Make like Webster and Be The Brand

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Rachael Taylor on the rewards of living the lifestyle you sell.

Despite not exhibiting at the show, everyone’s favourite rock ‘n’ roll jewellery designer Stephen Webster managed to draw a crowd at IJL today when he rocked up to deliver a seminar on how to capitalise on the booming male jewellery market.

Delivering a polished performance with a finely tuned balance of jokes and keen business advice, the designer to the stars touched on a subject core to the success of the brand: Stephen Webster himself.

When I flew out to Basel this year to launch Professional Jeweller at BaselWorld, one of the stands I stopped off at was Stephen’s. After chortling about the fact that our publisher ITP would actually let myself and my then colleague Ash Allibhai loose to launch a magazine, he gave us some sage advice: be the brand.

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Ash was at the time considering branching out on his own, as he has now done, and Stephen’s advice was not to create a brand but to be the brand. This is a motto that has served him well in the past and something that he touched on during his IJL seminar this morning.

“I can’t play any instruments and I can’t sing but that’s never stopped me,” he joked with the crowd, referring to his infamous rock ‘n’ roll image. But it’s not just an image, it’s a lifestyle. Stephen hangs out with rockers like Mick Jones from the Clash, manages a band and is even sponsored by vodka brand Grey Goose – and everyone knows it.

Men and women buying into the Stephen Webster brand are in fact buying into Stephen and his widely publicised fast-living lifestyle. It’s not a diamond-encrusted crab-shaped ring with a coral stone they are purchasing, it’s a slice of the rock ‘n’ roll highlife that they’ve just paid a few thousand pounds for and membership to that exclusive late-night hard-drinking club.

Stephen describes his brand as “the everyday man’s rock ‘n’ roll”, and while he’s never going to light up Wembley Arena with a Fender Stratocaster himself, his clothes, his hair, his jewellery and his lifestyle are going to make sure it looks like he could. And his fans feel like they can too, if only while wearing his jewellery.

I know I’m certainly not immune to his charms. When I slip on my Stephen Webster ring or earrings, I feel the part and I love it. While sitting in my office, locked to my desk, the flash of that ring as I’m typing reminds me of somewhat more exciting times, ripping it up down the pub or at a gig. And suddenly the light from my laptop seems that much brighter.

And it’s not just restricted to designers, retailers can get in on the act too. Steffans of Northampton is a great example. A true Mod rocker, owner Steff lives his brand, and if I was going shopping in the area there’s nobody I’d rather by from, because by buying from Steffans, I’m buying into a bit of the lifestyle. In my own mind my edgy credibility is that much improved by buying from his shop, fuelled by his enthusiasm, than buying the exact same piece from a high street chain.

It’s a serious commitment to live your life as a brand, but pull it off and your customers will want to live it with you. If only through buying a piece of jewellery from you.

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