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Best of the Best: The Jeweler Everyone Loves To Hate

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[h3]Steven Singer Jewelers; Philadelphia, PA[/h3]

Best of the Best Logo[dropcap cap=I]n “The City of Brotherly Love”, Steven Singer Jewelers is getting attention for a promotional campaign that goes about as far away from love as you can possibly get. The subject of the campaign: hate.

Launched in 2003, the million-dollar-plus “I Hate Steven Singer!” promotional campaign from the Philadelphia jeweler takes many forms — including gigantic banners outside the store, billboards, a popular local t-shirt, a weekly online contest, as well as a series of funny radio spots. All hammer home the message that customers hate Steven Singer … because they just can’t stop buying his jewelry.

The campaign has been successful creatively, with Singer’s radio ads earning two Philadelphia Ad Club awards in 2003. But more importantly, it’s been successful in generating sales — with Singer’s revenues increasing 18 percent in 2003, and another nine percent so far this year.

Best of all, the campaign matches perfectly with the spirit of Singer’s store. Says the owner: “We like to have fun selling jewelry. That’s our tagline, ‘Steven Singer Jewelers, the most fun you’ll have buying a diamond.’ ”[/dropcap]

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Best of the Best: The Jeweler Everyone Loves to Hate

[h4]For this edition of “Best of the Best”, Instore talked with Singer about his attention-getting promotional campaign:[/h4]

Tell how the campaign got its start.

Twenty years ago, a man bought an engagement ring for his wife. After that, he never bought her another piece of jewelry. As the wife’s 40th birthday drew near, she dropped many hints for more jewelry. So, the husband responded with a beautiful diamond ring from our store and threw her a surprise birthday party. The wife’s response to the birthday gift and party was overwhelming. So overwhelming that nine months later the couple was in the store with word of a new baby! The wife said she very pleased with her jewelry, and said “I love Steven Singer Jewelers!” The husband’s less-than-enthusiastic (but still humorous) response was “I hate Steven Singer! We’re up all hours with midnight feedings and diaper changes”. Keep in mind that the couple is in their 40’s and have two children already that are nearly adults. That’s how the campaign got started.  
How was the campaign received at first?

Actually, we’re quite surprised by the overwhelmingly positive reaction. The initial response has been really amazing — better than previous campaigns we’ve done. We’re a corner store with huge 14’ x 20’ “Hate” campaign banners on the outside. Quite a few people have walked in to the store laughing saying how funny the campaign is. Ironically, it has lead to a ton of sales. The reaction has been very good. When people come in to the store and buy a diamond we say “welcome to the club … now you’re going to hate Steven Singer.”  

Is there a favorite reaction to the campaign?

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One response to our weekly gift certificate contest was “My wife spends more time with Steven Singer than she does with me” — that was a good one. And, a girl modified her father’s “I Hate Steven Singer” t-shirt to read “My Dad Hates Steven Singer”. We’ve been in business for nearly three decades and even have customers trying to one-up the other, “I’ve hated Steven Singer for 15 years, …” or “Well I’ve hated Steven Singer for 20 years, …”.  

The campaign is intentionally cryptic — the words “I Hate Steven Singer” and nothing else. No address, no anything. How do people find you? When I was young and IKEA, a Swedish home furnishings company, was entering the US market, their ads made a real impression on me. The billboards showed a picture of an eye, a key and the word “uh”. No one knew what it was all about. As the campaign progressed then we knew — IKEA. That billboard always stuck with me so when the “Hate” campaign got its start I wanted to keep it simple with just a white graffiti-type font on a black background. It just says “I Hate Steven Singer.” No mention of being a jeweler or our products, just the “I Hate” message — that’s it. In the first week [after the promotion was launched], we must have received about 30 to 50 phone calls. People called just to find out what was going on. Some thought it was a smear campaign against me … and were wondering what I’d done. As the campaign caught on, things got so hectic we had to install a voice response system to handle all the incoming calls. Of course, the voice response system message starts with a bit on the “Hate” campaign so callers would know it’s our latest promotion.  

Radio dominates the campaign. Can you give me an idea of a typical radio spot?

What type of stations are you promoting on? Our main spot is a 60-second radio commercial that’s based on the actual couple’s experience that got the whole campaign started. The radio spot voice over starts out with a dull, down monotone voice, kind of like comedian Steven Wright. (The anchor at the radio station does our voice-over and he’s great.) As the commercial goes on, the anchor’s voice picks up as he talks about Steven Singer Jewelers and the goods we sell, then you hear a baby crying in the background. Then he returns to saying “I Hate Steven Singer” in that down voice again.The 10-second spots are just quick ones that mention the “Hate” line and that people can find out why on the corner of 8th and Walnut. We’re one of the biggest single advertisers for [controversial radio disc jockey] Howard Stern’s show. We’re in the process of negotiating him to do a voice over for the “Hate” campaign radio spots.  

Tell us more about the signature t-shirts and buttons.

When the campaign started, we ordered a gross of t-shirts [144 units]. We thought they would last a long time, perhaps a few months. The first gross was gone in less than a week. At first we were only handing them out to paying customers. But the response was so overwhelming that people were coming in all the time asking for one. Or, getting one and asking for a larger size. I kind of grumbled at first about the per unit cost of letting so many t-shirts go for free, but when I thought of it in terms of the overall $1 million budget for the campaign the per unit cost was easier to take. To date we’ve ordered about 15 gross of t-shirts. My son plays in the Township League. At one of his basketball games I saw three people wearing my t-shirts.We ordered about five to seven gross of the buttons and they’re moving well. Now we pin a “Hate” button on the ribbon of each gift-wrapped item of jewelry sold in our store.  

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Do family members ever wear the “Hate” t-shirts to show you, not so subtly, that you’ve been a bad dad or husband?

No family member is allowed to wear a “Hate” t-shirt. But my wife is the original member of the “I Hate Steven Singer” club.

[span class=note]This story is from the June 2003 edition of INSTORE[/span]

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