Why giving away your jewelry for FREE to Celebs is NOT all it’s cracked up to be.

Author: Tracy

A couple of days ago, I was asked by a designer a very loaded question. Well, I am not even sure if it was a question, more of a predicament she was in. She was chatting with a business coach who was advising her to give her jewelry away to one of his prominent friends. The logic behind this freebie was that she was a prominent figure in her community and could “possibly” drive business to the designer down the road in exchange for a free custom piece of jewelry…

As I was reading the email, I could really sense her hesitation. I started to cringe as I read it, because I remember the days of starting out and even after years of being in business, but facing the same predicament. I know, I know! The question of giving away freebies is always a loaded one. Conversely, the answer is not always crystal clear (everyone you talk to will have a different answer).

In my first business, stylists and PR reps often approached me about giving jewelry away for free. In giving away work for free, my initial thought was that it would be seen on a celeb or someone prominent and the trickle down effect would begin. The hope was that people would bum rush my website inquiring about what they had seen and I would be rolling in the dough from the onslaught of sales. Unfortunately, I can honestly say that “this” was never the case. HMPF…I know!

With all of this being said, we are left with the question: “When you are just starting out, is giving away your jewelry to a celebrity for FREE a good idea?” Since answer is not a simple one, I decided to break it down a bit below.

Donating a bulk amount of items to celebrity swag bags for event gifting suites

Perception: A celeb (or lots of them) will receive your jewelry, love it and wear it.

Reality: Usually, participation in the events is costly. I remember getting pitches for swag bags where the requirement was an investment of a minimum of $5000 plus 250 pieces of jewelry. A designer just starting out can’t afford that and it’s a really poor use of your precious cash flow.

When to do it: ONLY if you have excessive profits, you are growing your brand and the financial and product investment is no skin off your back. I say this because most of the brands that donate to swag bags and gifting suits are HUGE brands. For most designers, probably never.

When to avoid it: Probably always.

Benefit: None especially when you are just starting out.

Donation to an event gift bag

Perception: Lots of people will receive your piece of jewelry and become a dedicated “paying” fan of your work for life.

Reality: think about the last time you received a gift bag. What did you do with the items in it? Sometimes you used the self-tanner or the lip-gloss. If you got a piece of jewelry, maybe you would wear it, but did you go buy more jewelry from that brand because of it? Therefore, on one side you can argue that you are getting a lot of exposure. However, how important is mass exposure if it isn’t translating into sales down the road?

When to do it: Personally, I did participate in events like this when I had a lot of extra samples that I needed to unload. I could write off the donation. Another case when I see this being OK is if you are donating to a specific event in which you will have a captive audience. For instance, my friend at Blooming Lotus Jewelry donated a bunch of mala stack bracelets to the wanderlust festival. The community is her target audience and will be wearing those bracelets. Warning: I wouldn’t expect a rush of new business because of this. People who get stuff for free just like free stuff.

When to avoid it: Probably in most cases, always.

Benefit: Limited and subject to cases where you have a direct captive audience.

Sending merchandise directly to a celebrity or prominent person

Perception: The celeb will receive the piece, love it, wear it every day and talk about how wonderful your work is in front of every media outlet there is.

Reality: Celebs get free shiz all the time. Most of it lands in the closets of their assistants, gets donated to charity, or gets thrown in the trash. Ouch!

When to do it: I would only recommend this if you have a personal relationship with celebrity or their handler and they can actually get your work to the intended person.

When to avoid: Any time you do not have a direct connection to the celeb or their handler. It’s just a waste of your precious resources.

Benefit: Limited unless you have a direct line to the intended receiver.

David Cook, American Idol Winner, Wearing TMD Men’s Necklace

Sending merchandise to a TV show or Movie Stylist

Perception: Your work will be featured on the big/small screen and you will have a trillion raving fans clamoring for your work.

Reality: if you have a relationship with the stylist and/or they are willing to purchase the merchandise from you, this is a win-win. I actually had a lot of success with this from a PR standpoint. Ideally, you work with stylists who are willing to purchase your merchandise for the show/movie that they are working on. The wardrobe departments have budgets, which is awesome. The stylist might buy directly from you or from a store that carries your work. I also had a great relationship with certain stylists who I gave work too. Because I had developed a working relationship with them, they were grateful that I sent free product and it was featured over and over on the shows increasing my exposure.

When to do this: Once you have a relationship with a stylist or wardrobe person on a movie or TV show.

When to avoid: Any time you do not have a relationship with a stylist or a wardrobe person on a movie or a TV show.

Benefit: Great for exposure especially if you are working with someone who is committed to getting your work seen (and paying for it).

Hope Davis wearing TM gold and black diamond necklace at the Tribeca Film Festival

Working on a loan basis with a stylist or PR person

Perception: Loan your pieces to a stylist and they get it on their clients. Once the pieces are worn, your work is returned (or you have the option to gift it if they are photographed in it).

Reality: This is my favorite way to work and I had a lot of success here. By developing a relationship with a stylist, they remember you and will continue to call your work in. I have had several of my pieces worn and photographed on celebrities using this method. Once the pieces are called in, anything that is not used is returned. The pieces that are used are returned after they are worn in some cases. However, often times I never saw them again. In a few cases, the celeb purchased the piece from me or I decided to gift it to them.

When to do it: Anytime you have the opportunity.

When to avoid: When loaning/gifting merchandise will put you in financial hardship.

Benefit: If you have a collection that the stylist adores, you have pretty good chances that your pieces will be seen. It is hit or miss so sometimes it takes a little persistence.

At the end of the day the purpose for giving away anything for free is to create credibility and social proof. Therefore, if you go into a give away situation, you have to keep this in the back of your head and use it as a marketing expense.

The most important thing you should be working on before anything else is generating income and creating profit. Do a reality check and acknowledge where you are spending your time. Getting your work on celebs and prominent people is a great PR maneuver, but you must remember that you are in a business to make money by selling your work.

Act on this: I want to hear your thoughts? What is your perception about giving away jewelry “SWAG” to Celebs? Have you had success that translated into sales?

Bonus points: Tweet this and share this on Facebook.

Tweetables:

Do you think Giving Jewelry Freebies to Celebs is worth it? http://bit.ly/OyaHkV via @Flourish_Thrive + @tracymatthewsny

Swag + Celebs: Will it make your #jewelry business money? http://bit.ly/OyaHkV via @Flourish_Thrive + @tracymatthewsny

#JewelryDesigners do you give away your jewelry to Celebs for FREE? Join the Convo via @Flourish_Thrive + @tracymatthewsny http://bit.ly/OyaHkV

Facebook:

Check out this post from my friend Tracy Willard Matthews via Flourish & Thrive Academy-Why giving away your jewelry for FREE to Celebs is NOT all it’s cracked up to be. http://bit.ly/OyaHkV

Know you have she has me thinking….I just read this post via my friend Tracy Willard Matthews from Flourish & Thrive Academy. If you are a jewelry designer, check this interesting article about profits vs. celeb freebies. http://bit.ly/OyaHkV

22 Comments

  1. Shannon C on July 11, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    Great article! Thank you so much for this valuable info. I was wondering if the gifting groups were worth it. Now my only questions are how can i find out more about pr agents and tv people and question 2 how can i work with you guys????

    • Tracy Matthews on July 11, 2012 at 10:40 pm

      Hi Shannon,

      Great questions! I will have to write a blog post about it. 🙂

      We are offering private coaching as well as a group program that is launching in October. Sign up for our list (and get some great sales and marketing tips).

      Get on the list and you will hear more from Robin and I very soon.

      My Best, Tracy

  2. Veruschka Stevens on July 12, 2012 at 10:51 am

    EXCELLENT blog post, Tracy! It seems that the very basic principle of “building genuine relationships”, either with our customers, or a connection to a celebrity, or a stylist, or vendors, partners, etc; is what makes “magic happen” for our businesses to flourish. It comes down to “connecting” as people. So simple, but true. It’s a muscle I am absolutely committed to further developing in me.
    Awesome! Thanks for this great “knowledge – brunch” on this Thursday morning!

    • Tracy Matthews on July 12, 2012 at 11:00 am

      Thanks Veruschka,

      I am excited that you are building your muscles with us :)!

      Thanks for your comment!

      xo,Tracy

  3. Ruth on July 12, 2012 at 10:52 am

    Great topic! Such valuable insights, especially for the new Jeweler just starting out. It’s something I’ve wondered about before and in one foul swoop you have just answered all my questions, so thank you!!

  4. Tracy Matthews on July 12, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Ruth, thanks for the comments! So great to hear that this post will help you out as a new designer.

    xo, Tracy

  5. Andrea on July 12, 2012 at 11:22 am

    I wondered about this. Thanks Tracy for this post, it really clarifies how best to approach this aspect of PR for jewelry designers.

    • Tracy Matthews on July 12, 2012 at 11:25 am

      Andrea thanks for commenting. It is a really ambiguous subject and this is totally my opinion. I just think when you are just starting out, it’s too costly to make poor give away choices.

  6. Eilish Bouchier on July 12, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    Tracy
    Great practical post and my experience concurs exactly. So good to hear it from another more established designer. Look forward to the course x Eilish

    • Tracy Matthews on July 13, 2012 at 11:31 am

      Thanks Eilish! I am excited to get things going and greatly appreciate your support!!

  7. Vanessa Vinos on July 13, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    Fabulous article Tracy and SO helpful, as many of the perceptions you highlighted were exactly what I had (wrongly so!)

    • Tracy Matthews on July 15, 2012 at 9:33 pm

      Vanessa, I know! I had a lot of misconceptions too! Getting your work on celebs is great if done via the correct methods. Thanks for commenting. Tracy

  8. Sheridan Kennedy on July 16, 2012 at 9:09 am

    Hi Tracy, thanks for breaking it down so clearly. Someone advised me to do this a while back and it didn’t make a lot of sense to me to give something to a celebrity cos u never know if they are going to like it; and there’s every chance it is a waste of resources. Going through a stylist on the other hand makes much more sense then just popping it in the post!

  9. Nancy Troske on July 26, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    It’s nice to hear my thoughts on this put into words so succinctly! Everthing you said about this makes perfect sense.

  10. cheap Wedding Veils on July 29, 2012 at 2:05 am

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  11. Crystallized Gems on May 21, 2013 at 11:27 pm

    Tracy-Thanks for the article! Seems like everyone says freebies are the way to go, and as a starving artist, I fell for that one, too. It was about 19 years ago when I was a porcelain sculptor. Hunter Tylo came to a local mall, I met her and her husband, had our picture taken and I gave her one of my most beautiful handcarved vases (in hopes it would land on the set of her Bold and the Beautiful soap). I even mentioned it to her. What do you know–it didn’t appear anywhere! Not going to do this with my jewelry line–that’s for sure. Thanks again for your candor! BTW, have a look at my creations! Amy

  12. Flower Delivery Malaysia on August 29, 2013 at 6:25 pm

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  13. Wedding Dresses Malaysia on November 7, 2013 at 6:43 am

    Hey Tracy thanks for sharing this valuable information with us. I have huge collection of jewellery’s and sometimes I was thinking that how can I sell these items in the market. After going through your post I think it will help me to make worth of my collections. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Quora on October 15, 2015 at 8:16 pm

    How can I reach higher level of brand awareness with low budget? My company is a Germany based start-up in the luxury and fine jewelry field.

    “Simple” answer – get on the radar of high net worth individuals. These folks are fickle with social and traditional media. When hunting big game, pack for it. With a limited budget you still need to deliver the goods. Offering shoddy goods or poor p…

  15. Christie on April 24, 2017 at 6:38 am

    Great article!!! I am a new jewelry designer and am struggling with finding good marketing ideas that do not cost tons of money. I am currently running a Facebook ad but no sales yet. Will keep chipping away!

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