Lori Bonn

From Brand to Icon

June 21, 2005

Case categories include: Marketing   Sales   

By Robert Sher
As she entered the beautifully forested QVC Studio Park grounds, Lori wanted to shout for joy.  The dream of sharing her passion with millions of women nationwide was drawing closer, and her jewelry business would sell many thousands of units in one amazing hour on April 13, 2005.  And it had been just over two years after her firm shifted to iconic branding.

Lori Bonn Design is named after its founder and designer, Lori Bonn Gallagher.  They produce women's jewelry for the mid-market, focusing on sterling silver with semi-precious stones.  After 12 years running the company, Lori brought in her husband, Bill Gallagher, as CEO, and she moved to focus on design and being the public face of the company.  Facing stronger price pressure all the time, they now looked together for ways to increase their brand value to help offset the downward price pressure.

Lori also began to get personally involved in inspiring women like herself to follow their hearts and fulfill their dreams.  Putting the need for greater brand equity together with Lori's personal goal of helping empower women, they embarked on a brand strategy that prominently featured Lori and her values.

Founder is like her demographic target market
They paid for a top quality photo shoot in January, 2003, then steadily spread the imagery and message throughout their marketing collateral, including hang tags, website, mailers, and the catalog cover. Lori is personally very much like her target consumer, so they can relate to Lori well, and find her message of living richly and fully as inspirational and genuine.

A story about Lori and her message was written and refined.  Her website allowed any consumer to contact Lori, and Lori replied to each one.  When Lori would travel to trunk shows to make personal appearances, more effort was made to have her appearance be special and personal.  Meetings with key buyers were done in more upscale settings, and the trade show booth was updated to reflect Lori's lifestyle and the feeling of each new collection.

As the new brand took effect, they were able to focus on the things they did best.  The new focus and brand presentation has created the expectation of success and sales meetings are more positive and productive. After two years, nearly 3,000 collectors have placed their names in the website's mailing list.

A year after the iconic branding campaign was started, they called QVC, and the key buyer at QVC already knew the brand and was eager to proceed.  The show on April 13th was successful and QVC is already planning the next appearances.

Anyone that has run both a startup and an industry-leading company knows the incredible difference it makes when the prospect already knows, respects, and likes the company.  That’s the advantage of a brand.  Iconic branding takes it one step further, particularly when the target is individual consumers.

Buyers buy on emotion
Buyers make purchasing decisions on emotion.  Yes, they do review features and benefits, but if they feel good, they’ll find reasons that show it’s a good decision.  So once we move beyond offering the right product or service, we have to make them feel good about us.

Without doubt, people can have feelings about companies.  But buyers can have much stronger, more motivating feelings about a person – a fellow human being.  Think about it.  How much interest and emotion is tied up with stars – movie stars, sports stars and political leaders?  These famous people can engender heart-pumping, foot-stomping, yelling and screaming kind of emotion. You rarely see that happen in response to corporations.

With iconic branding, you present to your target market a human being, tied to your company, that creates some of the emotional bonding typically targeted toward famous people.  When creating and maintaining an iconic brand, remember to tell stories about the icon.  The stories will tap into the reader’s imagination, and a relationship of sorts is formed.  It becomes much more personal.  And personal relationships engender more loyalty to the icon and his or her company.

Iconic branding works in part because the human face conveys messages amazingly well, and faces are memorable.  What’s more, when the icon appears in person, everyone present feels extra special. 

A full bodied content rich relationship.
Iconic branding isn’t just about a pretty face.  It’s about a full-bodied relationship with content.  So the message that the icon represents must be stated repeatedly and consistently.  And that message won’t be, “please buy my products.”  It’ll focus on helping and supporting the recipient.

Consider also your firm’s exit strategy.  If you plan to sell in five years and move to Tahiti, it will take some work and expense to either license your identity or detach yourself from the established brand.  But often, for small businesses trying to get a foothold, the short-term value of iconic branding far outweigh the downside years later in a liquidation event.

If you might be the icon, realize that a public role can be draining.  And as an icon that is being watched, you’ll really have to walk your talk.  Getting caught on the wrong side of the law or doing activities that are embarrassing can hurt the business.  Of course, death or disability of the icon is a risk, too.  Also, be really sure that becoming the icon isn’t about your own ego.  The world easily recognizes the “all about me” personality, and it never helps the business.

When I learned about Lori Bonn’s upcoming debut on QVC, I wanted to be excited about her opportunity to deliver her message to millions of women. But to tell the truth, I was excited about the sales potential for her in that one hour.  It’s just the CEO in me.

• The most powerful relationships are person to person.
• If your company’s leader or founder can identify with the target consumers, step up to iconic branding.
• Develop channels of communication to each consumer.
Robert Sher is principal of CEO to CEO, specializing in assisting CEOs and business leaders as they navigate critical passages.  He is the author of The Feel of the Deal; How I Built a Business through Acquisitions.  He may be reached at Robert@ceotoceo.biz.

Company and Case Facts:

Company: Lori Bonn Design, Inc.
Person: Bill Gallagher, CEO
Alliance Member since: 1999
Business Founded: 1991
Annual Sales Volume: $3 million in 2005
Growth Rate: 19% (2004 to 2005)
Head Count: 12
Service: Sterling silver jewelry with semi-precious stones
Typical Customer: Women (25-65), sold through department stores, catalogs, boutiques, QVC and Web.
Written: April, 2005
Address: Lori Bonn Design, Inc., 114 Linden St., Oakland, CA 94607  
E-mail: info@loribonn.com
Phone: 510-286-8181