Described as resourceful and ambitious, Blessy Urbi, Owner of GentStone, a luxury jewelry brand in Vancouver, started her own business to have a legacy she could leave behind and financial independence. Blessy not only balances her own business but works as a Senior Administrative Assistant at CIBC Mellon while also attending Douglas College to finish her degree in financial services management.
With a passion for jewelry and a realization that she could express her creativity without the bounds of a corporate life, she developed a product that makes the world a better place and changes the way people think. Blessy handcrafts men and women’s jewelry using semi-precious stones, precious metals and cubic zirconia. GentStone focuses on self-betterment through lithotherapy and self-expression. “I bring value to my clients by conveying the healing properties of each stone such as black onyx which repels negative energy and fortifies self-determination,” she explains.
GentStone started as an ecommerce website but Blessy’s products are now being sold at four retail stores in British Columbia. GentStone also has multiple brand ambassadors from all over North America that promote their products on Instagram.
Although Blessy has seen growth she also has been facing a challenge, just like many entrepreneurs do while building a business. When she started GentStone she was certain that it would be successful because of the extensive market research she conducted on jewelry. She took that research and based her brand on what other successful companies were doing, but she forgot about one important thing—differentiating herself.
“People would ask me what made me different and why they should buy from me which made me realize I was lacking brand identity,” she shared. “It took me almost a year to figure this out and I had to go back on ‘why’ I started my business.” Blessy knew she wanted to convey lithotherapy and the healing properties of the stone that she uses in her jewelry pieces but she hasn’t figured out how she can turn that into a competitive advantage and how to visually advertise her products to her target market.
We wanted to help Blessy, so we reached out to some of our friends and experts to share their insights with her around the challenge she is currently facing. Here is what they had to say…
David Brouitt is the Creative Director of Ramp Communications Inc., a full-service marketing and communications agency based out of Toronto.
When approaching a branding exercise, we always ask a very fundamental question: What business are you in?
In the case of GentStone, the temptation might be to answer that by simply saying: “selling modern fashionable jewelry”. But what you have actually identified is that you are in the business of marketing the healing properties of the jewelry you sell. This refined answer goes a long way in informing what your brand needs to be about. For example, it will help define the visual look and feel of the brand (perhaps earth tones and soft edges versus sleek and modern).
The current tone of the brand does not convey the spirit of the business you are in, which is healing. The combination of the name GentStone, the cool, sleek design of the logo, and accompanying dominant, dark images on the website, while pleasing and contemporary, reflect a different lifestyle than the products you are selling. (Images that are more on brand might be the isolated images of the jewelry in warmer settings like on rocks outside, or against woodgrain which appear on your Facebook page). In terms of models used, the woman on the website strikes a closer match to where the brand could go, than the man in the car in the cover photo.
You also need to give your customer reasons to believe. Are there testimonials or other evidence you can draw on to support the idea that the raw materials that are used in the manufacturing of the jewelry restore balance to the body or have other healing qualities? (This may be more or less important depending on who you target your marketing to. For example, if you are advertising in magazines whose editorial content is about this kind of healing, the readers will already be aligned).
If lithotherapy is your point of difference, build a brand that looks and feels warm and nurturing and then shout it from the roof tops! Make it front and centre on your website and message number one on all of your other promotional materials.
Aman Dhanoa is the Marketing Manager at Futurpreneur Canada, a non-profit organization that helps young people start businesses.
Realizing that you need to re-evaluate your brand can be a sobering process. This could take a hit to the ego and result in a lot of questions. But the fact that you were able to go back and ask yourself the key question of “why I started” should be commended. A big decision like making a pivot such as this for any business takes courage but becoming aware is just half the battle. To determine which direction to take your brand you need to look at what differentiates you from your competitors. Simply put – what makes you stand out from the crowd?
Since you have identified lithotherapy and healing properties – these benefits should be in all of your messaging and be consistent with the look and feel you want to create with the brand (name, logo, colours, design, etc.). This will build your brand identity and easily identify you in the market.
The next step is to research and get to know your target market:
- Do you have a good sense of who your customer currently is?
- Is this who I really want to target?
- Who is your ideal customer?
- Are there other opportunities I may be missing?
Let that inform your decision on whether you need to target a different age group or whether you need to move towards being more gender-neutral, for example. When it comes to advertising, think about ways you can visually tell a story about your products.
Once you have figured this out then it’s important to stay consistent to your brand identity and messaging. The name GentStone and the majority of you images imply that your target audience are men but your mission says “men’s and women’s jewelry”. Pay attention to the small details and ensuring everything fits together in harmony, not unlike the luxury jewelry you craft.
Jeremy Choi is the CEO and Co-Founder of WPUP, a support management company for WordPress websites based in Toronto.
What seems like a competitive advantage sometimes is not. I would challenge you to reach out to all of your customers and ask them why they purchased from your website over the competitors. At WPUP, when we created advertisements and products, we were so sure everyone cared about security, but after throwing in thousands of dollars, we found out people cared very little. This was incredibly valuable information to have.
However, if you do find out that what you stated above is your true competitive advantage in the market, then focus on the results of what these healing properties really create and make that the message. We find that people care about the end results of what they will get, versus the features of a product. Once you’ve established that, find a designer/agency if you can’t create it yourself and surround yourself with professionals who understand your advantage(s) and can help you create the image and brand for you.
Alex Glassey is President of AlexGlassy.com and teaches entrepreneurs develop into successful business owners.
Two fatal mistakes in branding are that we think about ourselves (e.g. our products and services) or our competitors but our target customer doesn’t care about either one so our messages are uninspiring, undifferentiated, boring and just meh. Instead, think about what your customer wants to experience. For example: She’s in pain. Where does it hurt? Why does it hurt? How would she prefer to feel? What would she be able to do when she’s pain free that she can’t do now? Put yourself in her shoes and vividly imagine her experience from pain to relief, and the freedom and happiness that come with it.
NOW you can start thinking about how to visually communicate this. Think emotionally and of aspirations. Use colour, shapes, images and words that evoke the experience and the feelings your customer is seeking. By doing this, by putting your customer at the centre of your branding exercise, your results will be much more compelling and differentiated.
If you have advice for GentStone around this topic, tweet Blessy at @GentStone.