Updated: Feb 15
Swarovski could share product DNA: how it was made, where and by whom
Swarovski could create a for-fee membership program
Swarovski could move the retail online and open invitation-only members’ clubs
Swarovski could offer a holistic and distinctive brand lifestyle, allowing participation at home, online and IRL
Swarovski CEO Robert Buchbauer wants to make the family-owned company more premium – exit the low margin wholesale business, offer fewer (but carefully curated) products – tailor-made to consumer tastes, and reduce its network of 3,000 stores.
Mr Buchbauer is new to the CEO seat, but not the business, having been with the company for some 25 years. The proposed changes seem considered and not a knee-jerk reaction on the current crisis.
COVID-19 has affected the whole industry, accelerating preceding trends. Swarovski revenue is expected to fall by a third and the management has announced 6,000 job cuts. The CEO’s answer on the vocal opposition of the wider family seems as true as it is blunt – the company has to change to survive.
Probably on the roadmap already – Swarovski could follow the shifting preferences and expectations of the modern consumer:
From staged narrative – to sincerity & transparency
From insatiable hunger – to meaningful consumption
From brand as a product – to brand as a feeling
Sincerity & transparency
Swarovski could compliment every product (of which there will be fewer) with a detailed history, focusing – instead of marketing verbiage – on how the piece came together, where it was made and by whom. Ideally, as detailed as location of factories and workshop live video feeds – to demonstrate how clean the supply chain is.
As transparency is the basic consumer right and not some gift brands may choose to magnanimously bestow upon humanity, all information would be easy to access and share in-app, at home. Post COVID, people may be less inclined to touch screens and spend half an hour learning about product in-store.
Swarovski could create a for-fee membership program and enter into direct dialogue with its new members to discuss what products they’d like to see produced. Chances are, there are categories even more pertinent to the modern consumer than crystal animals.
The conversations would also help identify ways of meaningful personalisation, whilst building relationships and promoting the brand through the exposure of Swarovski craftspeople – feeding word-of-mouth marketing.
Brand as a feeling
If Swarovski aimed to radically reposition the brand as a luxury one, the gangster move would be to dramatically reimagine the role of physical environments in the age of ubiquitous commerce.
If consumers could research and buy in-app, and the primary purpose of a brand environment was to strengthen loyalty through physical experience – wouldn’t we want an environment, members could visit regularly, rather than when they need a new piece of jewellery?
Swarovski could shut most of its stores, move the retail online (substantially enhanced by modern digital tools) and open a small network of members’ clubs.
The clubs would offer the usual amenities – places to relax, meet friends and work – as well as classes and performances of up-and-coming artists across the genres. The network would be brought together by streamed events, allowing cross-branch participation and dialogue.
The clubs would be expensive, but pay members back for active participation – for example, by offering the community lectures in the areas of their expertise. This would make the membership affordable to relevant individuals of different backgrounds and social strata.
Next level idea
The steps above would offer members access to an exciting, exclusive community and meaningful products, created by sophisticated craftspeople in a visibly ethical manner.
The idea: Swarovski could offer a holistic and distinctive brand lifestyle, inviting continuous participation at home, online and IRL.
Swarovski membership would come with monthly care packages. Not a promotional tool, rather a way to enrich members’ lives in line with brand values. The package could:
Be physical or digital
Contain a schedule of highly curated events to come
Offer leading products, tools and services across other industries relevant to members (e.g. easy-to-use VPN, or ad-free email account)
Swarovski could leverage Austria in general, and Austrian alps in particular, to create experiences worth visiting throughout the year. From spas and wellness to hiking and skiing – the brand’s natural background is powerful and versatile.
Swarovski could offer members ways to make the trip exciting and enriching – from sports classes and comfortable weekends in the wild – to celebrations of the local cuisine and rock concert weekends – sky’s the limit.
Sponsors of the world-famous Salzburg Festival, Swarovski could offer early tickets and exclusive experiences to members willing to fly over for the season.
Selected members could be invited to Vienna balls or similar events, perhaps enhanced with brand-relevant experiences, making the visit educational and memorable.
Recurring monthly revenue through membership
Consumer loyalty through engaged relationships
Consumer loyalty through utility – brand providing continuous value
Growth through bold positioning
Organic promotion though members’ own social media
In addition to standing out as a distinctive, bold, modern luxury brand, Swarovski would train members and the wider world that it stands for more than physical products. It may not lead to short-term changes in the company’s revenue model, but would exponentially expand the horizon for future growth.
Regardless of what Swarovski choose to do — one can’t help but admire the ambition of pushing the 125-year old brand up the scale, away from the formerly safe waters of the mainstream. If successful, it would make a rare and precious case study.