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Best of The Best: A Brave World Title Attempt

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THE IDEA

From time to time, Stephenie Bjorkman had considered hosting a marriage vow-renewal ceremony in her store, Sami Fine Jewelry, for Valentine’s Day, but hadn’t made any firm plans. Then, around Christmas 2012, while surfing on Facebook, she found a flash-mob video shot at a mall in which hundreds of people all began singing at once. It made her think bigger. She decided to plan a community-wide event for Valentine’s 2013. She hoped for an event so big, in fact, that it would break a Guinness World Record of 1,088 couples set in 2009 in Ohio.

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THE EXECUTION

“From that point on, we planned the sucker between Christmas and Valentine’s,” Bjorkman says. “I called my minister and my mom (Sami Jack, the store’s namesake and founder) and we went to lunch to talk about it. My minister was totally in.” It didn’t hurt that Bjorkman’s minister is well known. The Rev. Larry James is also a relationship coach and author of the book Love the One You’re With, which was featured on The View.

After brainstorming with James and her mother, Bjorkman quickly got to work.

She recruited a florist, DJ and photographer and called the town of Fountain Hills to ask about using Fountain Hills Park, a favorite spot for local weddings for the event. Surprisingly, it had not yet been booked and the city agreed to donate the use of the park.

Because Sami Fine Jewelry had come to the rescue of the local casino with last-minute Christmas gifts for top customers, casino management was happy to help, too, by hosting an after-party with gambling coupons, appetizers, cake and a champagne toast.

“Marketing that should have taken six months, we did in six weeks,” Bjorkman says. “We used direct mail and newspaper as well as (free) TV. I hired someone to go to the bridal show and hand out fliers — not to the brides — but to their moms, maids of honor and friends.”

Most important for branding, Bjorkman kept control of the event. Because it was called Sami’s Love in the Hills, it was clear who the main organizer was. “I could make all the rules,” she says. She invited other local companies to participate, but they couldn’t buy their way in. They needed to donate their time, or an employee’s time. “I told them that on Valentine’s Day, they and their staff need to wear purple shirts that say, Sami’s Love in the Hills with the website on it, tell their customers about it and volunteer their time with registration.”

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Businesses that wanted to put a gift item, coupon or flier in the event gift bags also needed to help stuff those gift bags. So, 30 people were on hand to stuff bags, easing the workload for Bjorkman and her staff.

All participants received a $50 certificate from the casino, and gift certificates from the florist and Sami’s.

Sami Fine Jewelry also gave out gift baskets for the couple who drove the farthest (160 miles), the couple who flew the farthest (from Holland), the youngest couple and the couple who were married the longest (72 years!), as well as the winner of a drawing. The winners received three nights at the Radisson, a huge bouquet, a portrait session and a relationship-coaching seminar from the minister.

Even the mayor of Fountain Hills and her husband renewed their vows.

THE REWARDS

“This was the coolest thing happening in Arizona, so it was pretty easy to get coverage,” Bjorkman says.

A local news helicopter flew over the event, as if it were stalking a celebrity wedding.

Local news anchors wore Sami Fine Jewelry pieces during promo segments for the event.

As a result of all that, Stephenie developed closer relationships with many members of the local media.

Sami Fine Jewelry also designed wedding bands (starting at $150) to commemorate the event. “We didn’t sell a ton of bands,” Bjorkman says. “It didn’t pay for the event. But what it did do was just this week I had a customer come in, talking about the event and walking out with a $7,000 ring. This is the type of goodwill event that you see results from all year. I could never advertise enough to get the goodwill that we generated.”

“When people sent thank-yous, they sent them to me. I’ve never done an event and had people be so incredibly grateful.

“The coolest thing for me after the event was that my Facebook page was on fire. If you have 1,500 people who attended your event and at least took one picture, all of their friends are going to see it and comment on it. More people are talking about the page now.

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In all, 762 couples renewed their vows, but Bjorkman is hopeful about Valentine’s Day 2014. As Valentine’s Day edges closer to the weekend, she believes more people will be able to participate. In fact, she’s vowing to crush that record this year.

Here’s a sample of a thank-you email that Bjorkman received regarding the event.

“We cannot thank you & Sami’s enough. We attended the ‘Love In The Hills’ yesterday and we had a wonderful time. Everything about it was great!! The weather, the atmosphere, the people and the ceremony. All of our stuff in the goody bag is great. I am sure we will be using most of it. Valentine’s Day is our anniversary, we were married here in Fountain Hills and it was fun to celebrate with so many people. We went to the Fort (casino) afterward and we had appetizers and cake and then proceeded to play the slots. I won $118 on my first try with only $10 of the Fort’s money.”

DO IT YOURSELF

Hire PR help.

To be considered by Guinness to break a record, Bjorkman learned, she would need to apply 12 weeks ahead of time. There are other rules to follow, too, with which she will be more familiar next time, including restricting access to the area and making sure everyone can produce proof of their marriage.

“If you put it on, there has to be a bossy in-charge decision maker,” she says. “And you have to be organized and a little OCD.”

“You have to do social media. You can’t just have a page with 200 friends. You have to live your social media.”

Plan it as giving something back, and the rewards will follow.

Eileen McClelland is the Managing Editor of INSTORE. She believes that every jewelry store has the power of cool within them.

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