It's not about the coffee. It never was. Here, Santy's Head of Production Bret Koehler explores the inner workings of creating perceived value through a mindset of "more than."

  • Bret Koehler
  • Head of Production

Coffee & Diamonds: How a Philosophy of “More Than” Adds Value to Your Brand

Everyone knows advertising sells. But have you ever considered that good marketing actually makes a product worth more? It does, in intangible ways, like how consumers “feel” about the product, and believe it or not, it also adds value in tangible ways…numbers you can actually measure.

Make that a double-shot of socializing

“Meet Me at Starbucks” was the first-ever brand campaign from Starbucks launched in 2014. It declared in a not-so-subtle way that Starbucks is more than just a coffee company, it’s the center of your social universe. The campaign kicked off with a mini-documentary shot in 28 different countries, opening with this text: “Every day around the world, millions of people gather at Starbucks, but it’s never been just about the coffee.” Translation? The experience of Starbucks – the special moments that happen there – is unique. That experience has its own worth. It boils down to a simple formula: product + great advertising = total perceived value of the brand. That’s some really valuable coffee. Now in 2018, 75 million people visit Starbucks each month and 15 million are in the Rewards program according to Scott Maw, Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President at Starbucks.

Diamonds are for…Everyone?

One of the most notorious examples of adding perceived value is the diamond engagement ring. The idea of signifying your intentions with a ring is nothing new. In fact, it’s a concept as old as ancient Egypt, though those rings weren’t sporting diamonds. During the Victorian age, the super-rich adorned engagement rings with precious gems. A diamond, however, wasn’t compulsory; in fact any rare stone was perfectly acceptable. By the 1930s, the Great Depression had all but obliterated the value of diamonds. The idea of a diamond engagement ring was now considered impractical, “money down the drain,” better spent on a washing machine or a car. The ostentatiousness of it all had even become “uncool” with the younger generation.

Then came Frances Gerety and Dorothy Dignam, partners-in-crime at Philadelphia ad agency, N.W. Ayer. Their client, De Beers, had a virtual monopoly on the world’s diamond resources, but the market for selling those diamonds was shrinking. Gerety and Dignam were tasked with a daunting mission: “Create a situation where almost every person pledging marriage feels compelled to acquire a diamond engagement ring.”

Dignam, a publicist, immediately got to work making sure diamonds appeared on the elegant fingers of every Hollywood starlet, socialite and famous fiancée. Meanwhile Gerety, a copywriter, locked herself to her typewriter, hoping to conjure up the perfect combination of words to create an emotional connection between couples and diamonds.

After months of trial and error, Gerety claimed that one night, just before nodding off to sleep, she whispered, “Dear God, send me a line,” and the slogan of the century was born: A Diamond Is Forever. That legendary line – bolstered by the consistent message that the expense of a diamond is a really a pittance for something that lasts a lifetime – turned diamonds into a tradition, forever married to the ideals of marriage. Two years later, diamond sales had increased by 55% in the United States. And 60-some-odd years later, 75% of married women still wear a diamond engagement ring.

As advertising goes, it was a grand slam.

“More than” is now more possible than ever

Let’s be realistic here – not every product is a diamond, and not every marketing challenge presents an opportunity for the mythic success that the De Beers campaign enjoyed. But whatever the variables, the goal remains the same. As marketers, we should always look for ways to add value.

It may sound almost mundane, but for lack of something better, I call it the philosophy of “More Than.” That Starbucks coffee is more than coffee; it’s an unforgettable moment with friends. Your Toyota is most definitely “more than” a car. It’s an expression of personal freedom, a connection to your family that lives hours away. It’s your own personal karaoke machine as you glide down the highway crooning to Michael Jackson tunes.

Gerety and Dignam managed to add value with good ol’ ingenuity, creativity and traditional tools like PR and mass media. Today, “More Than” is more possible than ever. Digital solutions and social networks are the glue that helps us weave our message into the everyday conversations of consumers like never before. They make it easier for marketers to constantly remind consumers of what a brand does to make their lives better, both in real and in perceived ways. Social listening and other analytical tools also give us insights into what connects people emotionally to the brands we advocate. We are more in tune with what makes our customers tick than ever before.

Is your advertising creating value? Does the message truly connect in a way that gives your brand “more than”? If not, take time to assess your messaging and strategy. When you discover a way to add that little extra bit of value to your brand, you’ve succeeded.

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