Interview With Janzen Riley Tew, Photographer and Branding ExpertLaryssa
In episode #203 of the Joy Joya Jewelry Marketing Podcast, I share my interview with a fascinating and creative woman who I met at this year’s JCK Las Vegas, when I participated with her on a panel called “The Fringe of Marketing”. Janzen Riley Tew is a talented and visionary photographer as well as the founder of the marketing and design agency Denim + Velvet, which services the fashion and jewelry industries. I personally consider her to be the TikTok queen, so we spend a lot of time chatting about the social media platform in this episode.
In this episode, I’ll be covering:
- What jewelry brands can do to ensure they’re effectively communicating their vision and identity in 2022 and beyond
- Why should today’s jewelry brand’s consider investing time and energy into TikTok
- Storytelling opportunities for jewelry brands on TikTok and Instagram Reels and well as some best practices for using both platforms
- …and more!
Check out the episode files as well as the transcript below.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 0:08
Welcome to the Joy Joya Podcast, where “jewelry is joy” and everyone is encouraged to add more polish and sparkle to the world. With topics ranging from marketing tips to business development, best practices, and beyond, this is the go-to podcast for ambitious jewelry industry dreamers like you.
Hi, I’m your host, Laryssa Wirstiuk. Through this Podcast, I aim to empower and inspire jewelry entrepreneurs and professionals so they can thrive while adding more beauty to the world. I’m passionate about digital marketing for jewelry brands and I’m excited to share my passion with you. “Jewelry is joy,” so I’ll gladly seize any opportunity to talk about it.
This is episode 203, and today I’ll be sharing an interview with a fascinating and creative woman whom I met at this year’s JCK Las Vegas when I participated with her and two other panelists on a panel called “The Fringe of Marketing.” She’s a talented and visionary photographer, as well as the founder of a marketing and design agency that services the fashion and jewelry industries. I personally consider her to be the TikTok queen. We spend a lot of time in this episode chatting about the social media platform.
I’ll share more about my guest in just a little bit. But here’s a preview of what we’ll be discussing:
- What jewelry brands can do to ensure they’re effectively communicating their vision and identity in 2022 and beyond
- Why should today’s jewelry brands consider investing time and energy into TikTok?
- The storytelling opportunities for jewelry brands on TikTok and Instagram Reels, as well as some best practices for using both platforms
- … and more!
But before we get to the solid gold of this episode, I’d like to take a moment to remind you that this podcast has both an audio and video component, so you can either listen on your favorite podcast platform or watch on YouTube by searching “Joy Joya”. I love creating this content as my active service to you, my awesome listeners and viewers, and you can support the Podcast for free by taking the time not only to subscribe but also to leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts, which helps other jewelry dreamers find it too.
I want to read my favorite review of the week. “ArtemJewelry” says: “She provides insights in a thoughtful, considered way. Her interviews are inspiring, full of interesting information about her guests and their businesses.” Thank you. Well, I hope this interview episode meets your feedback and expectations. I really appreciate that review. If you leave one as well, I might read it in a future episode. So please let me know what you think about this one, or about any other major takeaways you’ve had recently.
In this segment of the Podcast, I give out my Sparkle Award for the week. During this segment, I highlight a jewelry brand that’s impressing me with their marketing. The Sparkle Award is also interactive, so you can visit sparkleaward.com to nominate a jewelry brand that’s inspiring you these days, and I might feature your submission on a future Podcast episode.
This week’s Sparkle Award goes to The Clear Cut, a direct-to-consumer jewelry company that sells bespoke natural diamond engagement rings and the perfect everyday fine jewelry pieces handmade in New York City. I learned more about this brand—which I had heard of before but didn’t know a ton about—from an article in Digiday, which is specifically about the investment that The Clear Cut has made in TikTok.
Lately, they’ve been focused on creating more organic content for the platform by partnering with influencers. They’re really focused on creating informational videos that are made to position them favorably as experts and thought leaders in the eyes of Gen Z. The growth has all been bootstrapped and most of the content creation has been done in-house. So it’s super impressive what they’ve been able to achieve on TikTok organically.
According to the article, “This year, The Clear Cut is spending less than 3% of revenue on paid media, which has increased slightly as the brand added more channels to its media mix, including TikTok. The Clear Cut’s media mix is made up of paid search, Facebook and Instagram, and Pinterest.” So it’s cool to see that they’ve pulled back on that ad spend, which is what paid media refers to, and instead taking that money that they would have spent on ads and putting it toward creating really value-driven, focused content on a platform that makes sense for them, which in The Clear Cut’s case is TikTok.
So Kyle Simon, the co-founder and CEO of The Clear Cut, says, “This year, we’ve seen TikTok rapidly overtake Pinterest. I would predict if this trend continues, it will overtake Instagram in terms of inbound leads and conversions for us.” I’m not saying this is going to be true for every jewelry brand. Some jewelry brands might see that Pinterest works really well for them or Instagram works really well for them. But I think the primary takeaway for me about this article is that this is a brand that knows its target customer, where that target customer spends time, is paying attention to what’s really working for them—instead of just doing whatever they think is supposed to work, like maybe paid ads—and then truly leaning into that thing and trusting it and going full force to fully realize the potential of that platform. So I think this is an awesome example for any brand that’s trying to find its place in digital marketing.
As I mentioned, you can visit sparkleaward.com to nominate a jewelry brand that’s inspiring you these days, and I might feature your submission on a future Podcast episode.
Let’s discuss some recent news related to jewelry or marketing. Each week I share my thoughts about three relevant articles, and you can get the links to these articles by checking out the show notes. The first article comes from insiderintelligence.com and is called “The top luxury categories among US consumers”. Insider Intelligence recently shared a report that lists the top luxury categories among consumers in the United States. This is based on a survey that was conducted in June of this year. This was really enlightening for me, and I hope it is for you. So it breaks down by percentages: What are these luxury consumers buying by category? Number one—I was actually really surprised by this, to be honest—47.3% of luxury consumers are buying footwear like shoes and boots. So that was the top luxury category.
Number two—less surprising to me; I actually thought it would be number one—46.2% are buying handbags and leather goods like wallets and other similar accessories, tote bags, etc. [Also], 45.4% are buying luxury cosmetics and beauty products, which totally makes sense. An equal percentage, 45.4%, are buying fragrance
As you probably noticed, jewelry is not on this list. That was also surprising to me. Well, I mean, it’s not in the top five. Jewelry only made up 23.2% and watches followed right behind that at 15.4%. Overall, less than a third of the shoppers bought accessories such as eyewear, jewelry, and watches in the past year. Is that surprising to you? I think the handbag and apparel stats really kind of shook me, let’s say.
This article also says that personal luxury sales will reach $109.25 billion in the US this year as per their forecast, and more than a fifth of those sales will come from e-commerce. It is also very shocking to me that such a large portion of these sales are actually coming from online. These are really interesting statistics. My main takeaway is that luxury jewelry brands should really be looking to other categories, especially footwear, handbags, and cosmetics, to see how the brands in these categories are really cultivating desire with consumers. What can we learn when it comes to storytelling, when it comes to the sales channels they’re using, the positioning? There’s a lot to learn here. So definitely take this into consideration.
The second article comes from the New York Times. I learned a lot from this one. It’s called “Art’s New Perch: Your Neck, Not Your Wall”. So, unfortunately, this just ended on October 4th, but I was so interested in this that I wanted to share it anyway because I think it’s showing a trend or new direction in certain types of jewelry consumers. So “Art as Jewelry as Art” was a digital-only auction and simultaneous exhibition at Sotheby’s in Manhattan. Again, it already ended on October 4th, but it’s the first time that this auction house decided to dedicate an exhibition to artists’ jewelry. So basically, 65ish designs were showcased. It’s not art jewelry. I’ll explain that in just a moment—the distinction between artist jewelry and art jewelry. But the 65 pieces were by 20th and 21st-century artists, and they were works deemed by Sotheby’s as covetable, wearable, and eminently collectible. So these were pieces by artists like Picasso, Max Ernst, Salvador Dalí, Man Ray, and Alexander Calder—people we all know from modern art museums.
The most interesting thing to me was this distinction: that there’s this trend of collectors, these people who covet interesting jewelry, interesting objet; that they actually want jewelry made by these artists who are so high-profile and that there’s a difference [with] art jewelry. While the former is often conceived and signed by a recognized artist, art jewelry, on the other hand, is created by lesser-known artisans who may not rely on precious materials to lend it [its] worth. I’m not here to say that our jewelry is bad or not worthy, because I do not believe that. But I think what this article is saying is that if the creator can position themselves as almost a figure on their own and be a brand unto itself, it makes that jewelry so much more desirable. Of course, it’s hard for anyone today to position themselves as the next Picasso. But really, it’s this, like, seductive, mystery, the prestige of the name of these people that is making the jewelry desirable in the collectors’ eyes.
There was one really good quote from this article by Sotheby’s Managing Director and worldwide head of business development. She said that artists’ jewelry holds a newly seductive cachet. For the clients, “wearable art is the next frontier in collecting.” So what is my main takeaway about this? There is space in the world, and there is even a desire and a need in the world for the true jewelry artist, who isn’t just making something interesting, which is wonderful, but someone who can position themselves as a creative visionary, maybe even someone who does crossover in other creative arts. So they’re kind of like this jack-of-all-trades, as Picasso worked in many types of media. So I think it’s interesting to see what these high-end jewelry buyers are seeking and what we can really borrow from that if we’re trying to target these more luxury-driven customers. So these are really cool insights coming out of Sotheby’s.
The last article comes from Social Media Today, and it’s called “Instagram Expands Test of Multiple Links in User Bios.” I could probably do an update about Instagram in every single episode of this Podcast. But this one was pretty interesting to me. I choose to ignore a lot of the others. Could Instagram finally be giving its business users opportunities to share more links? Possibly. Social Media Today recently reported that Instagram has expanded access to a new option that enables creators to add multiple links to their Instagram bios. In the past, Instagram had recommended Linktree to help their users overcome this issue because, as you know, Instagram currently only allows one link in the bio for all users, and you can’t post any links in the captions. So the Linktree was the band-aid to give users the functionality to have a link to their website, to information about an event, to go shop, a retailer, or whatever you wanted to put in there. Many Instagram users now use Linktree. But now there may be more native functionality for users to be able to share links. I’m just like, “Wow, this is a long time coming, Instagram.” I think it will be really useful for businesses to be able to direct people where they want to go.
So my main takeaway from this article is that this sounds great. Any way that you can engage with your customers off of Instagram, including getting them off of the platform onto your website and getting them to sign up for your email marketing list, is one step forward in engaging them in the purchase process and getting them to be your customers. So it’s great that Instagram is giving businesses a way to get their followers off the app in an easier way without using a third-party service. For more information about any of these articles, check out the links provided in the show notes.
As I mentioned earlier in the episode, my guest today is a talented photographer and the founder of Denim & Velvet, a marketing and design agency based in Texas serving the fashion and jewelry industries specifically. When Janzen Riley Tew picked up a camera as a side hustle during college, she knew she’d unlocked something special. Five years later, she founded her agency. Janzen has a very specific talent for visually communicating a brand’s magic and their ‘special sauce,’ shall we say. She’s also very skilled at sharing the threads of a brand’s story in photo and video via platforms like Instagram Reels and TikTok. Without further delay, let’s chat with my guest Janzen.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 16:37
Hey, Janzen. Thanks so much for coming on the podcast today. I’m really excited to have you as a guest!
Janzen Riley Tew 16:42
Thank you all so much. I’m so happy to be here. I’m truly honored and excited to be speaking to a new industry outside of our normal, and it’s fun to get to work with new and unique companies like what you’ve created with Joy Joya!
Laryssa Wirstiuk 16:58
Awesome. So tell our listeners and viewers about your business, Denim & Velvet. First, give a rundown of what it is that you do.
Janzen Riley Tew 17:07
Denim & Velvet Marketing + Design is an all-inclusive marketing agency. We cater to any business that needs any type of marketing, from digital online with e-commerce and website, social media, print, email and SMS, and photography. No matter what campaign sale they’re needing or marketing, we can cater to that. We started so that we could help small businesses.
Janzen Riley Tew 17:35
I worked for a really large Western retail store, and their marketing budget was more than the average. While I was there, I learned that other small businesses—we carried their lines within the store—couldn’t market themselves just based on price and cost. I saw a big need in the Western industry, which is where we started out, for people to be able to have a cost-effective marketing plan or just a marketing agency that they could work with either full-time or on a project-to-project basis. So we started Denim & Velvet in 2017, catering to small businesses and letting them have that million-dollar marketing plan, or team and work, but on a much more affordable and smaller scale budget.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 18:20
That sounds like an amazing opportunity for small businesses to take advantage of your talent and your expertise. That’s really cool.
Janzen Riley Tew 18:27
I was just very grateful to be able to work for some major companies that allowed me to learn what everyone needed on the retail and even the wholesale side. I knew what I wanted as a consumer for marketing or how I wanted to be marketed to, but having that opportunity to have that one-on-one and real-life experience really allowed us to be able to grow and expand the company right away as well. So I’m very appreciative of the positions that I’ve been able to work in in the past prior to being able to start Denim & Velvet.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 18:59
So what types of clients do you serve? Who’s your go-to target customer today?
Janzen Riley Tew 19:05
Our main customer is really the women’s boutique industry. So we offer a little over 60 female models for them to choose from. We have a natural light studio in our office as well as a lot of really unique and beautiful outdoor locations. We work with a lot of clothing companies that will ship their apparel to us and choose which model they want to wear their clothing to be able to showcase it on their website and social media. Then we have some that will do a seasonal marketing campaign. So they’ll send out their summer collection and we’ll do a big photoshoot with like five to seven models, so they’ll have a lot of content to get them through one season.
Janzen Riley Tew 19:51
We have recently started breaking into the accessory world a little bit, not a ton, so it’s been a new avenue within the past three or four months to take that route, which has been so much fun. We’ve worked with Western accessories brands like Silversmith and Turquoise in the past. Getting to work with new accessory companies has been a lot of fun.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 20:14
I know a lot of accessory companies need this kind of service for sure.
Janzen Riley Tew 20:17
I think everyone does. The accessory companies I’ve spoken with feel intimidated because of the areas they don’t have, not having the outfits to be styled on, the models, or not knowing necessarily what shots they need. Also, the price of their product can be a little bit scary about either sending it off or having someone wear it and taking the chance of it being damaged in any capacity. Working through those areas so that they’re more comfortable with either us coming on-site to work with them or sending their items to us and making sure everything is cared for properly, that’s been the area that I’ve seen the biggest hesitation in.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 21:00
How did you transition from being a one-woman show in your business to now managing a team? What was that like?
Janzen Riley Tew 21:08
Burnout, obviously, [with] trying to do everything myself and there not being enough hours in the day. There’s been one area that I have not been able to do at all, and that’s our logo design area. We do a lot of hand-drawn logos, and nobody would have ever paid for me to draw something. The best thing I can draw is a stick figure, and even that is not very good. So that position has always been taken care of by someone else other than me. But expanding into hiring someone to take over the web design, the email and SMS marketing, and social media—I really focused on what areas I felt like my customers weren’t getting the most attention and [I] hired in one at a time. It’s really nice because if one of the team members does have an issue, not that I’m necessarily always on top of the trends currently—I try to be—but at least I can go help them and work through problem-solving since I have done that job before. So that’s been really nice.
Janzen Riley Tew 22:14
I would say I really started hiring in 2018, about a year after the company was open. And then being able to really see which areas needed the grow the fastest [has helped]. I have not always been the best boss. That was never my intention when I started the company, to be a boss. So I’m thankful for the girls that work alongside me, as they let me learn and grow and step into that role more each day.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 22:42
That’s amazing and really inspiring. I like your honesty about that.
Janzen Riley Tew 22:46
It was never my goal. And I don’t want to be the boss. But I’m very, very thankful that they have allowed me to make some mistakes, and that they have been so incredible and self-sufficient and self-starting that I haven’t had to micromanage anyone at any time. So it’s been a very easy transition, thankfully.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 23:10
Denim & Velvet has helped so many brands bring their stories to life, especially through photography, like you mentioned at the beginning. What steps do you typically take to ensure a brand is being communicated as clearly and effectively as possible?
Janzen Riley Tew 23:26
The first step I have is I get on a phone call and hear their voice and [the reasons] why they’re passionate about their brand, what drives them, and what’s their reason for starting it. I feel like when you get to tell it to somebody new, you can really hear that passion. Then I’ll also ask them who their current customer is, if they’re happy with that customer, or if they’re wanting to transition their business into either adding on a new customer or going a completely different route.
Janzen Riley Tew 23:56
A lot of the time in the clothing industry, a boutique owner will want to sell to someone like themselves or their family and friends, but then their customer who actually shops buys something totally different. So the original vision you had isn’t where their business is going. Then they feel, not necessarily defeated, because they are making sales, but it’s not what they had envisioned. So then we work together to say, “Okay, if we do photoshoots, how can we take the products that we know we’re selling but style them to showcase the business that you’ve always wanted so that we can bring in new products and grow and achieve that area?” So if we have a company that maybe they’re wanting something more modern and mainstream but graphic tees are selling for them, then we see what we can style it [with, such as] street style and take it on location and have additional props or more movement with our model versus just a standard posed photo. They’ll be able to take the areas that they’re excelling at and bring them back to what their original value and desires were.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 25:01
You made a lot of really interesting points. One that stood out to me was what you said about the smaller business owners and how they typically imagine their target customer as themselves, basically. So that’s who they tried to market to. But that’s not necessarily always the case or what the future of the business will hold. I think that’s a really important point for a lot of people who listen to and watch this Podcast.
Janzen Riley Tew 25:27
Yes, and [for] some people, it gets very frustrating for them. But I think it’s a beautiful thing [when it] happens because it shows you what so many more people outside of your small niche of what you think that you, your family, or friends want to purchase [or] are interested in, and the different ways that they would wear or style them. And that’s for anything from apparel to accessories.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 25:50
Definitely. So what are some of your personal favorite types of photo shoots to do with your clients? So what’s the most fun for you?
Janzen Riley Tew 25:59
Commercial shoots are always the most fun because we usually go to some unique or new location, and we’re trying to get them upwards of six to eight months of content at one time. We’ll have a big group of models, like I said, anywhere from five to seven. Those days are just really full of energy. They’re very long and somewhat exhausting, but the energy at them is so high because what we are creating for them at that moment is so special. We’re doing videos and photos, and we’re having fun. We’re doing more unique and group poses, and we’re trying to mix and match different elements. So one outfit might get shot six or seven times, shown/styled in different ways. I think those [commercial shoots] are by far my favorite because of how exciting the day is.
Janzen Riley Tew 26:53
I mean, I love my product photography. That’s what I do pretty much day in and day out. I feel like it’s the meat and potatoes of the business. But adding in that commercial shoot seasonally is like getting that gourmet dessert. Or it feels like [when] you’re always staying in, cooking at home, and now you’re getting to go out for that nice dinner. So, that commercial shoot is always so much fun.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 27:17
Yes. Are those photographs primarily used for social media? Or are they used on a number of platforms?
Janzen Riley Tew 27:23
They get used in a lot of different ways. So when we do a commercial photoshoot, we’re gearing up for one season or even six to eight months of marketing. So they’ll go for website headers, thank you cards, email and SMS marketing, banners, if they’re doing shows and they want to add new signage within their booth or business cards, or informational [material] about sizing guides, a lot on social media. Really, when we do a commercial photoshoot, I shoot a lot of different orientations as well as distances, as far as close-ups and larger group shots. I try to give them the most bang for their buck, honestly. So then they can take the images that are delivered and be able to use them on as many different platforms and locations as possible. We have some that’ll write blogs, [or may need them for] social media platforms, websites, and email—they all have to have different sizes and orientations of photos.
Janzen Riley Tew 28:26
We want them to be able to utilize those images to cross promote across every platform and not have to use the same image. It might be the same group, but we’ll do four or five different poses. So when they see it on your website versus on social media, or email, or blog, or anywhere else, they’re like, “Oh, that looks familiar, but it’s different.” It helps them to connect, stay hooked, and investigate more of what you’re showcasing to them.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 28:52
I’m sure that involves a lot of planning. How much planning time actually goes into one of these types of shoots?
Janzen Riley Tew 28:58
It depends on how much of a vision the customer has, but I would say, on average, we’ve got about 14 to 17ish hours of planning, from choosing the models and scouting the location to styling and getting everything ready ahead of time. And then a typical commercial photo shoot takes about three to four hours from start to finish [including] shooting and video. And then I’ll have about another hour and a half of editing. So all in all, roughly anywhere from 22 to 25 hours.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 29:35
It really gives perspective and appreciation for how much planning plays a role in this, because when you see the number of hours spent planning versus the time actually spent shooting and editing, you’re like, “Wow, okay!” You really need to think about this and strategize it. It really helps you put things into perspective.
Janzen Riley Tew 29:54
Yes, and what I do and [how I] like to work with our customers [is]—most of them aren’t local—they’ll send the apparel to us. So when I get it and I know our location and our timeframe, I will do a shot list as well as a day of shooting map. So then I will have it grouped by what outfits are going on with which models—what group shots, what individuals—and then give myself a rough breakdown of how much time [we have] and what location I want to shoot at. We’ve got some really beautiful locations.
Janzen Riley Tew 30:30
One of the recent places we shot [at]—we have a wedding venue here in town that is also a bed and breakfast—[has] some beautiful rooms. So we did some interior and exterior shots. [I was] planning on what I needed to shoot outside during that beautiful morning hour and then what we needed to shoot inside as the sun got higher, which was going to cause some more harsh shadows and isn’t as flattering. So planning out your day around that as well [is important]—making sure when I get there, I have a very detailed plan and order so that everything runs smoothly and everyone receives the best results as well.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 31:12
Not counting the models, how many team members are involved in making a typical shoot happen?
Laryssa Wirstiuk 31:19
Wow. I can’t imagine… It seems like [there are] so many moving parts.
Janzen Riley Tew 31:24
It can be. With our organization [working] ahead of time, it makes it really easy. We’ll have everything very detailed out [and ready], and we’ll put every model’s clothes on a specific color of hanger and have it all separated and in order. So that way, if we’re not in the room, when they go to get their clothes, they know exactly what their next outfit is. And all the accessories are paired with it, along with which shoe needs to go [with it]. A lot of our models work with us so frequently that they know our flow of work also. So that helps. But yes, we try. I think a bigger team would be great, but we work pretty fast. So it’s really nice. We can have someone in there making sure that clothes are being picked up or handed to the model, and then they will know exactly where to meet me for the next shot. So I pretty much stay in one spot while we shoot at one location, then move to my next area and they follow me around.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 32:23
Wow, I’m impressed. So I know you work primarily with fashion and apparel brands and some accessories brands. But I’m curious if you have insights, especially after going to JCK and immersing yourself in our industry. What are some things that you think jewelry brands can be doing today to really bring their brand to life through digital media like email, social media, websites, etc.?
Janzen Riley Tew 32:52
Adding personality to their brands—that was the one thing that I didn’t see an abundance of. They have such gorgeous pieces, from custom-made to ones that they buy wholesale to then retail in their stores. But from what I looked at online and at brands whose booths were really breathtaking to me—I would look them up online—it would be what I consider cut-and-dry marketing. It would be like: this is X, Y, and Z stone in X, Y, and Z metal that can be worn in however many different ways. And then it would either be like: go online for pricing, [inaudible], or the pricing is here. But there was no personality in the photo or the post, along with their entire account. So I think you don’t necessarily have to have a face if they’re wanting to stay with flat lay or product-only photos, but the voice and the captions and the styling of the photos make a huge difference. So, [I think it’s about] letting their business also have a voice and have that personality, so that way, when people are on there, they don’t feel like they’re just being sold to; they’re having something to connect with as well.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 34:06
Definitely. So listeners and viewers, you heard it here. An outside perspective on what you could be doing better or differently. I agree with you. I think that’s a really great observation.
Janzen Riley Tew 34:17
I think education is huge—letting them know what metals and stones are in the jewelry but also giving that jewelry a story or its own voice. We work with a company called The Ranch Collection, and she has antique and vintage movie props and memorabilia from Hollywood from Western movies made in the 60s and 70s. When we were photographing these and putting them on her website, we sat down and wrote these fun little stories about each of them, giving the product their name and background and stories that when people were looking at [them]—because of where they came from, being used in movies, her products were at a higher price point—it gave people something to connect with. They weren’t just reading a name and the movie that that piece was associated with.
Janzen Riley Tew 35:11
One of the pairs of boots that she had, Roy Rogers wore, which is a very big Western character. So she made up a little story like, “Roy put these on and he worked 40 hours a week in them. They were so comfortable, he would even wear them to bed.” [She would] make this whole detail about the comfort and quality of them and that he would wear them forever, but they’re still in great shape. Well, it made that pair of boots sell so much faster. Not that somebody wouldn’t have seen Roy Rogers’ name and wanted to own them, but because it had its own voice and personality with the product, it moved really quickly. And so we found a lot of success in accessories and items of similar style, with them having their own voice. [With] clothing, you can show the movement. You have a model’s face and emotion attached to it, whereas with an accessory or a flat lay, you don’t have that, so you have to build it in somewhere.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 36:06
That’s such a great point. I love the example that you shared. I agree. I think it’s a great tip and takeaway for listeners and viewers.
Janzen Riley Tew 36:15
Yes. I mean, we’re in the business of selling, so why not add in ‘fluff’—[as] I call it; you can call it whatever you want—to the post and your product and give it a little bit more detail and give something for people to connect with. It’s different for a wholesaler to a retailer because a retailer doesn’t need that. But if you’re going to have an e-commerce business that you’re selling to the public, I think that your voice should come through in your product descriptions and your captions, and even in email and SMS marketing as well.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 36:45
At JCK, we were both on a panel about the fringe of marketing. One thing that you shared a lot of great insights about was specifically about using TikTok for marketing. I was very interested to hear the way that you talk about it, and you seem to have a lot of experience with the platform.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 37:06
I recently came across this article in Business of Fashion—I’ll link it in the show notes for everyone—[which mentions] that in the fashion industry, instead of looking at Instagram, which they used to do a lot in the past, trend forecasters are now looking at TikTok to see: What’s the next hot thing? How are people styling themselves? How should brands in the fashion space position themselves? I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this. And maybe, is there something the jewelry industry can also take away as well?
Janzen Riley Tew 37:40
Yes. TikTok has taken all of social media by storm for a multitude of reasons. But I will say, as far as the trend forecasting, I think it’s because brands are able to showcase products in a more unique way and multiple ways. I have a bone to pick with Instagram right now. I think it’s trying to be too much like TikTok. So it has been, like, on my back burner. But TikTok, I think, has been so innovative in what they’re doing, having their creator fun and letting people get paid to create content from the app itself based on their views, likes, and engagement. So it’s really made people want to spend time there.
Janzen Riley Tew 38:30
But as far as setting trends, people are getting to see it in motion, whereas on Instagram it was a posed photo. Not that they weren’t gorgeous and still show you how to style. But now people are showing you how to do something, whether that’s with layering jewelry, wearing only a statement piece and what it looks like with a different outfit, how to take a statement piece from day to night—how to adjust if it’s a class necklace that can be [worn] at different lengths—or how it can be worn shorter during the day or longer in the evening, or vice versa, and how to pair it like: “Wear one top 12 different ways.” Whereas before you could scroll through a picture, and yes, it was beautiful, but if you show someone like “Hey, if you tie your shirt like this… ” or “This is how you half tuck a button down shirt into a pair of jeans so it does not look bulky,” or if you have a pair of jeans that are too big, that was a big trend and a fashion for a while, showing people how to like wrap the button around a belt loop and then button it, giving you like an asymmetrical waistline. Being able to really showcase that in almost real time has been huge as far as the forecasting and setting of trends and different styling aspects.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 39:49
Yes, those are all really good examples. So since you’re so savvy at storytelling, especially through both the photo and the video format, and I think you’ll feel more than comfortable with reels and TikTok, what would you say are some best practices for fashion and jewelry brands on those platforms? What would you like to see more of? And what would you encourage brands to do more of?
Janzen Riley Tew 40:12
Two things immediately come to mind. [One] is showing a piece—how many different ways it can be styled with however many different pieces within their line or what they have in their store. People are making a big investment in jewelry, for the most part. There are a bunch of different price points. But if they’re going to buy a necklace that [costs] upwards of $1,000 or more, that’s a big investment. So, showing them how many different ways they can style it [is important]. And it doesn’t have to be with fashion, just with different pieces. If you have a simple gold chain, even if it’s something that’s trendy and not necessarily real gold, [showing] how they can style it with different pieces [is effective]. If it’s someone who is venturing from the costume jewelry world to the luxury world, [showing] how they can still pair the pieces together until their collection is rebuilt or is completely luxury [is another idea]. And then also showing people: what items are timeless; what is something that they need to have in their jewelry box that they’re going to be able to buy at that 21-22 age, graduating [from] college, [probably at a time when] they’re wanting to start making investments in their jewelry, into something that then turns into an heirloom that they can pass down. I think with those two things comes education [as well].
Janzen Riley Tew 41:36
So that’s multiple things that they can make video content from. You can show them how to style it and how to care for it and make sure it’s something that lasts them forever. Building a collection of jewelry [is great, showing] what the first piece they should buy is, the second, and so on—from their recommendations. The one thing that I think people need to realize with making a TikTok or a reel [is that] when you make it, it doesn’t go live. So have a lot of trial and error. If you go to our TikTok and scroll down to the beginning of it, we have improved 1,000,000%. Part of that is that we did get a new location that has a lot better lighting [and also it was about] being comfortable in front of a camera, or understanding what people wanted on our platform, which is a mix of education and humor. We’ll have a few very humorous videos, and then give them some education. We started with primarily only education and trying to teach people. Not that they didn’t enjoy it, but it wasn’t what they came to see from us. We like to have a lot of fun here. So they wanted to see more of the fun behind the scenes. But also [it’s about] understanding what your audience wants from you.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 42:55
Yes, I think that last tip was especially important and inspiring because you have to start somewhere. I know there are people listening and watching who are kind of perfectionists or they’re nervous about getting started because they want it to be right immediately. That never happens for any content creator. There’s always an evolution, and you have to be able to start somewhere in order to get to where you want to go.
Janzen Riley Tew 43:21
When I first started making TikToks, I was probably doing it the hardest way possible because I am a perfectionist. Since we do video by nature as well, I was filming everything on my camera, then saving the sounds, taking them into Premiere, resizing, sound syncing, and making sure everything lined up. Then having to save, export it, send it to my phone, and then put it on TikTok, find the sound, and link it—I mean, they were great videos—but it would take me an hour and a half to make one video. And that was not time conducive at all.
Janzen Riley Tew 43:58
So then I was like, “Okay, what is the best time of day for lighting in my office?” Then I would come up to my office on a Saturday or Sunday and have my outfits planned. I’m big on batch-creating content—trying to create a lot of content at one time—so that I have it and I don’t have to think about it. So I would have my sticky notes and be like, “Okay, I’m going to use this sound. I’m going to write this caption and I’m going to have this text on my video.” And I would change into that outfit, film all of it, and then have it ready and saved in my drafts. Once I realized, “Okay, is my iPhone camera as great as my video camera?” No. Is it good enough so that it is still quality content? Yes, if I had the correct light, whether that was adding in a ring light or using natural light from our windows. Once I posted that first one and it still got engagement, it was like a weight came off my shoulders. I was like, “Okay, I can do this and not spend an hour and a half to two hours creating one video and having to film on my camera and taking all these additional steps.”
Janzen Riley Tew 45:05
Honestly, our TikToks and reels started performing better because we were making them within the app and using the elements that it provided. I was using their text, or their GIF files, or filters, or really anything that they had in there. They’ve got millions of filters in there, from little pop-ups you can do on your head to changing your appearance and so much stuff. But once I started utilizing the features and elements they have within their app, we started gaining engagement. That was very rewarding. A weight lifted off my shoulders because then it was like: “Okay, I don’t have to put so much pressure [on myself]. I’m trying to be too perfect, and they’re not caring.” It wasn’t diminishing the quality of our content in any capacity.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 45:54
You said so many great things that are important to remember. But I’m still stuck on the fact that everything you described in the beginning only took you an hour and a half. I feel like if I tried to do that, it would be like four hours. So I think you were working very efficiently.
Janzen Riley Tew 46:11
It was a lot of trial and error. When TikTok started—I shouldn’t say when it started because I didn’t get on there immediately. But towards the end of 2020, when I was starting to incorporate it into the business, I remember I was driving to Oklahoma to go speak to a group of high school students, and I had the radio on. I would hear a song and there’d be a couple of clips of lyrics and I’d be like, “Oh my gosh, I want to use that!” and it would spark something. Then I was creating my own sounds to go on TikTok and those videos would completely tank. And I was like: “What the heck? I thought that was so great.” I felt like that audio went great with what I was trying to explain. I didn’t realize that they want you to use the audio that they already have in their app. It takes a while for an original audio to take off. So I was like, “Okay, try and find something as close to or find that song and a different set of lyrics or something to use with it, or a different trend to go [with].”
Janzen Riley Tew 47:17
Once we started really utilizing everything that the app offered, it started to be a good growth process. And it is a slow growth process. I grew our Facebook and Instagram following so quickly that it was honestly a little bit discouraging. On TikTok, I think right now we’re only around 1200. To some, that may seem like a huge number, and [to others, it may seem] extremely tiny. But from what I’ve learned on TikTok as far as how their engagement works, right now we’re performing excellently because we’re averaging over 100 likes per video and our comments are in the 10 to 20 area per video. How they want their breakdown to be is that 10% of [those] following your typical engagement should like every one of your videos, and 1% should be in comments or saved. So we’re staying really true to that. Now our videos are getting pushed out even farther and faster, so we’re having steady growth now. Whereas when we were trying to be completely original and not use anything that was on the app—or not necessarily not using trends, but trying to create our own—our growth was extremely slow and almost suppressed. Using everything that the app has to offer has really skyrocketed our account.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 48:37
Yes, those are really great points that you make. I think it might seem counterintuitive to the creative people out there that when they have a new platform they want to add their own spin to it, just like you have those ideas sparked. You want to try to do something new because you think that’s the thing that’s going to get you attention. But really, you have to understand the platform that you’re working with and [follow] the best practices that they recommend instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, I think.
Janzen Riley Tew 49:07
Yes, and it’s one thing for a content creator whose job is to create a new trend or a trend forecaster to do those things, but as a business, why make everything harder for yourself when they’ve already set the blueprint out? You can go look up that sound that is currently trending or rising pretty quickly, and you can see what other people are doing or how they’re using the sound. Or, I spoke about this at JCK, you can put the sound in the background, turn the volume down, and use your own voiceover. But it links that sound with all the other videos. So if somebody wants to look through that sound and see what other people are doing with trends, or to really raise the growth of that, then they can still be connected to it without actually staying in that trend itself.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 49:59
So, Janzen, for listeners and viewers who aren’t working with you, maybe they’re not at the stage in their business where they can work with an agency like yours, or they’re just in an exploratory phase. Do you have any tips for what they can do on their own or to get started until they’re able to work with an agency?
Janzen Riley Tew 50:18
Absolutely. So I’ll go into the photography aspect first. The biggest thing [is that] you do not have to have a professional camera. I will say, having the most up-to-date cell phone is very beneficial because their camera quality just continues to get better, and it’s probably not scratched or messed up yet. So having a good camera within your cell phone and then utilizing natural light or having enough available light, reem lights or overhead lights.
Janzen Riley Tew 50:52
For photos, the most important things are to have enough light and then to make sure that your background is very clean and not distracting. For jewelry, if you’re wanting to showcase something on a hand, for bracelets or rings, make sure that wherever is below or next to the hand when you’re taking a picture is a nice, clean background and extremely well lit. Sometimes it does take two people, or setting your phone up on a tripod or something like that, to get that right angle.
Janzen Riley Tew 51:20
There was a jewelry company that we were working with and I was trying to help show him the difference of videoing a ring within a shadow or by the window. I kept trying to film it on myself, and I was like, “This is making my hand look extremely distorted, and I’m not doing a good job at all.” So having someone step in and help [is beneficial]. Being able to understand which angles are also going to show the jewelry best. Take hundreds of videos if needed. They don’t have to be long videos; they can be little two-and-three-second clips until you’re comfortable with the angle. You [may] need help with something, or if you can do it on a tripod and move your hand in there and get that focus on your own [and you’re] able to make sure that your background is really clear and the light is good, [then that’s great].
Janzen Riley Tew 52:06
If you feel like you’re having a hard time getting a photo of something, use a video and get your hand, neck, ear, or whatever you’re trying to showcase into a pose and then hold it. Then you can go back to that video and screenshot it because the quality is going to be equally as good. Sometimes it’s a little bit more comfortable to do it in a video and hold it. I think people get really stiff in a photo because they feel like they have to be perfectly still and they can’t move, whereas they know that a video is made for movement and shows how everything is moving as you wear it. So that makes a big difference as far as getting that perfect photo.
Janzen Riley Tew 52:47
The other thing that comes to mind is what you’re editing with. This is huge in the apparel industry and I have learned that it’s extremely important in the jewelry industry as well: making sure that your products are color correct. For diamonds, I learned a lot at JCK about the different clarities and also different types of diamonds in the way that they show up in photos. There are so many apps from Tezza, Lightroom Mobile and all their different presets. I would miss millions if I tried to name them off. But when you’re editing, make sure that you’re not changing the color and appearance of the product. We try and do such minimal editing even if we’re taking [the photo] on a phone or a camera. Our main areas are to brighten the shadows or maybe even pull the highlights down, depending on how bright an area is. And then we work with clarity a lot. That just gives you a little bit more crispness to your image and it’ll pull your black points up so that if something is maybe a little bit washed out, it looks very defined.
Janzen Riley Tew 54:03
But not over-editing or trying to necessarily follow the trends [is best, I believe]. I will say that’s one area that I don’t agree with the influencing and trend forecasters. They get on such a color trend, whether that’s really bright and airy, overly vibrant, or super dark and moody. It’s not that the images and videos aren’t beautiful, but they don’t truly represent what they’re wearing. So then when somebody goes to purchase that item and they get it, it doesn’t look like what they thought it would. You wind up having a lot of returns or upset customers and things like that. So making sure your lighting is good and the background is clear, and then making sure that when you edit you’re keeping color correct are my two areas that I would tell people to focus on first and foremost. Those are going to affect your business in so many different ways, from your social media, your website having the nicer quality images, your email and SMS, and also down to your videos for TikTok and reels. So those are going to be your two big things that I would focus on first before branching out to working with an agency.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 55:07
Wow, so many great tips. Those are such helpful action items that people can do on their own, and a lot that they can practice until they get to the point where they can potentially work with someone. I learned so much today, Janzen. I would love to give you the opportunity to share: What’s coming up in your business? What’s on the horizon? And how can people connect with you?
Janzen Riley Tew 55:30
Yes, so there are two—one is new, and one is upcoming. We recently launched an insider’s club where we have a membership program for people to learn our tips and tricks. It is $25 a month, and we do a long-form video every month that only our insiders have access to. And then each week, we do a PDF with trainable action items. The month of July has been heavily focused on social media. We’re getting ready to launch August on Monday, August 1st. That will be all about branding and knowing how to utilize your logo and different variations, along with a lot of other tools and tips for graphic design.
Janzen Riley Tew 56:15
And then our upcoming item that we’re launching is that we do a content calendar every year. So our fourth quarter content calendar will be coming out on August 1st as well. And that is setting up every business for success on how to prep for any sales or knowing how to batch content, creating, having a scheduled plan going into the fourth quarter, which is madness in any retail industry. So [it’s about] making sure that you’re organized and prepared for every holiday on a week-to-week basis, knowing how to stay on trend and having a guided path to work through that busy season.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 56:54
Amazing. Well, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. This has been awesome. I appreciate your time, wisdom, and experience. I hope my listeners and viewers learned a lot as well.
Janzen Riley Tew 57:05
I hope so. Sometimes I get to rambling and feel like I give way more information than people are ready to absorb. So maybe they’ll listen back several times and everything will hit home.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 57:18
I don’t think that’s the case at all. But yes, they can always listen more than once and absorb as much as they want. So thank you again. I really appreciate it!
Janzen Riley Tew 57:27
No, thank you so much. It’s such an honor!
Laryssa Wirstiuk 57:33
What did you think about my interview with Janzen? To learn more about her agency, Denim & Velvet, visit www.denimandvelvet.com or follow them on Instagram @denimandvelvet.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 57:48
You can also always email me, Laryssa, at email@example.com. If you love this podcast, please share it with a friend who’d appreciate it. And don’t forget to subscribe as well as leave a review on Apple Podcasts. To purchase a signed copy of my book, Jewelry Marketing Joy, visit joyjoya.com/book for all the information.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 58:12
Thanks for listening. Remember to subscribe so you never miss an episode. For more information about working with Joy Joya, visit joyjoya.com, where you can sign up to download our free eBooks about various topics in jewelry marketing.