Interview With With Tammy Cohen, Jewelry Branding SpecialistLaryssa
In episode #195 of the Joy Joya Jewelry Marketing Podcast, I share my interview I share my interview with Tammy Cohen. a knowledgeable, passionate, and vibrant woman who has been partnering with top-tier corporate executives and entrepreneurs to develop their personal and professional brands for more than 20 years—with an emphasis on the gem and jewelry business since 2013. She also specializes in a very interesting niche in the jewelry industry, supporting jewelers who make proprietary and branded products, specifically proprietary diamond cuts.
Through her branding expertise and her agency TC Brand Consulting as well as her Post Purchase Navigating Training Program (PPN), she helps jewelers protect their brand valuation post purchase. She also sees opportunities for women to thrive and grow exponentially and founded a women’s business network called Women Beyond the Table (WBTT).
In this episode, we discuss:
- The role that brand storytelling plays in marketing, especially for a unique and/or proprietary product
- What the jewelry industry needs more of
- Why and how jewelry brands should care about post-purchase valuation as well as the customer experience overall
- …and more!
Check out the transcript below.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 00:08
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. As we all know, “jewelry is joy”, so I’ll gladly seize any opportunity to talk about it.
This is episode 195, and today I’m going to be sharing my interview with a knowledgeable, passionate, and vibrant woman who has been partnering with top-tier corporate executives and entrepreneurs to develop their personal and professional brands for more than 20 years. With an emphasis on the gem and jewelry industry since 2013, she also specializes in a very interesting niche of the jewelry industry: supporting jewelers who make proprietary and branded products, specifically, proprietary diamond cuts. Through her branding expertise and her post-purchase navigating training program, she helps jewelers protect their brand valuation post-purchase. More on her in just a little bit. But here’s a preview of what we’ll be covering:
- The role that brand storytelling plays in marketing, especially for unique and/or proprietary product
- What the jewelry industry needs more of
- Why and how jewelry brands should care about post-purchase valuation as well as the customer experience overall
- …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, “Devi & Co.” says, “This podcast is a must for all jewelers. Laryssa provides so much value with actionable tips and relevant interviews. I love that each episode starts with a recap of three important articles related to jewelry marketing. This alone is so helpful to me as I grow my business. If you’re in the jewelry industry, and you aren’t listening to this podcast, now is the time!” Thank you! I really appreciate that. If you leave a review, I might read it in a future episode. So please let me know what you think about this episode or any other major takeaways you’ve had recently.
I’m so excited to announce that the Joy Joya podcast has its very first sponsor! After self-funding this podcast since 2018 when I launched it, I’ve now decided to seek outside sponsors to help me build the resources I’ll need to keep improving upon this podcast and make it better for you. I have big ideas for this podcast, and those require funds and support. So if you’re interested in being a Joy Joya podcast sponsor and seeing the sales kit to reach a more dedicated niche audience of jewelry business owners and leaders than you might be getting from other advertising venues, please email me, Laryssa, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This episode is sponsored by Chrysmela, maker of the most secure earring back in the world. If you’re not watching on YouTube, please visit the Joy Joya channel to see my demo of the only earring back that automatically fits, locks, and lifts all types of earrings. So I just want to show you the really beautiful and luxe packaging. If you are a wholesale partner of Chrysmela, this is what you would be sharing with your customers. And I also have a little demo stud earring set here with the earring back on it. So I just want to show you how, amazingly, this won’t come off. I can’t even ruin this earring stand, and these earring backs are not coming off. They’re pretty awesome.
Have you been seeking unique gift-with-purchase ideas for your jewelry business, especially with the upcoming holidays? Are you hoping to increase your average order value? For any jewelry business that sells post earrings, Chrysmela is a high-quality solution that enables you to provide a better customer experience and instill confidence in your clientele. Mayumi Ishii, the exclusive US distributor of Chrysmela, was even a past guest on the Joy Joya podcast, in Episode 71, if you’d like to check out her interview. Joy Joya listeners and viewers who are interested in learning more about partnering with Chrysmela can email Mayumi at email@example.com. Chrysmela offers white labeling as well as wholesale opportunities. That’s firstname.lastname@example.org. And please make sure to mention that you learned about Chrysmela through the Joy Joya podcast!
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. I might feature your submission on a future podcast episode.
So this Sparkle Award goes to Swarovski. And I found out about a new campaign they’re doing from an article in Adweek, which I’ll link in the show notes. So I recently saw this article about the brand, and I was super impressed by their unique approach to storytelling on social media. They’ve recently partnered with English actress Aimee Lou Wood to create a video-based marketing campaign that helps consumers “recognize and express what is right for them as they aim for better.”
So in this little video series that’s really cute and fun, Aimee finds herself all dressed up when suddenly her companion cancels the plan at the last minute, and she suddenly has free time to do whatever she likes. It’s really cute. She kind of has this moment of self-care, of having time with herself. And she keeps repeating the phrase ‘note to self’ and reminding herself of things that she should be doing, like napping for exactly 17 minutes because that’s the optimal time to nap, meditating, and editing her wardrobe. Then, as she’s having these thoughts, actually showing the more real, imperfect side of herself, she’s dancing, oversleeping, indulging in her love for fashion. It’s really cute and relatable and shows that everyone is imperfect and that sometimes having a little bit of fun with life is more important than just being perfect all the time. It also tells the story of a brand that’s really made for real women who are perfectly imperfect and embracing what makes them happy.
The videos will be distributed through the brand and through the actress’s social media channels. I thought it was really cute and unique and a fun approach to brand storytelling. 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 in 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 martech.org and it’s called, “The only two things that matter in marketing”. I love this! There are only two things. Very cool. So business owners and leaders tend to get really overwhelmed by marketing because there are so many things they feel they should be doing. It gets complicated. You have FOMO. You feel like you’re just missing the one thing that’s going to change and grow your business. There are so many technologies, tools, and tactics that promise to be the ultimate savior and the next best thing. But this recent article from MarTech really simplifies marketing down to the essential elements. I love that.
Here’s a great quote from the article: “Most people think of marketing simply as a creative endeavor. After all, the visual and written components that are the cornerstone of all marketing collateral are creative work. However, marketing is more of a process than it is a creative effort.” So what are these two essential things that will help you simplify your marketing and make it less about just the creativity and the guessing game of it all? These things are experimentation and optimization. In marketing, you always need to be trying new things so that you can really find out what works for your brand. But you can’t just keep trying new things willy-nilly, like throwing darts at the wall and hoping something sticks. You also need to have a way to measure your experiments and then implement an optimization process as well, so you can keep moving forward and optimizing the things that are working. And this is the most important [thing]: quickly letting go of things that aren’t working. So I think this article really poses an important question. And this is another quote that I think sums it up really well: “How many experiments are you running every month? How much time and resources do you spend on optimizing your marketing versus creating and launching new efforts? Both experimentation and optimization are essential.”
The next article comes from Retail Brew, and it’s: “LVMH Americas CTO on the bold ‘connection’ strategy that will define luxury retail”. So, Antoine Tessier is the VP and CTO at LVMH Americas. He’s been working in luxury retail for 17 years, and he’s pretty much seen it all, according to this article. He thinks that ‘connection,’ just that one word, one concept, is the key pillar to the future of both luxury and retail. And connection has only been heightened with technologies like virtual and augmented reality, which really grew more popular during the pandemic when people couldn’t go to stores when they had to really depend on E-commerce to do their shopping. Even things like web3 and the metaverse have started to catch on with some of the biggest luxury trends because they provide this new method of connection and immersion. He sees that as a trend that doesn’t seem to be dying down. So the luxury customer and that luxury customer’s needs remain the same, but they are becoming a bit more acquainted with new technologies. And they see the concept of connection as expanding, so it’s not just in-store with the salesperson but in all of these other ways.
Another really great and important quote from this article is, “While customers flocking to Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok have proven their appetite for video-based content, luxury brands that want to stay relevant to customers will need to invest in technology.” I mean, that’s kind of like full stop. That’s everything. I think the jewelry brand, especially at the higher end, needs to be thinking about technology and how technology can facilitate connection even further.
The last article comes from TheStreet and it’s called, “Pandora CEO Talks Affordable Luxury and the Price Of Silver”. Pandora CEO Alexander Lacik recently spoke to TheStreet about everything from jewelry demand to the price of silver. As we all know, you listeners and viewers of the podcast, jewelry is a discretionary purchase, meaning nobody needs to have jewelry. And in any discretionary category, it’s truly up to the jewelry brand or any brand in this category to convince the consumers that you have something interesting, something worth paying attention to. That was true throughout the pandemic, before the pandemic, and now. You can’t just sit back and assume that people do want to buy, or that people aren’t buying right now. You have to continue telling that interesting story.
So CEO Lacik said that a lot of analysts have told Pandora to close their stores and go online only. But here’s the thing I found the most interesting about this article: Lacik really knows the Pandora customer. He says: “We could [have] but it’s a really bad idea; 60% of my customers are guys who are buying jewelry and I’m sorry but they need the help.” So even though these analysts are recommending Pandora to take a certain action, Pandora is actually fully tuned into who their target customer is, and they’re not going to make decisions that jeopardize the relationship they have with the target customer. Pandora has smaller boutique-sized stores. They don’t have a lot of inventory stocked in the stores. But really, what Lacik understands about his customers is that people are looking for an experience. They want to interact with the salespeople; they want the guidance to make the purchase. So, ultimately, that’s really important and it’s the thing that they’re going to keep pushing in the storytelling and continue to make decisions based on that knowledge. So I love that: being directed by the target customer. I love how that is reflected and communicated in this interview. For more information about any of these articles, check out the links provided in the show notes.
Without further delay, I’d love to share with you my guest. I first met Tammy Cohen at this year’s AGS Conclave event in Oklahoma City, and I was immediately captivated by her warm and encouraging energy. She’s a true extrovert and a people person, and she’s a vocal supporter of other women in business. Her passion for the jewelry industry just radiates off of her. As I mentioned in the episode intro, she’s partnered with top-tier corporate execs and entrepreneurs to develop their personal and professional brands for more than 20 years, with an emphasis on the gem and jewelry industry since 2013. Her business, TC Brand Consulting, utilizes dynamic brand positioning, novel educational programs, and critical industry partnerships to grow brand sales exponentially. She also sees opportunities for women to thrive and grow exponentially and founded a women’s business network called Women Beyond the Table (WBTT). Let’s chat with Tammy.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 17:07
So what’s exciting to you about the industry right now? What is getting you riled up? What are you looking at out there that’s fun?
Tammy Cohen 17:15
I’m just so excited that everybody I speak to, in their businesses, [says it’s] ‘insane’; they’re just doing a lot of business and it’s still happening. Even with these predictions that inflation is going up, and we haven’t even started to see the recession, and it’s going to be a shitshow, and it’s going to be crazy, and gas, and this and that, there’s still this optimism. Also, what’s exciting is that after the last two years where people were kind of like in a lockdown mode, which they’re really kind of moving away from, I think this will be a great year to celebrate even more because people will be able to be together. Even though travel is—I just got back from two weeks overseas. And if you take out flying and airports and airports, your luggage delays, it’s amazing. Once you get somewhere, it’s fantastic.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 18:11
Yes. The airport part, maybe not so much.
Tammy Cohen 18:12
Oh my God! I don’t even want to tell you; flight cancellations and sleeping in the Madrid airport. Yes, you have no idea. But you know what? I just feel like the industry, with all of the challenges that are going on and with the continued situation with Russia and Ukraine, and the restrictions are rough and all kinds of things that are coming on, people still want to celebrate and want to buy a piece of jewelry because it means something to them. So I think that’s really exciting.
Tammy Cohen 18:50
And I think the hybrid nature now of in-store and digital is a beautiful thing because for a while there, it was like, ‘digital,’ ‘digital,’ ‘digital,’ ‘digital,’ ‘digital.’ And you see that the stores are coming back and people still want to go in and have that in-person experience. I like seeing the jewelry industry responsive instead of being in the traditional mindset of “Oh, we’re not doing any of that.” So they really got on board with the digital end of things and are really taking it to the next level. But also the in-person/in-store and how the sales staff and how all the staff are coming together and they’re bringing technology, not just for technology’s sake, but because technology will actually help the customer and help them do their jobs better.
Tammy Cohen 19:40
I think the jewelry industry is investing more in people. And I think that they’re starting to understand that messaging is really important, but also understand what their customers want and make it simple for them. I don’t think that was a thought before. I think the old guard was more about maximizing numbers, and the new guard is not about maximizing numbers. Of course, look, you have to make sales. But it’s a much bigger picture. There’s so much more in the story. I’m also getting excited about the metaverse because I’ve been listening to a couple of webinars there. I think it’s really interesting and cool. I’ve been taking my time trying to understand that because I’m of a different generation. I speak to my kids about NFTs; they’re just like, ‘duh!’ And I’m just like, “What? I still don’t get it.” But at the end of the day, I like seeing that our industry is moving forward instead of always being so traditional and stuck in a decade or something.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 20:42
It’s really true. So much positivity there. I already feel inspired by all the things that you said, and excited.
Tammy Cohen 20:49
I think positivity is where it’s at because the more you put out positivity, it changes the energy. And energy is everywhere; it’s a living thing.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 20:59
Absolutely. So tell our listeners and viewers—give them some background information. How did you get into the jewelry industry? And how has your path evolved over time? Let’s hear it.
Tammy Cohen 21:10
Well, most people don’t realize this. All through high school when I started at age 15—I think the roles were different back then in the 70s—my first real job was in a jewelry retail store. And that was in the Five Towns. The big store back then was Marvin & Sons, and it was ‘the store’ in the Five Towns. My mother, at the time, worked there. She was the head of appraisals and the estate division, and she had gone to the GIA. I went to that store. I started working after school and I went every day. I worked late Wednesday nights and all day Sunday and Saturday. No, it was closed Sunday; I worked all day Saturday and I loved it. I said, “Wow, this is so cool!” And when I think back on it, that story is interesting because although it was family-run and was family-owned—basically the whole family was involved with it—each department was run by a woman. And that was very unusual.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 22:11
Tammy Cohen 22:12
So you had these women on the floor. Especially the old-time salesperson, it was always a well-put-together woman from the Five Towns who knew her stuff. They knew how to negotiate. And these customers would come and only want to work with their salesperson; they had these relationships. There was no social media, there were no cell phones, there was no internet, there was nothing. It was all about relationships. And the store was busy all the time. People would come in. They didn’t care and they would come in and spend hours because they hung out with their trusted advisor. And whether it was giftware, whether it was the luxury side, whether it was the center where we sold gold pieces and chains and all kinds of things and watch brands—and there was a stringing department, the repair department, even gift wrapping—I mean anything you could think of was woman run. These women ran a tight ship, and I learned so much.
Tammy Cohen 23:12
When I look back on it, I was so fortunate because I was rotated because I was so young. I was rotated to every department. Even into my freshman year of college, I was working there. It was for years. I even worked in operations in the basement in customer service, answering the phones, or selling on the floor. I became a stringer. I had to learn how to string pearls and beads. I sold watches, I sold luxury, I sold anything. I had to work behind the repair counter. I learned a lot. I even went to gift wrap. I wasn’t good at gift wrapping, though; I could not wrap the boxes well. I went into giftware. It was just—I wouldn’t even expect that anybody would do these kinds of things today. And the store doesn’t exist anymore because the neighborhood has changed so much. The Five Towns really changed, and anybody who was not a Sabbath observer store or open on Saturdays and closed on Sundays just lost out. They didn’t recognize that their customer had changed. That was one of the things that I learned.
Tammy Cohen 24:16
But for me, I was in college, then I went for an MBA after college, and I came out. My MBA was in marketing management. I had been in the Garment Center in fashion. And I was working in my family business, which is sweater production, traveling around the country, working with accounts, and doing their sweater programs. And I decided I really wanted to go out and open up my own consulting firm, and I wanted to help small businesses with their marketing. Somewhere in there, I was working with different companies. I wound up working with small jewelry businesses. And it all kind of came back, and I wound up getting a client that was a really big player—site holder—they were global. I then just focused on them for years because they had this very cool proprietary cut. I was learning a lot about that, and it kind of took me into a whole new place. So I was always working on the branding side. But then I got into the post-purchase valuation side while working with that client. That’s pretty much my journey of how I came here. But COVID, of course, changed a lot of things up for me and took me to another place within my business. So it’s a little different than what it was three years ago—it’s actually a lot different. But that’s pretty much my journey.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 25:41
Oh, that’s really cool and interesting! So what is the focus of your consulting business now? How are you setting yourself apart in the marketplace?
Tammy Cohen 25:51
Well, I’ll tell you what I learned during COVID after hiring a business coach and hiring a life coach and doing this personal growth, and Mindvalley, and Tony Robbins, and Lifebook, and just changing every area of my life. I’m learning how to have a healthy lifestyle, how to think differently, and how to change my mindset and limiting beliefs. I realized that I can’t continually make the choice of putting my cookies in one basket or my eggs in one basket, as they say. I realized I had to expand myself, I had to get out there. I’d gotten very comfortable in a niche, and I was good at it. I’m still good at it, but I realized I really had to expand myself.
Tammy Cohen 26:38
So during COVID, I really went out there, went from a sole proprietorship to an LLC, opened up a website, opened up social media, and did things. I was not doing it all before because I was very busy traveling and I was very comfortable. It was really quite a big discovery time and I was exploring different things. And I realized that I love brand messaging. Branding is a huge continuum, but I love telling the story. And I feel that that’s something in our industry that still needs some work because I look at it and the niche is getting much better with it, but I’m still speaking with clients who are like: “Can you fix my website? Can you help me with my social media?” I’m like, “Whoa! I’m looking at your website and social media, but it’s not about fixing these things. It’s not about changing your visuals or giving you a marketing idea. Your messaging is all over the place and what you’re saying.” And I think now the difference is that we’re at a point where we have to be able to understand and explain: What is our mission statement? What are our core values? What is our vision? Once you’ve got that down, and once you understand who you are, what your ethics are, and what’s important, everything else comes into place. Any graphic designer can work with somebody, with a company, with a brand that is clear about who they are and who their audience is. And that’s what I think is still taking time for our industry to understand and then also following it through, going straight across all of the channels.
Tammy Cohen 28:27
I got very into the niche of post-purchase valuation, which I think is what separates me because I’ll take the brand from the message. But the key is, once you sell, do you hold your value?—because lots of appraisers out there understand, especially the credentialed ones, how to do valuation. But are you truly branded? Are you truly communicating the right messaging, that you can set your value and that value will be placed because that appraisal will contact you for value? And that’s where there was always a disconnect. And I always found it amazing that nobody was addressing it. Most appraisers would just use an industry price list and value something because everything that was done through retail or custom work was never branded; it was just an obvious custom piece. So, “We’re going to price this generically and we’re going to value it generically.” And that, to me, was where there was a misalignment. So that’s what makes me unique. That’s where my focus is, on the messaging side, and on taking that value and making sure that that customer, when they go to get their piece appraised, it’s valued correctly, because that can kill a sale in two seconds—an undervalue. It does all the time. I’ve seen it happen so many times.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 29:47
It’s so interesting, and I can really relate to what you said about the brand messaging. Taking it back a few steps and going back to the foundation of the brand, I know a lot of clients or brands when they approach me, they’re like, “I need help with” this, this, and this. But really, we need to take it back a few steps and go back to the true foundation of your messaging, of your business. And that can be really hard to swallow for a lot of people because you have to tear down a little bit of what you’ve built and get back to the core of it. But I think, in the long run, it’s worth it.
Tammy Cohen 30:25
Absolutely, and it has to be the truth. I’ve worked with companies and I’ve seen where they’re like, “Okay, I have a logo, and I have colors, and I’m a brand.” I’m like, “You’re not a brand.” And they’re just [like], “What do you mean?” And you’re talking and then like, “Okay, I’m going to do some social responsibility. I’m going to support this. Listen, I’m socially responsible.” I’m like, “You’re not.” You can’t just pick and choose what you want and then [say], “Okay, this is what I am; this is who I am.” There has to be a platform and, like you said, a foundation of consistency, of truth because you can’t pull the wool over people’s eyes. People are savvy, and it’s just not the right thing to do.
Tammy Cohen 31:17
Somebody said something to me in this industry—he’s a mentor of mine, he’s a really great guy—after being in the industry for 30 years, he goes, “I’m at the point where I only want to work with good people.” And I said, “Wow, yes, I only want to work with good people.” I’m also at that age—I haven’t been in this industry as long. I was in other industries. But you get to the point where, you know what? I’d rather walk away from something than walk into something where it’s not truth; it’s something else. Unfortunately, you see it sometimes and you have to walk away. And it’s not easy, because who wants to walk away from hay or whatever, or a job? But you also have to live with yourself, so that’s been important to me.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 32:07
Yes. So who is the target customer that you enjoy working with the most? What’s your sweet spot with that?
Tammy Cohen 32:14
Well, I love the artisan, the craftsman, the bench jeweler. I love these people who’ve been producing and supplying the industry for 30 years—for years. Their work is stellar; their quality is beautiful. And their story is amazing about how they learned and how they’ve been working so diligently. But nobody knows who they are. The people in the industry will know. The big brand they’re supplying, the retailer they’re supplying knows their name, but the client doesn’t—the end customer, the end consumer. I like to see these people get started going from D to C and being able to build their own brands because they’ve been doing it for so long. They’ve done it for other people, they’ve just been supplying so much to them. So they’ve always been my niche. I always resonate with them and I respect the work that they do. So I try to align myself with people who are producing quality and people who take a lot of care in what they’re putting out. I’m not a mass girl, although I’m not saying mass merchants don’t have quality. I always tend to gravitate towards those high-end suppliers because I love the way they work. And I love the attention to detail and what’s important to them. And that’s who my client tends to be. It’s very interesting that I’m having conversations with larger clients who are thinking, “Wow, this whole post-purchase thing is very interesting.” They develop brands, and they’re like, “Nobody’s talking to me about that; that’s different.” So it’s like two different things are going on right now, and I find both of them fascinating.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 33:58
Yes, you touched much earlier on the proprietary diamond cut aspect and how you’ve worked with that, especially in post-purchase valuation. It’s such a specific niche in this industry, and it’s super fascinating to me. Can you tell me more about how you got involved with proprietary diamond cuts? And what’s the potential with the post-purchase valuation?
Tammy Cohen 34:22
Well, it’s very interesting. When I was working with the site holder, and they had put out—they didn’t develop this cut, it was built by another site holder, but they took it on, they took the inventory, it was patented. It was fascinating. It just fascinated me because this cut was so radically different from anything I’ve ever seen. And it had a lot of challenges because, back then, the industry was just like, “What’s this?” I just had to come in there and learn. I spent so much time talking to the master cutter, speaking with the grading laboratories, watching the studies, and getting involved with it. I’m very much into light; I’m a person of light. I believe light is everywhere. Light is so important. One of the things that diamonds do—it’s mathematics, it’s moving light. That’s what these facets are supposed to do; they’re supposed to move light. I just fell in love with the whole intricacy of it.
Tammy Cohen 35:36
I say this to this day: I was lucky that I came in on a product that had challenges, because when you have challenges, you have to think out of the box and figure out how to make it work. When you go into a company and start working with a Tiffany or a Cartier or one of these major, amazing brands, you have a lot of resources at your fingertips. Plus, you also have an audience. It’s open because of the marketing and branding and everything. It’s yours and it’s there. When you walk into something that’s not known and the resources aren’t necessarily there, you have to really learn and think.
Tammy Cohen 36:14
I have to admit that one of the best things that I ever did was reach out to American Gem Society Laboratories. They are an amazing, amazing, amazing group. They did all of the studies, the light performance studies. They are the ones who study proprietary cuts. And I learned so much by listening to them—Jason Quick—and just listening to how they think and how they look at things. So for me, it was a big learning process. And I said, “Wow, I love this!” I love learning about proprietary cuts. I kind of became the proprietary cut person. I went to all of the conferences, the Gemological conference. I attended all the appraisal conferences, and I had to talk about this cut that had all these challenges. And you know what? They started accepting because I was able to show them that the claim is true, how this diamond sparkles, how it’s different than any other cut, and what it does. I was always very straightforward about what it does and what it doesn’t do. At the end of the day, it’s proprietary, it’s patented, and it’s a trademark product. I started learning these terms and what they mean.
Tammy Cohen 37:29
And I started understanding use path and how you have to support a brand and proprietary patented product. It’s different. So once I got the gemological world and the appraisers to start understanding this, I just took it to the next level. I started building a whole valuation program for this particular cut. I learned a lot, and what happened was, over time, I started loving the whole story of natural diamonds; how a diamond gets found, comes out of the ground, and how it gets cut. It’s sitting there for billions or millions of years, and then here it is; it’s going to be cut, and how it’s cut. And I went to Africa, and I went to the cut-polish facilities. And it was just fascinating to me. Anything about diamonds is fascinating. I am a natural diamond girl—you could tell. I mean, I love that. And it’s always something that resonates with me. But I do get lab-grown, and I do get the market for that. I understand that it exists. But for me, it’s working with these master, genius cutters who know faceting, know the angles, the measurements, the proportions that make light and make light travel inside a stone—it’s just a story unto itself.
Tammy Cohen 38:58
And I’ll tell you what one of the master cutters said to me. He said: “Remember this: Diamonds are marketed on love, legacy, celebration, and all kinds of things; it’s emotional. But a well-cut diamond is mathematics.” And every cutter I’ve ever worked with, including the laboratories I’ve worked with, are mathematicians. They’re not computer guys, they’re not software people; they’re mathematicians because those angles and those measurements are where it’s at. And that’s math. So that was a big learning thing for me. As a student who never did well in math and who would sit and listen to the angle measurement discussions and be like, “What are you talking about?”—it’s fascinating! It’s a story in itself.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 39:42
That’s so cool. So, building upon what you said about the love and emotion part of it, obviously, that’s what most consumers would connect with. I mean, they might be interested in the math part, especially if that’s something that’s a natural inclination for them. But what role does brand storytelling play in selling that magic and romance of those cuts to the end consumer?
Tammy Cohen 40:09
Well, it’s very interesting you said that because one of the things I had to do, amongst all my other tasks, was train. I had to go and train the staff on how to speak about it, and I also found myself speaking directly to customers. I was in many videos that were played in markets where the diamond was sold, talking to customers and explaining the process. And you know what? I found that the customers want to know what’s under the hood. They want to know what makes it different. They want to understand: Why is this different? What does it mean? Now, one of the things [that] was recommended to me by another mentor of mine who’s a master valuer in the industry—she’s also a journalist, she’s an author, she writes columns in all of our industry publications—she said, “What you’d be smart to do is to develop a scope that shows what this diamond does with light.” She introduced me to a precision gemological scope manufacturer out in LA. And like I did with AGS, I sent some stones over, and he was like, “Wow, this is a really cool stone! There’s so much light, it’s like the galaxies—it’s stars.” And I’m like, “I want you to create a scope that can show this in different angles and measurements.”
Tammy Cohen 41:36
And he was like, ‘Yup!’ So he worked on it and he developed a scope. Once the customer had that scope and was able to look in and watch—it was a simple concept of light hitting the tops of two different diamonds. One was the proprietary cut, and the other was any diamond they wanted to choose in the store, including their own jewelry. We didn’t say: “Oh, it has to be this or that.” [We said,] “Choose whatever you want.” As a matter of fact, I would say, “Choose something with better color and better clarity. Choose whatever stone you want. Let’s put it together in the light. Let’s look at light.” Because the scope was able to adjust lighting measurements, you could go from any light angle. Or remember, people sit in a restaurant—it’s darker. People go to a club—it’s darker. People will be outside in the light. So there are different lighting environments. We let them manipulate them all. They see with their eyes what the proprietary cut did and how it bounced and how it was going crazy and sparkling. And they get it. They’re like, “I get it.”
Tammy Cohen 42:37
Then we talk about legacy and giving something different, giving something that has a different meaning. And you know what was very effective too? Because the cut, the shape of the stone, was so different from a round brilliant, we would actually say, “Okay, we put some round brilliant diamonds.” We put the branded round brilliant cuts, and then we put three of them down. I’m not going to name names, and then we put the proprietary cut. And we’d say, “Which one is which?” They immediately knew which one was the proprietary cut, because they couldn’t tell you which one was this and which one was that on the round brilliants—they all look the same. But they knew exactly which one was a different cut because it looked different, even though it was a round shape also.
Tammy Cohen 43:25
So I had a way of sharing science and treating the guests. Not just like, “Let’s just talk about love and all that,” which is really important, and emotion, but let’s educate because, you know what? They wanted to know what made it different. How is this blueprint different? How is the amount of facets, what does it mean? How does light travel through? How does it produce this sparkle? They got caught up in that story. And then, of course, it was beautiful, and they wanted something different. They wanted to be able to show their friends how in the dark it sparkled. We gave them a lot of tools and a lot of great things that they could bring home so that they could show their friends exactly why their diamond is different, because it looked different physically and it performed differently than other round brilliants on the market and had a round shape. So that was one of the things I realized is that when you speak to the customer, you have to give them education and also emotion. You can’t just not bother. You also have to listen to your customer.
Tammy Cohen 44:35
Listen, sometimes the customer just wants something pretty and they don’t want to hear it—of course. But for me, I’m always giving the extra education. I found that when I gave it to the staff they were able to list the attributes. It didn’t become a conversation about price. This diamond costs way more than a generic round brilliant. We never discussed the price. We talked about the attributes. What makes it different? People want different.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 45:03
That’s so fascinating, and not just the education part, but really what you described was the interactivity of the customer experience—letting them see it, touch it, compare it, and actually invite them into this thing that might only be reserved for like gemologists, typically—giving them a peek behind the curtain in a way. And I really love that as well.
Tammy Cohen 45:30
Yes, they really loved the scope. We also started bringing in other kinds of microscopes. We had the diamonds inscribed with a serial number and a logo, and then they could see the light moving through also. We tried to keep it as interactive for them as possible so that they really felt, like you said, like they were scientists or gemologists. And that’s really what built it. But for us, it was always talking about the difference. It was always like, “You’re getting something different and unique.” And that’s where it was for them, proving it and showing it to them. That’s, for me, what it is about proprietary cuts. I always find what’s different about them. I always see what’s different about them, and I tried to make it like, “This is different,” and people like different. Branding is really happening more and more in our industry because brands can communicate the difference. If you can communicate your attributes better than the next person, your audience is going to listen.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 46:45
It’s so true. And there’s a lot of same-same in this industry too. So if you actually do have something different that’s making that strong point, I think it is very important.
Tammy Cohen 46:58
Laryssa Wirstiuk 47:00
Tammy, so you also work with a global network of appraisers and you’re an advocate of brand storytelling for, like we said, the post-purchase valuation. What’s your relationship to the appraiser group in that part of the industry? How does that play a role in all of this?
Tammy Cohen 47:15
Wow! To me, appraisers are like the salt of the earth. First of all, I had to learn. I had to learn a lot about appraising because there’s a big difference between a GG, a graduate gemologist, and an appraiser. Most customers don’t know the difference. They don’t understand that a graduate gemologist is not an appraiser because a graduate gemologist is taught how to identify stones; that’s what they’re taught to do. They’re not taught valuation. It depends on the gemology school if they’re offering their coursework. And that has a different designation and different initials after the name than ‘GG.’ Customers would say to me: “Oh, I went to the appraiser, and he’s a GIA GG. And I’d be like: “That’s great, but GIA does not teach valuation. You need to speak with somebody,” I would call them “credentialed.”
Tammy Cohen 48:17
What’s a credentialed appraiser? What’s an accredited appraiser? They are a GG—whatever gemological school they’ve gone to—and then they continue the process of learning valuation. They go through rigorous tests and they go through certification. They have to redo their certifications and they’re given a different designation from GG. It’s like the specialist. You want to see a credentialed appraiser who follows each path, who understands the guidelines of the industry, who’s a member of an appraisal organization so that they get up-to-date information constantly and is taking their certification regularly. They’re recertified. It’s very important.
Tammy Cohen 49:05
Once I started understanding, I kind of became like the appraiser whisperer. I was going to all their conferences and talking to them, and I was like, “Okay, I need to explain to the staff… I need to train brands, their staff, train everybody on what the difference between an appraiser and a graduate gemologist is and why it’s important to see a credentialed appraiser.” And I started learning and teaching these analogy stories. I would talk about: You’re building a building in the middle of a city, right? And you’re the architect and you’re the head of construction, and you’re building this big… You know every beam in that building, you know every piece of information that they’re building—[you’re] the architect. This is amazing. You’re in charge of that building and everything about that building. You can identify anything in that building. However, the bank—who are they going to for valuation? Are they talking to the head of construction? Are they talking to the architect? Are they talking to the project manager? No, they’re going to the real estate appraiser; that’s where they’re going for a valuation. It’s no different in our industry. You want to go to a specialist. If you have a heart problem, I say: “Are you going to go to your primary care physician or are you going to go to a cardiologist? Who are you talking to?” So you want to make sure you’re going to the best.
Tammy Cohen 50:28
One of the things I started doing with the appraisers—because I was going globally to all the appraiser conferences and their meetings—I started referring credentialed appraisers to customers. I made it easy. Where does the customer live? I made sure that I could match them and get them to an appraiser that’s within range of where they live to make it easy. So it’s another organic service.
Tammy Cohen 50:54
What happens is that the customer doesn’t have to think: “I have to find an appraiser. Who am I going to find?”—because you know what they’re going to do. They’re going to go to a local jeweler who’s not necessarily selling that proprietary stone that they purchased, and [one that] might not know what it is. And they might bring out Jerry the appraiser or Norm the appraiser from the back office, and he’ll be like, “Oh, my gosh!”—he’ll value it based on a generic price list. Then, boom, that customer has an undervalue. And then they’re telling them, “But we can definitely give you something that’s better, that’s bigger. That’s this at a better price.” I’ve seen it happen so many times. And it’s really because the customer didn’t know where to go. And I’m not saying that there aren’t very credentialed appraisers affiliated with jewelry stores; there are. And I’m not saying that there aren’t GGs that don’t reach out, because they understand, “I don’t know what this is; I have to reach out to find out what this is.”
Tammy Cohen 51:56
So I’m just saying in general, as a brand, it’s your responsibility to make sure your customer has the best experience and not just reach them post-purchase with a birthday card, or a holiday card, or an anniversary card, but hold their hand and tell them: “I’m going to help you. I’m going to find the most experienced, most credentialed appraiser so that it’ll be easy for you to get to. And here’s a list of questions you should ask the appraiser. Here’s what you should know when you go for an appraisal.” And once that happens, you’ve just taken a lot of the time and a lot of the anxiety because people want to get their pieces appraised, they have to insure them. And not every person is going to necessarily go with the jewelry insurance that’s out there. They might be going with their own homeowners’ insurance. We have to make sure that people can get their pieces appraised and get them insured because that’s their piece and they don’t want it lost or stolen and be out of pocket. So that’s like one of the chains that I saw as very important. And I really got in with the appraisal industry because, instead of the organizations doing it, I was educating customers about the importance of visiting a credentialed appraiser.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 53:15
Yes, it’s all about the customer experience, Tammy, right?
Tammy Cohen 53:19
It’s all about the customer. And the more information you give them and the more you help them, the more they trust you. And the more you make their lives easier and you take out anything that will make it hard, the more they want to come back because you made their lives easier. And that’s what we’re here to do; we’re here to serve. I don’t want them to try to figure it out. There’s no reason for them to go crazy and figure it out and then get hurt. I’ve seen people buy something and love it, then it’s an undervalue and they hate it and they’re just devastated. And you just lost all the trust, and there’s a reason for it.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 53:57
Yes. So, in addition to serving customers better, and making their lives easier, what else do you think the jewelry industry needs more of?
Tammy Cohen 54:09
That’s a good question. I would have said transparency. But I feel like that’s really coming full circle now. I think that transparency is definitely something that’s happening. I think the jewelers are looking to share their story, provide origin reporting and traceability, and make it a priority to have all this ready for the customer so that the customer doesn’t have to ask. Now they’re coming to the point where they’re like: “You know what? We want to provide this information. We want to make sure that we know where our stones are coming from. We want to be as transparent as possible.” I see that as a big shift. I remember when I was at Conclave, and Marcus Lemonis was speaking, and I was thinking, “Wow, he’s talking about 47th Street”—like, pushing the sale and pushing the sale.
Tammy Cohen 55:05
I think that most of the industry is now walking away from that. I think it’s not about maximizing numbers. It’s not about pushing people or selling them what you want or need to get rid of in your inventory. It’s about listening. And I see that: listening to the customer, giving them what they want. I see mining companies that are saying to their site holders: “What do you need? What rough will work best for your needs and your customer?” I see more of this openness and wanting to do good and to make sure that the customer is protected, but also that it’s not being pushed, that it’s being done in the right way. And I think it goes back to ethics. And I feel like our industry is really taking on a firm, ethical stance today. And that 47th Street mentality from the past is kind of shrinking a lot.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 56:11
That’s really encouraging and positive to hear. I love that. So what else would you like to share about your business and work, Tammy? I’d love to hear what else you have going on. Let’s hear it.
Tammy Cohen 56:24
Well, one of the things that really lights me up—besides talking about this business and reading and breathing in everything that’s going on and talking to clients and talking with colleagues and finding out things that are going on; I love to read and I read the publications—I started a business network for women. This is really what’s lighting me up. We have quite a few people in it from the gem and jewelry industry; it’s interesting. It’s a global network. It’s now a year and a half that we’ve been in existence. It’s called “Women Beyond the Table.” I really feel like it’s my dharma. I feel like this is where my path has been moving to.
Tammy Cohen 57:17
What happened was that during COVID, when I was really rethinking my business and understanding that I needed to change things, I needed to work harder and get new clients, open myself up and step into my power, create a website, create other things, and start getting out there, I was like: “Wow, wouldn’t it be great if I had a network of people I can trust for services?” Because you know what? Copywriter, this, that, whatever I need, I was thinking, “I’m googling and I’m coming up with things, and it’s like 10,000 people hits.” And then you hit one person and you look at their website and what they do, and all of a sudden you have 10 days of automations because you download one thing. And I said, “Wouldn’t it be nice just to have women who are providing services?” So I spoke with a couple of colleagues who are friends because I’m fortunate in that most of my colleagues are my friends. And they go: “Yes, I think that’s a great idea! You should do it.” And I just feel like yes, this is what I want to do. I love it. Like I said, we have gem and jewelry people in the group too, so it’s really fun. It’s nice, it’s a good group.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 58:36
That’s amazing. I love that. Well, Tammy, this has been awesome. I love learning more about you and sharing you with my listeners and viewers. Tell them where they can find you if they want to connect and learn more.
Tammy Cohen 58:51
Sure. Okay, so you can find me very easily on Instagram, TC Brand Consulting. I’m also on LinkedIn, Tammy Cohen, which is TC Brand Consulting. You can always Facebook too, TC Brand Consulting. I have a website, which is www.tcbrandconsulting.com, and you can reach me at email@example.com. So I think that’s all of my contact points. And yes, I always love answering, so I’m very easy to DM or email or however you want to reach me.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 59:39
Amazing. Thanks, Tammy, for your time. I so appreciate you sharing your knowledge and your story. It’s been really fun!
Tammy Cohen 59:46
Well, thank you, Laryssa. I really appreciate this opportunity to speak with you. I find you very impressive. I went to all of your lectures at Conclave. I was like, “Wow, she knows what she’s doing.” I’m really honored that you had me on and I really appreciate it!
Laryssa Wirstiuk 1:00:02
Aw, thanks. I appreciate that!
Laryssa Wirstiuk 1:00:07
What did you think of Tammy? To learn more about her and her brand consulting services, visit tcbrandconsulting.com. You can also always email me, Laryssa, at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you love this podcast, please share it with a friend who would 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 more information.
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