Diamond Shoes: Stuart Weitzman Marketing Genius

Weitzman being introduced at Mass Art for talk held April 2, 2019

What would you think if you saw a pair of shoes designed with one million dollars’ worth of diamonds walk across a stage? You might be clapping or oohing and awing, but if you were me, you’d thought what a great way to market to a younger group! Stuart Weitzman visited the Massachusetts College of Art & Design yesterday to give a talk about himself and his company. I want to look at a few topics dealing with Stuart Weitzman’s marketing strategy that can apply to all industries!

Weitzman’s beginnings

Weitzman talked about taking a more traditional path with plans to go to school and heading to Wall Street afterwards. A friend whose father owned a shoe manufacturing company saw Weitzman’s drawing skills (a hobby at the time) and encouraged him to draw some shoe designs to sell to his father. Weitzman was honest and detailed about his process, the designs he came up with were from researching the company he was trying to design for and thinking of what would appeal to the customer. The day arrived and Weitzman laid out his drawings for the friend’s father to judge. The father picked up one drawing and said, ‘Did you trace this?’. Weitzman could honestly say none of the drawings were copies and traced from another designer, these were all his. The man looked at the picture again tore it up, crumpled it and tossed it to the ground. He then took another drawing, turned it to its blank side and told Weitzman to draw that shoe again. Weitzman did and he was paid for 19 of the 20 drawings. The importance of originality was brought up after this, Weitzman estimated in his career, he had interviewed 15-20 designers and of those only 6 or 7 could replicate a design they had just presented to Weitzman from scratch.

Weitzman was an apprentice for several years and learned the ins and outs of the industry before starting his own business. This is when his true genius comes out, not in his designs but in Weitzman’s marketing strategy. He started by making custom shoes for celebrities. Weitzman had looked at department stores and saw how hard it would be to get his shoes some shelf space. Weitzman saw a need in the market for custom shoes for celebrities because most stylists focused on jewelry and dresses, celebrities at the time bought their shoes from department stores so it was not uncommon to see several celebrities with the same shoe. That all changed with Aretha Franklin the night she won the American Music Award in 1983. You can read more on it here. Look at that marketing! After that Weitzman was getting plenty of orders.

Publicity that got Weitzman into the celebrity designer market. Aretha Franklin pictured at AMA in 1983 with her designer shoes by Weitzman

Marketing to Celebrities

Then came 2005 and the hottest actress at the time was left for Angelina Jolie. For those that can remember the beginning of the Jen-Brad-Angelina drama. The divorce was not finalized until 2008 and Weitzman wanted his shoes on Jennifer Aniston. However, Aniston never shopped Weitzman’s store, so Weitzman found out the store she did shop at and collaborated with them to create a shoe for Jen. Jen liked it and the wedge espadrille was worn throughout the summer of 2009. Weitzman even got a two-page spread in People Magazine with Aniston’s many looks with the shoe in the early stages of the recession. This was all free advertising due to Weitzman’s marketing strategy.

Weitzman talks about the wedge he designed for a store that Jennifer Aniston shopped at

He did a similar strategy to get Kate Moss to model his shoes by working with Mario Testino to create an ad campaign.

Weitzman also noted how you can not overlook the marketing of smaller stars. Weitzman mentioned how a few years back his marketing team wanted him to stop making custom shoes for TV stars, but Weitzman did not see the harm in it. They may not have the star power of Kate Moss, but they did bring some visibility and you don’t know they could be a famous movie star one day. His belief paid off; the TV show that his company was working with was Suits, filmed in Canada and once had Meghan Markle, Prince Harry’s current wife. Markle frequently wears Weitzman’s shoes along with her sister-in-law Kate Middleton.

Weitzman talks about how he got Meghan Markle as a client

Creating buzz with an original idea

Stuart Weitzman wasn’t done winning over the crowd in the auditorium he then talked about creating a pair of million-dollar shoes for the Oscars in 2002, worn by Laura Harring. He could have got a bigger name at that time to wear his shoes, but he knew a less popular star up for an award would want to show off the shoes to get more attention. These shoes were created with one million dollars’ worth of diamonds and gained a lot of attention! The celebrity that helped promote the shoes the most was Joan Rivers! Weitzman recalls watching Rivers interview Angelina Jolie and interrupting their talk to see the diamond shoes on Harring! This was no surprise to me considering how much Joan loved jewelry!

Weitzman talking about actress wearing $1 million diamond shoes

The talk wasn’t over yet, Weitzman brings out a couple of pairs of shoes one being the diamond pair he just talked about to be modeled by a lady in the audience. 

Audience member modeling Weitzman Diamond Shoes

Final thoughts

Weitzman really seemed to enjoy speaking to the group and ran a little over but was happy to take questions. After he finished and I was heading back to my apartment I caught myself going to his online store. I realized how effective his talk was and knew I wasn’t alone. A girl near me asked her friends, “How did they get Stuart Weitzman?” Weitzman may have been doing the school a favor but after his talk I think he had things he could benefit from by giving the talk. Besides the free publicity, his company is probably looking for fresh talent and what a way to recruit than by giving a speech like he did with all the celebrities and glittery events! I imagine many of the students in that auditorium will be dreaming of employment at Stuart Weitzman. To me Stuart Weitzman is more than a shoe designer, he is a marketing genius!

If you are looking to improve your business and marketing strategy reach out to me, data.inthe.rough@gmail.com. I would love to help you build a better business with my many years of experience as an analyst and consultant. Thank you for reading and I hope you return soon! If you’re in the Boston area check out Boston Design week, this group helped sponsored the talk that I am able to share with you.

Why is the Jewelry Industry obsessed with one ring?

The wedding season maybe over for some but as you read this someone is looking for a ring for their significant other to propose marriage. A one time event that the jewelry industry focuses on. A little strange so many jewelers chase after one type of customer when there are other segments of consumers that may be a better fit to pursue. I talk about why there is this focus on the wedding industry and see what may need to come and shake up this long standing tradition for the jewelry industry.

It sounds strange coming from a jewelry blogger but here it goes, I don’t like looking at engagement rings. Solitaire, round, halo, or whatever, if it’s in the bridal section I tend to pass by without a second glance. It’s not that I lack an appreciation for the institution or romance. I love a good rom-com as much as the next person. I’ve even caught myself referencing scenes from iconic movies in my posts. I also love to see the rings of friends and read about celebrities’ engagements, but I don’t browse the bridal section on my own.

Could not pass up some Lord of the Rings references!

Recently I attended a wedding of a close friend. The ceremony was beautiful, the couple was happy, and the food was phenomenal, and it got me thinking why is it that so much emphasis is put on one ring? The ring my friend has is a gorgeous halo ring in white gold. It is a beautiful and costly ring, but it is only one ring and that is all you should need in theory. Yet everyone that I see in the jewelry industry has a bridal collection hoping to sell that one-time ring to a couple. Why is that? The simple reason I get is ‘most people get married’, ‘it is the bread and butter of the jewelry industry’. Many designers start out creating engagement rings for friends, so I see that argument. For the next few months I am going to be looking at the trends in weddings and engagement rings to see how much of this obsession is justified and if there are ways to look at this industry differently that can help you own business or brand.

Gollum isn’t the only one obsessed with a ring!

Wedding Industry is a Red Ocean

If you have taken a business strategy course or enjoy books on market strategy you may have come across a book titled Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim. If not, then I would recommend it. The core idea of the book is that a business can be faced with times where they enter an industry that is highly competitive or there is no competition but over time the competition enters, and you find your business struggling to differentiate itself from other similar businesses. If either is the case, you are in a red ocean. The opposite is a blue ocean where you have a unique product with little competition because your brand and product are so unique that few can compete with your way of doing business. You want to get to a blue ocean for your business.

What is it about it an engagement ring?

Or Is it?

An article came out today by JCK looking at reports of Amazon entering the fine jewelry industry with a line called For Keeps. It is another interesting read to see how the jewelry industry reacts to an outside company that is not a traditional jewelry company. You get statements about the need to create an experience versus Amazon’s more basic way of shopping. I think the jewelry industry needs this shake up. If Amazon enters the industry I hope more jewelers will start looking at data gathering and analysis more seriously. What does this have to do with the wedding industry? My guess is that by the name Amazon is trying to enter the wedding industry. Where could they find their blue ocean by doing what they do best. As I have been researching the wedding industry on statistic stood out to me in relation to the Amazon issue. The Engagement Ring Bible pulled some statistics from the Knot on 2017 engagement rings stating, ‘Grooms spend an average of 3.5 months looking for the perfect engagement ring and will look at 26 different rings before purchase’. My follow ups are how much of that is online? I know it would be much easier to compare brands, styles, prices etc. in one place. Know a place online like that for other items? I thought so. I’ll be watching to see if Amazon does launch a collection, right now there is nothing official from the company

Found this online and it was too good to pass up! Expect to see this again as I follow up on Amazon’s possible entry into the jewelry industry.

What’s Next

I will not only look at wedding statistics but also trends and topics for discussion such as traditions and the changes affecting this institution. Please send me an email or leave a comment if there is something that you would be interested in learning more about on this subject. Also prepare for a few more Lord of the Rings references! If weddings aren’t your thing, I’ll be posting other analysis pieces as well, looking at rebranding efforts by companies and auctions that happen. Thank you for reading Data in the Rough and I look forward to posting again next week!