Baubles, Bangles, Bright Shiny Beads
How does a small state designer take on the big brass world of fashion jewelry and win? By thinking differently, acting differently, and being different(ly). Have you ever been behind a woman in the airport security line, frustrated as she removes about twenty bangle bracelets from her wrist prior to walking through the metal detector? Chances are she was wearing twenty different made-in-America-from-sustainable-resources-infused-with-positive-energy Alex + Ani bangles. If you haven’t yet become familiar with the cult that is Alex + Ani, the next time you see someone wearing several thin wire bracelets around her wrist ask her about them. They’ll each have a special story, a special meaning, and they’ll each have been “Made in America with Love™”.
The first decade of the 21st century must have been fertile ground for young up-and-coming female jewelry designers. In 2004 Rhode Islander Carolyn Rafaelian began a jewelry business called Alex + Ani (named for her two daughters) and just a few years later Pamela Love started making and selling jewelry from her Brooklyn apartment. Both exhibit a casual youthful style (not the clunky expensive look of Pandora), both created from recycled materials, and both boasting that they are made in America. The founders for each company also proclaim themselves to be spiritual which serves as part of their inspiration. The distinction between the approaches of the two businesses is that Alex + Ani have turned their lofty ideals into not only their company’s mission but also their company’s approach to marketing. While Pamela Love updates Facebook followers with product images and news, Alex + Ani use their space to send inspirational quotes with hashtags such as #movtivationnation and #positiveenergy. Pamela Love’s style is definitely a safe business model for a marketer while Alex + Ani takes more risks from a pure product marketing standpoint but they reap the benefits of sending messages with a better chance of being shared. In fact, a search of the hashtag #motivationnation yields a plethora of inspirational messages bearing the branding of Alex + Ani.
Focusing not just on its product and its product’s place among the many fashion jewelry options in the market but also on its “jewelry as social change” mission allows Alex + Ani to differentiate itself in a very competitive space. It is not just an American jewelry company; it’s THAT American jewelry company that shares positive messages. And those positive messages are not just shared across social media; they are shared on every bangle worn by millions of women (and some men) around the world. The Alex + Ani message then becomes a very personal message for the wearer and those individual messages are shared across social media through user-generated #charmedarms images (wrist selfies) flowing into such platforms as Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter. While Pamela Love is gaining a foothold in the fashion space by sharing images of models wearing their jewelry, Alex + Ani is gaining a foothold in the emotional space by sharing images of everybody wrists in everyday places. Their social media marketing strategy encourages brand ambassadors to promote the brand in personal ways that reinforce the brand’s own goals.
Pictures Are Pretty, But Numbers Don’t Lie
As good as Alex + Ani can feel about their social mission, it is truly the numbers that set a brand free. And Alex + Ani’s numbers show that their efforts are paying off both from a company engagement standpoint and a revenue standpoint. Their Facebook fan base is nearing 711K, 144K follow them on Twitter, 285K on Instagram, 33K on Pinterest, and they are on Google+, YouTube, Tumblr, and LinkedIn too. According to Dom Nicastro from the March 28 2014 CMS Wire, a single Facebook ad campaign waged between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday last year yielded $1.6 million in sales and their annual revenue is estimated to be $240 million. So, the next time you share a #motivationnation quote to your Facebook family or see a #charmedarm in the airport, know there is a business behind the bangle and profits generated from the #positiveenergy.
Want to learn more about Alex + Ani or Pamela Love? Check out these sites for more information: