Brand Activations and Visual Merchandising for Jewelry BusinessesLaryssa
In episode #219 of the Joy Joya Jewelry Marketing Podcast, I share my interview with Emma Morgan, the founder of Emma Morgan Creative, a conceptual and strategic boutique design studio based in New York. She’s an expert in brand storytelling and full-circle visual expression for retailers, and her business provides visual concept design and creative strategy consulting for brands and retailers of all sizes. Emma’s approach is backed by a decade of experience and fueled by the process of creation and her own natural curiosity. Her projects include brand activations, pop-up shops, exhibitions, events, product launches, visual merchandising and product presentation, windows, and more.
In this episode, we’ll be covering:
- What does the word “activation” mean as related to branding/marketing, and what are some general examples of activations commonly used for luxury/jewelry brands?
- How can a brand’s personality be expressed through a brand activation?
- What steps do you take to ensure consistency across all brand touchpoints, and why is consistency so important?
- …and more!
Check out the episode files as well as 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 219, and today I’ll be sharing an interview with an expert in retail and brand environments. Through her creative agency, she helps brands develop displays, curate spaces, and design client experiences—both physical and digital—that enhance a brand’s unique narrative. She doesn’t work exclusively with the jewelry industry, but she’s supported brands like Tiffany & Co. in their visual brand activations.
I’ll share more about my guest in just a little bit. But here’s a preview of what we’ll be discussing:
- What does the word activation mean as it relates to branding and marketing?
- What are some general examples of activations commonly used for luxury and jewelry brands?
- How can a brand’s personality be expressed through brand activation?
- What steps can you take to ensure consistency across all brand touchpoints? Why is consistency so important
- … and more!
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 an act of 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.
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 its marketing. The Sparkle Award is also interactive, so you can visit SparkleAward.com to nominate a jewelry brand that’s also inspiring you, and I might feature your submission on a future podcast episode.
This week’s Sparkle Award goes to a London-based jewelry brand named Lark & Berry. They make really beautiful fine jewelry pieces out of lab-created diamonds. I believe I subscribed to their email list a while ago. There was something about the brand that really stood out to me, and I’ve been super drawn to their holiday email marketing campaigns. So I’m highlighting Lark & Berry for their beautiful and eye-catching email strategy at this time of year.
They’re doing more of a traditional ’12 Days of Christmas,’ so every day they’re sending out an email highlighting a different product or a different look. They’re really taking the traditional approach [such as] the partridge in a pear tree, [and] I can’t even remember all the things for the 12 days of Christmas. But they have this beautiful illustration in every email of the thing for that day and then superimpose an image of their jewelry with it. And it really works for their brand because they’re very elegant. They have a more traditional look to their brand identity. I’ve been really enjoying just following along and looking at their emails, and I think that that is a success. So, good work, Lark & Berry!
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 news related to jewelry or marketing. Each week I share my thoughts about three relevant articles, and you can get the links yourself by checking out the show notes of this podcast. The first article comes from marketingbrew.com and is called, “Why a DTC wine company started a branded podcast.” So obviously, [it’s a] wine company; this is not about the jewelry industry but about the wine industry. But I still thought it was very relevant because I think there is a crossover between the two industries. And also, I just loved this example of a unique approach to marketing.
Wine Access is this DTC wine retailer, and they recently kicked off the second season of their podcast, Wine Access Unfiltered. I loved reading about this because it’s an example of a company doing some really unique things with content marketing, specifically in this branded podcast form. This company started the podcast in 2020. It’s hosted by two people, one [of whom] is a certified sommelier, and the other is a master of wine. And they just have a lot of fun discovering wine and tasting it. They have interesting guests on, and it’s really more of a fun conversation, and it reflects and amplifies the personality of the brand.
So ultimately, for this company, the podcast results in better brand awareness; it helps followers have positive associations with the brand, and the consumer can then interact with the brand in a unique way. Prior to deciding that they wanted to start this podcast, the company had advertised on other wine podcasts, and they saw some really positive results. So they realized that a podcast-listening audience was well suited to purchasing from them. But for them, the podcast ads were expensive, so they thought: “You know what, let’s have some more control over the messaging and over our audience. And instead of advertising on other wine podcasts, why don’t we start our own?” This eventually led to them starting a wine club so that listeners could actually taste and follow along with the wines that the hosts were drinking in the episodes. I think that’s so smart, giving that interactive connection back to the podcast. As I said, for them, it was much cheaper and more effective than spending on podcast advertising, and it offers them another customer touch point besides email marketing.
So my main takeaway from this is that I think it’s so smart and creative. I love seeing brands try something new and different with their content and learning from their marketing and advertising endeavors. So they tried podcast advertising; it actually worked for them, and they had positive results from it. But instead of just going along and sticking with that, they asked themselves, “How can we take this a step further and actually have even more control over our data?” And they decided to experiment with this podcast, which has been really successful for them. So I love reading about that.
The next article comes from the official Shopify blog, and it’s called “6 Amazing Unboxing Experiences and Ideas to Try”. I like this! There are really some unique unboxing ideas here. It might be too late to try some of these with your final ship date for the holidays coming up, but if you are now planning your 2023 packaging strategy, then for sure, take these into consideration. Consider how you can make your packaging more compelling, delightful, and shareable. So these are some ideas.
Of course, add a handwritten note. This is something we’ve talked about on the podcast before. It goes a really long way toward creating a personal connection with your customers and, honestly, surprising them—because who writes handwritten notes anymore? To encourage customers to share their unboxing on social media, maybe you can do a giveaway or something for people who share and then hashtag their unboxing posts. That’s a way to motivate people to share on their own social media channels and to get user-generated content. You can add a discount code for a future purchase, which could be especially great—well, it could work either way. If it’s a new customer, maybe you have one type of incentive. If it’s a repeat or return customer, you have a different kind of incentive and messaging to inspire them to come back again. If you have people on your team handmaking the product or if it’s just you, put a little bio of the person who had their hands in making the product.
I love the brand Lush, the beauty brand—the skin care and body brand Lush. They have these little stickers on all their products with the name of the person who made them. I think it adds such a personal and human touch to your products. Also, if supply chain transparency is of value to your jewelry company, you can have a “Where has your product been?” jewelry [piece] and say [something] like: “Where is the gemstone from?”; “Where is this component from?”; “Where is the packaging from?” etcetera, and add that transparency into the supply chain that you utilize. And then truly remember to brand every component of your packaging, from the tissue paper to the box it’s in, the shipping box the jewelry is in, etc.
One experience I recently had with a brand [was when] I ordered some skin care products from this brand called Ren. They’re really into sustainability, eco-friendly practices, etc. It’s part of their core values. I ordered some stuff on Black Friday, and it came in a reusable corrugated cardboard box that had a QR code in it that you can scan to find out how you can return the box so that it can be reused again and again. And it had its branding on it. I’ve never seen anything like that before, and I thought it was so cool for their brand to do that.
So make sure that, not just aesthetically but maybe a little deeper than that, the actual materials that you’re using are representative of your brand and your brand values. So my main takeaway from this is that putting time, thought, and effort into your packaging with the goal of giving your customer a wonderful unboxing experience is highly underutilized and underrated, and you should really think about this going into 2023.
And then, the last article comes from Marketing Dive, and it’s called “Live shopping comes to select NYC holiday window displays.” So thanks to this article, I heard about a really cool mode of holiday shopping this year. And this live commerce company called TalkShopLive is facilitating this out-of-the-box live-stream shopping experience. So you know I’ve been talking about live-stream shopping a lot on this podcast. Well, TalkShopLive combined the entertainment, convenience, and accessibility of live-stream shopping with holiday windows in New York City—legendary, traditional, and kind of old-school in a way. In several retail windows throughout Manhattan, TalkShopLive is broadcasting shows featuring celebrities promoting various products. During the shows, people who are walking by can scan QR codes and then shop [for and] purchase the products that are being featured.
One retailer, in particular, is using this in a unique philanthropic way. Saks is using its Saks Live virtual events platform to tout a partnership with the Elton John AIDS Foundation. And they’re using the platform to unveil its windows to the world, along with a special appearance by John singing his hit [song], “Your Song.” So it’s a cool way to offer entertainment in the shopping experience, to connect with a philanthropic cause, and to create convenience in the shopping experience. It’s literally window shopping come to life.
I’m really interested to see how this technology evolves. My main takeaway is that I haven’t been to New York City in a few months. So I’m wondering, has anyone seen these interactive window displays? I’d love to know from a real person if they feel enticing or engaging. But overall, I just love reading about how tech disruptors in retail are really trying to reinvent the experience that customers have. For more information about any of these articles, check out the links in the show notes.
As I mentioned earlier, my guest today is an expert in brand storytelling and full-circle visual expression for retailers. Emma Morgan is the founder of Emma Morgan Creative, a conceptual and strategic boutique design studio based in New York. Her business provides visual concept design and creative strategy consulting for brands and retailers of all sizes. Emma’s approach is backed by a decade of experience and fueled by the process of creation and her own natural curiosity. Her projects include brand activations, pop-up shops, exhibitions, events, product launches, visual merchandising, product presentation windows, and more. So without further delay, let’s chat with my guest, Emma.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 15:24
Hey, Emma, thanks so much for coming on the podcast; I’m really excited to have you as a guest today!
Emma Morgan 15:30
Thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited about this!
Laryssa Wirstiuk 15:34
So please tell our listeners and viewers: How did you first become involved with retail and brand environments? What first piqued your interest about this field?
Emma Morgan 15:44
I’ve worked in retail ever since I was 15 years old. My first job was at a store in the mall. The store manager would often give me projects to reset or create displays. I really enjoyed it and excelled at it, and I, at the time, didn’t know that that was a career that I could take. But once I learned that visual merchandising was a career path, I dove headfirst into it [while] having retail experience at a couple of stores. I went back to school at FIT and studied visual presentation and exhibition design. So that really rounded out my interest and education around brand environments and how to create them, and I just started my career from there.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 16:39
Is there something specific about all that that kind of lights you up or makes you excited? Could you say what that thing is?
Emma Morgan 16:48
I think it’s the impact it has, both big and small. Big, meaning on the business, and ultimately, ideally, the bottom line of the business and increasing sales, or visibility of that business or brand. And then small: A great display or environment can really light up someone’s day or create a memorable experience for them. People are shopping, whether it’s for themselves, a gift, or just [as] a pastime, it’s a form of entertainment. So they’re really looking to stores, subconsciously, to entertain them. I think that creating a branded experience or environment that does that is really the goal. So I think it’s that big and small impact that really drives me in this field.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 17:53
That makes a lot of sense. I think one word we’ll probably be throwing around a lot today is the word ‘activation,’ which I remember first hearing a few years ago and I was like: “What does that mean? I don’t really get it.” So I think it’s important for us to define it and [understand] how it relates to branding and marketing.
Emma Morgan 18:14
Yes, I think that’s a really good point because it is thrown around a lot, and it came kind of out of nowhere, I feel. So ‘activation’ to me is taking a physical space and dressing it with a theme or something to convey a story that connects to a customer. That might sound a little complicated, but this can be done through store windows, a front table or case displays, or even a defined zone or room within, maybe, a larger store. I think if you imagine in your head walking through a mall or down a main street, those elements that catch your eye when you see a store—that’s really activation. Stores and retailers have been doing it forever. There’s just now a name for it because—I don’t know—it’s just more prevalent, I guess, that smaller retailers especially are starting to do that more and more, not just big brands that have multiple doors. So like I said, I think it’s a dressing of a space or an area. It’s activating that space; it’s catching that client’s eye to stop and see what you’re showing or promoting.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 19:47
Yes, I really like the way that you define it. There’s something about that word that sounds so fancy that I usually hear it used to describe these more elaborate, high-budget productions. So that’s what I usually associate an activation with. But I like that you’re saying it could even be a display case, something small. So that’s really refreshing to hear.
Emma Morgan 20:15
Yes, I agree. Maybe people don’t think of it on that small of a scale, but as I mentioned, this has been a retail trick, if you will, since the beginning of retail. It’s something that a store, retailer, or brand does to entice the customer. And yes, I guess that’s what I was alluding to, that activation has become this bigger word because there are more pop-up shops or these grand installations, brand exhibitions, and things like that that are more mainstream now. But yes, it can be as simple as changing out the color of that front jewelry display to promote a new line, versus taking over an entire department store and adding some specific branding or a story to that. So, it comes in big and small.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 21:17
So you mentioned some general examples. Are there any that you think are better suited, or more specifically suited, for a luxury or jewelry brand? Or really, can any of them apply?
Emma Morgan 21:35
I know that something that jewelers do quite often are trunk shows. And having either a traveling collection or a bespoke collection come in from a specific brand at a retailer definitely helps to activate a store and bring in clients, whether new or old. And that can tie into events as well. So creating some sort of event or call to action for someone to visit your site or come to your location is definitely something I think luxury jewelers, in particular, can leverage, and I’m sure most do. The other one, I guess, is one of my favorite things to work on: Pop-up shops. That doesn’t necessarily mean a full-blown, big out-of-home experience. Again, if you’re a brand that’s being sold in a small town or by a smaller jeweler that’s like a regional jeweler that carries multiple brands, maybe there’s an opportunity to do something for a season that amplifies your brand. It can be like a pop-in shop. It’s in that retailer, and it’s just taking over a small space within their location to really amplify your brand’s personality or a new collection. I think that can go a long way.
Emma Morgan 23:19
And again, that’s another reason to invite clients or customers into the store. With that, [this is] kind of a tangent: Eventing is a very important piece, at least from my experience, to selling jewelry or luxury goods. Luxury items are things that you don’t necessarily need, and that’s the business. We would always say that in one of the retailers that I had worked at for many years—it was a luxury jeweler. We would often say that to one another, and remind ourselves like [this]: “This isn’t something that people need, but they want it, or it’s an aspiration. It’s something that they’re gifting to somebody. They’re treating themselves or their loved one.” So it’s a special purchase, especially jewelry; you’re not purchasing jewelry every day. So [it’s about] taking that extra mile and creating an event or a moment in the store that is even more special.
Emma Morgan 24:31
So is there a level of personalization or some sort of unique experience? That doesn’t even necessarily need to be related to jewelry or the product that you’re selling; it could be chocolate tasting or floral arranging. But it’s an opportunity to amplify your brand through something that engages the customer. So you might be inviting them in for a pop-up shop or a pop-in in a store, but how are you entertaining them while they’re there? What memory and relationship are you building with them once they’re in the door? Of course, you want to make a sale or get them excited about what you’re promoting. But at the end of the day, what are they going to tell their girlfriends about? “Oh, I went to” so-and-so retailer, “and you can’t imagine what we did! We made these floral arrangements, and we tasted the champagne.” Ultimately, you’re creating a memorable experience and building that relationship through whatever that activation is. And that’s the goal.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 25:47
Yes, that’s a really good point. One thing you mentioned when you were talking is that it can give an opportunity to amplify a brand’s personality. So obviously, there are lots of ways for a brand to communicate its core or its emotional resonance. So what do you think it is about these activations that gives them that other level, that amplification? Why is that such an opportunity for a brand?
Emma Morgan 26:19
It’s a really great question. I think that building that relationship with your customer is one of the most important things you can invest in. Most of my experience takes place in the physical space, in-store design, and visual merchandising, or in brand experiences. But you want to make sure that that personality is expressed through and through in a physical space, online, through your social media, and through whatever outreach you’re doing, specifically in brand activations in physical spaces. Taking simple cues like color and expanding them to take over an entire space could be a really simple way to express your personality. But then, maybe there are more refined or subtle ways that you’re doing that—if there are linens that are being used, if it’s a breakfast event or something in there, some tables, the linens, the china that you’re renting, the flower arrangements on the table, or a calligrapher that maybe speaks to a more elegant or traditional kind of brand. If that’s not your flavor, maybe you’re working with a painter, and they’re doing something that’s more creative and colorful. [It’s about] choosing whatever those event elements or activation elements [are], making sure that they communicate those core values of your brand.
Emma Morgan 28:27
So I’m going to pick a brand that everyone knows: Anthropologie. I think most people know that Anthropologie is very creative, definitely colorful, and more bohemian; there is, I think, a level of elegance through the clothing that they curate as well as the homewares. But you can immediately imagine all of those things; most people have been in an Anthropologie [store]. But you can see it not only in the curation of their products but also in how they decorate their stores. It’s a bit more eclectic; found objects and items [are] reimagined into new things, really leveraging that creativity. And when they have events, it’s the same thing. Perhaps they’re reinventing something and even asking the customer to create something.
Emma Morgan 29:33
I’m just using that as an example. I haven’t worked for Anthropologie, and I’ve never been to an Anthropologie event, but I could imagine if I were doing something for them. I think creating and creativity are big parts of their brand language and personality—like a through-line they’re expressing themselves through an activation or an event. The total opposite side of the spectrum: What is Nike doing? It’s more about lights, digital, and even virtual expressions that they do in their stores or pop-ups. I don’t know if that’s making any sense. I feel like I’m talking in a little bit of a circle. But did I answer your question?
Laryssa Wirstiuk 30:26
Yes, it makes a lot of sense. I’m glad you brought up Anthropologie. I obviously don’t work in brand activations; it’s not my specialty at all. But hearing Anthropologie just brings up [memories from] years and years ago. [I’m] remembering going into their stores for the first time. We were kind of just learning about the brand, and I feel like they were so ahead of the curve in the in-store experience. I was just blown away by being in that environment. And I’m wondering what your thoughts are. Do you feel like they kind of paved the way for other brands, or were there other brands already doing that around the same time that they were experimenting?
Emma Morgan 31:11
I do feel like they were one of the more “mass brands” that were doing that. I think that their flagship-level department stores may have invested more in that in-store experience of creating unique environments around that time. But for more of a mall or street-facing single-standing store, I do believe that they really were one of the first to leverage creativity to communicate their brand to customers in such a beautiful way. Everything they do is really lovely.
Emma Morgan 32:07
I also have similar memories of going into Anthropologie for the first time. And, again, not really knowing that visual merchandising in that kind of display—design and installation—was a career. But I was always a creative person and liked to build things. I studied art and art history. Around that time, let’s say 15 years ago, I didn’t really know where I was going with my career. I had [just] graduated college, and there was an Anthropologie that had opened near me. I definitely had a similar reaction of like, “Wow, this is really amazing! I’d never experienced a store like that before.” For me, that started to set off little sparks in my head along with my retail experience at the same time of like, “Okay, maybe there’s something here that I can do, and keep this creativity and my love for retail in one place.” I don’t know if I can name anyone else, any other retailer, that had that level of passion for visual display at such an early time. They definitely opened my eyes to it for sure.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 33:37
So if a brand wants to start experimenting with activations or just being more intentional about how they’re communicating their brand story, where would be a good place to start? What foundation do you really need to be able to do this, even on a small scale?
Emma Morgan 33:56
Yes. I think really understanding what the personality of your brand is [will help]. If that hasn’t been something that you’ve established or you’re unsure, I think taking some time to establish what you want that personality to be [is wise]. In addition, I think setting goals for what that activation or event is achieving [is important]. Is it purely brand awareness? Is it a sales-driven activation or event? Is it just entertainment for your clients and customers? Figuring out what you really want to achieve from that activation will set parameters around it so it’s not so overwhelming because you can go a million different ways, and if you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve with this moment, then you may be essentially wasting money or time or precious things like that. So those are two things that I really think are the foundation.
Emma Morgan 35:16
And then the fun things, like: What’s the theme? And who are the target clients? Is it just your top clients? Is it inviting new people that have never been to your store or shopped your brand? So all of those things are important. They may sound basic and straightforward, but at least thinking about those elements prior to activating will hopefully make for a more successful outcome for you and your customers. Does that make sense? I’m assuming it does.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 35:54
Yes. Those are great tips. I think so. I forget the word you said, but simple or basic—it just is. That’s the foundation you need. It sounds basic, but I think it actually takes time, introspection, testing, and knowing your customers—it’s a lot more complicated than it sounds or appears.
Emma Morgan 36:27
Yes, it’s not just making a Pinterest board and inviting some people. There is a little bit more of a strategic approach that I would recommend. Because yes, if you’re just looking to build brand awareness, it’s more fun and it isn’t necessarily about conversion, but if you’re looking for conversion and sales, you might be developing an event that’s more strategic towards that goal, and really having people try things on, or it could be simple things like that. Maybe one of them is just coming to the store and shopping by themselves. And the other one is a one-on-one consultation with someone, where you’re really being styled or [taught] how to wear the jewelry together. It could be things like that—pitfalling.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 37:25
Sure. I like what you just said too, [about] knowing the different goals, basically. I talked to a lot of brands, especially smaller businesses, where they’ll do an event and maybe they went into it knowing, “Okay, this is more for brand awareness or exposure,” but then afterward, they’re like, “Oh, but I didn’t get sales, or it didn’t lead to revenue.” And it’s like: “You’re crossing lines here; you weren’t consistent with your goal, and you didn’t follow through with it.” I see that happen a lot. Not only coming up with the goal but actually seeing it through and remembering why you did something in the first place [is important].
Emma Morgan 38:10
Yes. Maybe writing it down [could help]. I’m definitely a big believer in writing down goals, [whether] personal, professional, [or] anything [else] because it helps you put words to them. But also, at least for me, it helps me remember it, and it holds you accountable to yourself. Maybe a third bit of the foundation is that post-event or post-activation [follow-up and] revisiting: “Okay, this was the goal we had. Did we achieve it?” Yes or no? And then maybe figuring out, “Is there something we should have done differently?”—working through that. Again, it is introspective, and putting that time and work in [is helpful]. But at the end of the day, if you’re building a brand or a retail space, that’s a crucial part of that cycle, if you will.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 39:13
Absolutely. So with brand strategy in general, it’s so important to have consistency in every way that a customer interacts with you, whether it’s on your e-commerce website, social media post, or email—having that same story come through. How can you maintain that consistency in an activation?—because it sounded like in some of the examples, you’re getting a little off script sometimes, like you’re maybe approaching it in a parallel way. How can you still make sure it’s consistent with everything else?
Emma Morgan 39:51
It’s a really great question. First of all, to me, brand consistency is extremely important because your brand really boils down to what your customer perceives of your brand. We were talking about personality and establishing your personality, but if you’re not communicating it consistently, especially if you’re just starting out, your customer may think you’re something totally different than what you think you are. So really, establishing that personality and what you’re aiming to be upfront [is crucial]. And of course, it can change. If you figure something out and you’re like, “Actually, I want to be more of this,” just sticking to whatever that is is really important.
Emma Morgan 40:47
Ultimately, branding is communication [and] how you communicate that. The physical space doesn’t really depend on whether you started with a physical [store] or an e-commerce [store]. [Rather], I think it’s really about [having a] consistent language throughout—your language on your website, your photography on your website, or your social media channels, which may be slightly different because the type of viewer might be slightly different. But ultimately, they’re tied into the same language, both visually and verbally. So pulling from those cues if you started as an e-commerce brand and making sure that they show up in a physical space is really important.
Emma Morgan 41:48
So let’s say your brand has bold colors, and you only show individual pieces of jewelry in each shot of photography, when you’re setting up an activation, keep that in mind. Maybe you’re not using the exact same colors or are only using one color. But how are you using color in your events? Is it where the jewelry is? Or is it where they’re serving cocktails? How is that color infused, and what is that color? And then similarly, if you’re only showing one piece of jewelry and each of your photographs for merchandise, maybe when you’re displaying it physically, you have a little bit of space around everything, there’s a little breathing room, and customers have the opportunity to see each piece individually. They can still be adjacent to other things, but it’s not a “flea market” where everything is layered and there are 400 pieces and a four-foot display case. I think it’s those subtle things that you may not have thought of but that really help to create that consistency for a customer. They’re starting to see the same colors, the same cues, and the same layouts of products as they do on your e-commerce site, and vice versa.
Emma Morgan 43:30
So if you started in brick-and-mortar and you have a specific way of showcasing the product, how do you bring that into your website? I guess I’m speaking more in general terms. And when it comes to an activation, yes, I think there is an opportunity to tweak that or deviate just a little bit. But I do believe that depends on the age of your brand or the level of awareness your brand has because, again, you don’t want to confuse your customer within the first year by doing 20 different things that aren’t related. [That’s] just my own personal opinion. But again, consistency is key, and branding is all communication, [which] is how I see it.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 44:27
Yes. When you were talking, I just thought of something else as well because I work with brands that have a direct-to-consumer channel that’s only e-commerce, so they don’t have their own proprietary in-person space or activation necessarily, but they do have retail partners who serve as their representatives, basically. And those retail partners are the ones who are merchandising the product, having the cases, and setting up the in-person feel. Can any of this be applied? Or do you have tips for how to guide your retail partners to really make this come to life for you?
Emma Morgan 45:12
Yes, for sure. I think those e-commerce brands that are working with retail partners should definitely have a point of view on how their product looks in a physical space. When working with those retail partners, again, putting that time and thought into it prior to that retail partner potentially just doing it on their own [is beneficial]. Obviously, there’s time to finesse that over time; it doesn’t need to be the perfect scenario right from the beginning. But I would at least have a point of view, like: Do I want product layer? Do I want it individual? Do I want all the pendants together in one case? Do I want to show stacking rings? Like, how do you want it to show up?—and working with that retail partner to establish that.
Emma Morgan 46:10
If you have the ability to create some sort of directive or photo guidance for them to follow, or at least guide them, [it is helpful]. Obviously, on the other end, that retail partner is looking to utilize that space in their store to the best of its capacity, which ultimately, as we know, means sales. So they’re going to want that spot in their store to be productive. So they may have a different idea of what that looks like. But I think that coming in with a point of view as a brand and saying: “This is my brand’s personality. This is how we want to show up, and this is why.”–I don’t necessarily have experience with that exact conversation, but I imagine that the retailer would be impressed. Like, “Oh, wow, they really thought this through,” and they’d be willing to work with you if it was kind of opposite to their typical displays. So yes, that would be my recommendation: Thinking about what your point of view is in a physical way and partnering with the retailer to establish that to the best of their capacity.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 47:32
So what are your favorite brand activations that you’ve seen recently? As someone with this trained eye, I think you would have some interesting perspectives.
Emma Morgan 47:44
I really love the Valentino pink expression that’s going on right now. I think they partnered with Pantone with that. But they’ve just been painting everything pink; essentially, if you haven’t seen it, everything’s hot pink. It’s simple—one color all over the whole store and all the products—but it’s super impactful and memorable. I haven’t seen it in real life, but from what I’ve seen on the internet and just on social media, it’s really… I guess, ‘memorable’ is the first thing that came to mind when you asked that question.
Emma Morgan 48:32
And I will be honest, I’ve been on a little bit of a hiatus from being at stores for the past couple of months, so I haven’t seen a lot of things in person. But I’m looking forward to the holiday season. I feel that, especially after the last two years, stores are going to go a little bit bigger, hopefully, than they have. I’m excited to see what those activations are and the holiday decorations and everything like that in the coming months.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 49:15
I know it’s really fun. I personally get entertainment out of seeing what stores are doing. So I enjoy that also. Are there any really good brand collaborations that you’ve seen? It doesn’t have to be super recent, but just in general, like two brands working together to produce something interesting.
Emma Morgan 49:37
I love brand collaborations. What’s great about them is seeing how two unique brand personalities and aesthetics are then expressed together. Sometimes you hear about the collaboration and you’re like: “Oh my gosh, that’s never going to work; they’re total opposites.” But I guess opposites do attract and they create something totally new and unexpected that you would never think. One of those that comes to mind is Smeg and Dolce & Gabbana. Smeg is—I don’t know if they’re Swedish; I don’t know exactly where they’re from—a small home electronics [company that makes things] like coffee makers and toasters. [They’re] very sleek; [they] kind of look like 50s cars. And then [there is] Dolce & Gabbana, [which is] the most ornate over-the-top Italian [brand]—everything maximalism to the 10th degree. You would think they’re total opposites. But that collaboration happened—I don’t know, [maybe] 5-10 years ago—and it’s still successful. They’re still creating new items and creating pop-up shops. I saw one last year. So that’s one [example of] total opposites that you wouldn’t think would work but are really exciting when they come together.
Emma Morgan 51:03
I think Gucci does a really great job at collaborations. I know they do a lot of them, and the branding is always really top-notch. Gucci and the North Face was a really great one that I saw, or Gucci and Adidas. I think a lot of shoe companies do great collaborations because it’s an easy thing to add someone else’s aesthetic, color, or code to—like Nike, Adidas, and even Birkenstock. Birkenstock does a ton of collaborations. They have such a simple form to their footwear, but adding a different material or some sort of decoration can really help communicate the other brand that they’re collaborating with.
Emma Morgan 52:00
And, of course, all the pop-ups and in-store experiences that go with all of these are things that I definitely keep tabs on and that are really exciting to me. Again, how they bring both of those house codes into essentially one space or one brand that they’re creating is always compelling and surprising. And I think that’s going back to the beginning of the conversation and entertaining your customer. You’re bringing two potentially different kinds of customers together, and entertaining them with something totally unexpected and totally new is a great way to activate and entertain your customers.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 52:55
That’s a great point. And I liked that you brought up that especially unexpected Dolce & Gabbana, and… Now I can’t remember the name of the brand.
Emma Morgan 53:05
Laryssa Wirstiuk 53:06
Smeg, yes. Totally different. And it’s really interesting to me because I have some clients and we’ve talked about doing brand collaborations, and it’s difficult for them to see a potential collaboration with a brand that has an aesthetic that is unlike theirs, and they’re almost always looking for something that matches aesthetic-wise. And I love hearing about these very unusual and unexpected collaborations to show that there is potential in being more surprising. And that is actually preferable in many ways, because it’s like, “Oh, okay, that doesn’t really make sense at first, but I’m into it.”
Emma Morgan 53:50
Exactly. Yes. There are crazy ones out there, like fast-food brands. And I think it was Warby Parker and Arby’s [where it was] like, “Okay, those are two totally different things.” But again, you’re using the customer bases of both brands, introducing them to each other, and then creating this magical collaboration in the middle, and we’re talking about it. I think ultimately, when it’s surprising, people talk about it. If it’s expected and too related, it’s less memorable.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 54:40
This has been really informative to me. I think our listeners and viewers learned a lot about what an activation is and what some elements of successful activations are. What’s coming up for you on the horizon with your work? Is there anything exciting that you want to share?
Emma Morgan 54:59
As I mentioned, I’ve been on a little bit of a hiatus. I just had a baby, so I don’t have anything immediate coming up, I’d say. But I have a couple of things [coming] down the pike that I’m looking forward to working on. I can’t really share too much. But I am looking to work with a couple of different small jewelry retailers on some projects that they have coming up. I’m looking forward to holiday displays, as I mentioned, not necessarily any that I’ve created, but just seeing how this season takes form and any new projects for myself that are coming up in 2023 once I’m back in the flow of working.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 55:53
Well, thank you, Emma. This was super fun. And congrats on your baby, by the way. That’s amazing! And I totally understand that you want to take a break from things. So I appreciate your time and thank you again.
Emma Morgan 56:08
Thank you so much. This was really great!
Laryssa Wirstiuk 56:13
What did you think about my interview with Emma? To learn more about her and her services, visit EmmaMorganCreative.com. You can also always email me, Laryssa, [at] email@example.com. 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 rating and review on Apple Podcasts. To purchase a signed copy of my book Jewelry Marketing Joy, visit JoyJoya.com/book for more information.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 56:47
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.