makes one piece of jewelry for one person. Its designed and made just for that person. And we don’t duplicate. My brand is to the point in how we talk to consumers, and the branded colors are darker, richer, and include black, grey, mauve, dark green, and blush. I seek to celebrate the uniqueness in a person and in a couple’s love, not popularize it to conformity. I have an appointment only design studio in which I sit down with clients and do 1 on 1 meetings so I can get an idea of who he/she/they are. I’m the anti jewelry store- nothing to buy, only people to meet and jewelry to make. You don’t stand out more than when people walk into my studio and ask “where’s all the jewelry?” Ha!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are working on refining our “loaner rings” and want to better marketing them too. Loaner rings provide ways for couples to get engaged with a temporary surprise ring that is worn while the real ring, her made-just-for-her ring is being designed and made. How people get engaged has really changed over time. I am seeing more men wanting to really get her something that she loves not simply likes, which means the woman needs to be involved in some way with input on her forever ring. Accordingly, more men are asking her what it is she wants or involving her. However, many men still want to honor the element of surprise on bended knee, so the temporary ring achieves this. After he pops the question, they come in together so that she is involved and he can nail the ring in a more fail proof way. Loaner rings help men and women both get what they want, and helps ensure she isn’t rocking a ring for life that she is only medium happy with (which few women would directly share but would become clear to him if she wants to remodel it years later).
How would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)?
To me, the difference between the two lies in what feelings or thoughts the marketing elicits from the consumer. Branding brings forth feelings, thoughts, and beliefs for the consumer. Advertising lists product attributes but doesn’t make the consumer think or feel much beyond the attributes. Advertising leaves the consumer with merely product/service capability. Branding leaves the consumer with an entire impression, subconscious and conscious. It takes consumers to a whole new world of hope and possibility.
Explain why it’s important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts.
The brand is the one thing that distinguishes the company from ever other company offering the same product or service. The brand is the soul behind the product. In this day and age, that’s everything. Without a brand, your product isn’t that different from your competitor’s product from a consumer’s standpoint. Without a brand, you’re selling a commodity. You have to assume that everyone is doing marketing and advertising, so really the importance of branding is “what do you specifically have to say to the world about YOUR product?” If you have nothing to say, then there’s no soul, so no brand. If you don’t invest resources into your brand, you’re like every other business slinging product and competing on price.
Share 5 strategies that a small company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand. Please tell a story or example of each.
1) Figure out the W’s of your brand. Who, What, Where, Why, and How. I had a mentor help me understand this and it has always stuck. She told me to pretend that your brand is a person. Who is this person? Who is he/she? What is this person all about? What does he/she stand for and value in life? Where is this person aiming their bow in this game of life and how does he/she do it? Why is this person doing what they are doing? What’s this person’s Big Why? And finally, how does this person show up everyday? How does this person interact with others? How does he/she talk and act, and what kind of impression does he/she leave upon others. Figure our these answers on a deeper level and you’ve got a heart, head, personality, body, and spirit. That’s a brand.
2) Capture the essence of your brand in an actual document that all employees know about, and make this “person” the pillar of all marketing efforts. It can be hard when you’re first starting out to only put out marketing material to the world in alignment with the brand because branding isn’t black and white, but know your brand and stick to it in marketing consistently. If you have to go very slow in producing marketing content, then go slow, but don’t dilute it.
3) Understand your value propositions. Put out branded content in a way that honors your “person” but that also actually speaks to normal people and all the pains and stresses they are going through in life that your product can alleviate. Add value to people’s lives by communicating how and why your product/service helps on a deeper level. Its one thing to know your brand but an entirely different challenge to marry your brand with the deeper value that your product/service brings to the world.
4) Be ok with the world seeing your brand and voice grow, and try try try again. Humility and vulnerability go a long way with people in building a trusted and believable brand. Sometimes, I look back to 2014 instagram posts, blogs, and newsletters and I laugh out loud. I didn’t have my brand identity down but I tried every day to get better. My clients and community could see my brand crawl, then standup, then walk. Currently, we’re trotting or walking briskly, but even today, I am still finding my wings in my company, and that’s evident in my branding. People notice, but that makes it real. Makes me and my brand relatable.
5) You must and will evolve your brand. You never get branding “done” because again, it’s like a living breathing person. People grow, we all change, and your brand will to, so be ok with that and enjoy the ride. If your brand isn’t growing and evolving, then it risks becoming irrelevant because the nature of branding is that it’s meant to speak to people, and people are always growing and changing. So pay attention to their needs and pivot, and pivot fast to be ahead of your competition.
In your opinion, what company has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand? What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?
Man Repeller. They keep it SO real on all things women are never afraid to talk about, things female-related that don’t get talked about. They go there with fashion and more when no one will. They talk about and glamorize being real and authentic even when it breaks social, gender, or fashion paradigms. Get on with your bad self and be real and authentic. Bonus if you can inspire others to be and do the same.
In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success in a brand building campaign? Is it similar? Is it different?
We measure success of brand building campaigns on sales but also on prospect conversions which for us are calls, emails, and appointments booked. We also measure success on impressions, ie how many eyes got exposed to this campaign as well as likes and follows. Brand building campaigns are much more difficult to measure success because a lot of brand equity is not directly impacting sales numbers, but eventually it does and will. Reaching critical mass absolutely will drive sales, but it is a longer conversion rate. You just have to know that and set different expectations of success than traditional advertising.
What role does social media play in your branding efforts?
Currently, social media, specifically instagram and pinterest, play a huge role in our branding efforts. Those two channels single handedly best spread the proverbial seeds of our brand. We attribute about 25% of our website traffic and sales leads from these two. As our brand awareness grows and our follows, shares and likes increase, so do our leads.
What advise would you give to marketers or other business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
You know, to be frank, I am in the middle of a burnout. I need to make it through to the other side before I can say I know. ☺
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I would want to inspire a mompreneur movement. I am a single mom myself and business owner, and I am convinced that moms, especially working ones too, are the heartbeat and conscience of American society. They’re connected to the baby’s needs, the home needs, the workplace needs, work team needs, partner needs, and relational needs of people in general. They are the ones holding family and workplace cultures together. They know what its like in the full spectrum of being human because they wear all hats and play all roles. If more moms could own businesses doing what they love, they would be lit up from within, filled up in their passion, and many of them would create working cultures that would challenge current working norms for the better, and then drive cultural changes with how Americans work. Change comes from those who can actually feel the rift.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You have been successful doing things you don’t love, so just imagine how successful you’ll be doing the thing you do love.” My father told me this when I was on the brink of a nervous breakdown from sleeping only 2–3 hours per night. I was working full time in consulting while also juggling the start of my business, Abby Sparks Jewelry. We are all afraid of the big leap into doing what we actually want to do in a career because we don’t want to fail. We want some level of security too, we want to hold onto what we think is safe. We want some quiet promise that we will be ok, that we can do this. It doesn’t come from anyone else though, it comes only from you first believing in your dream and second deciding to take the leap. My leap required that I completely give up my old life in order to start my new one, and my dad knew that.
Person I would want to have lunch with.
GP, all day everyday.
How can readers follow you on social media?
Facebook: abby sparks jewelry
Thank you for all of these great insights!
About the author:
Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.