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‘Le Grand Tour’ is similar to today’s ‘Work and Travel’ without the work. Young males from families, who could afford typically traveled for a year and a half to gain experience in what separates boys from men. Goethe was one of them. ‘Le Grand Tour’ is also the theme of the launch campaign for the latest high jewelry line of Van Cleef & Arpels, that I was lucky to participate in.

Us P&G alumni are proud to have learned the craft of Brand Marketing where it was invented. Certainly, we don’t appreciate to be taught lessons in our own profession. That is exactly what happened to me during the Van Cleef’s launch event - and it hurt good!

When we first settled into the US, I decided to pay tribute to the local culture by going for a full-sized rock. To give it a European twist, I also optimized the remaining C’s and, perhaps because I am German, it had to come at a deal too. A goldsmith set the discounted gemstone in platinum and the ring came out great. I was convinced, I delivered ‘Total Quality’.

However, I just did not get it as evidenced subsequently by a moderate usage frequency of the piece. Fortunately, I did better with the engagement ring earlier!

A low number of purchases, shop assistant’s expertise and high store rents are all good reasons, why jewelry prices exceed the value of the input sharply. But they don’t explain why people buy.

The P&G way of Brand Management works well in functional categories like diapers or laundry detergents. Benefits can be clearly articulated and made believable by the technical properties of the product. Wrapped in relevant drama by the creatives of an ad agency and communicated in 30 seconds video ads, nothing is left to the imagination of the target audience.

For one thing, jewelry usually does not have a function. Even watches are dispensable for owners of mobile phones. Far more vague concepts such as ‘End Benefit’ and ‘Brand Equity’ may be helpful to explain the desirability of a jewelry Brand. Gemstone quality, craft and art, expressed through a design that embodies the spirit of the time are elements that go into the equation too.

And of course, the mental state of the potential customer varies strongly from that of the supermarket shopper. The emotions triggered by the sparkle of a diamond are of a different sort than those caused by a white bedsheet. Laundry detergent consumers cannot escape buying the category, jewelry customers yearn to buy theirs.

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Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, lovers and lifestyle gurus of their time

But how to get there? P&G has often struggled in categories that are built on emotions, instead of functions as sadly proven by the destinies of Betrix, Vidal Sassoon or Wella. Good old ‘Old Spice’ may work well for the no-bullshit-straight-shooter and his followers, it won’t do the trick where competition is tough.

Let’s look at the ‘End Benefit’ idea. What does the possession of a long-desired piece of jewelry do to it’s owner? Category rejectors are quick to underscore the importance of status. Looking at the wearers of some hard-to-get luxury sports watches, it cannot be fully denied. More favorable observers may call it recognition. But that is only one facet.

I will not forget how I was struggling to keep focused on my final exam preparations at university when I felt the weight of my first Rolex dangling from my wrist. No one else was around in the library to show it off to.

I had just bought it for myself after working many late nights after school. So, there was not even the aspect of receiving or giving a gift involved. Despite the looming exams, I felt strong positive emotions inside me: Dreamed it - did it. Pride, Joy, Happiness. I became addicted to that (the exam went well too…).

Why did it have to be this model or this Brand for me? Enthusiasts will find a million reasons that speak for the Brand. However, it remains an unnecessary item to own. Marketers who study their consumer research will identify ‘Happiness’ is an important end benefit. They may also find that ‘Love’ and ‘Luck’ are important territories to own.

The question so becomes what measures are effective for a Brand to become synonymous with such promises?

This is where Brand equity becomes important. Van Cleef & Arpels have nurtured their Brand values throughout their history that spans more than a century. Because that is so, they are now believable. But it is not just time that makes the difference. It is consistent brilliance (literally) in every aspect of the product and its communication that yield success.

There was barely an example below six digits in the high jewelry collection that was presented, yet 85% of the pieces were sold during the launch event or before.

With success comes more success, as an increasing number of prominent customers automatically turn into ambassadors for the Brand.

Communication happens predominantly in the stores, through events like the one I attended and online. All of these channels have in common, that they allow for two-way communication. Van Cleef & Arpels know their consumers - personally!

Encounters with the Brand should always be in line with the communication objectives. It can be taken for granted that the young men that went on their ‘Grand Tour’ experienced some of the best days in their lives. Out of university, without budget constraints, at some the most desirable places of the time, these were truly conditions under which luck, love and happiness unfold. Why men, when almost all of the collection skews female? Because shoppers and consumers mainly fall apart.

The translation of the concept of ‘Le Grand Tour’ into the launch event at the Villa Medici in Rome during a mild mid-summer night unlocked the same emotions in those, who were lucky enough to attend. I have been blessed by seeing a lot in different places throughout my life. This night will stay in my memory, and I decided to spend more time on studying this truly amazing Brand!

Tropical Delight
Nothing beats being on the ground with the local teams! It was fantastic to visit our pineapple and banana farms in Costa Rica during Thanksgiving week. Too easily do we take our deliciously nutritious fruit for granted without valuing the skill and dedication that go into it. Many thanks to Sheila, Alasdair, Leslie and their teams for having us. Everything was perfectly organized. Conversations with Thanos, Oscar, Daniela and Pablo made the hours spent behind the wheel a big treat! The professionalism of Hugo, Julie and team in advocating and communicating the Fyffes standards to internal and external stakeholders is impressive. Attending the inauguration of the new medical center on our Anexco pineapple farm was likewise amazing. Another proof that Fyffes has always been committed to the welfare of its employees. Meeting various senior executives from our Geneva headquarters at the event was no coincidence. An overall very exciting and energizing trip!

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