Tom Shane's World

The Radio

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I have been asked numerous times to do a blog post on my radio commercials. Whether that means radio message, voice recognition or the overall campaign, I was never certain. So I will attempt to address all of these issues. As many of them are personal, I will apologize in advance for what may appear to be an internal focus!

The concept of the campaign began more than 50 years ago, partly with my Uncle Claude, and partly from a competitor of my father’s, when I was growing up in Cleveland. The beauty of radio helps Shane Co. with the biggest problem that we have as diamond dealers. To quote a price and show a picture, whether on TV or in newspapers or magazines, is tricky to execute when it comes to fine jewelry. A competitor can always show a similar looking item (from the perspective of the print or TV media, not when a human is comparing) and appear to offer a cheaper price for the same thing. In other words, there is no bottom… no restriction as to how low a jeweler can go, in terms of quality. No matter the price, someone can paint a picture that their product is cheaper and of equal value… when, in fact, the quality is dramatically lower. Grading makes it even more difficult, as it creates a false security that a person is comparing equals when, in fact, there can be huge differences in the actual beauty (and therefore the value) of two stones graded similarly.

The other beauty of radio, besides avoiding that ‘price/quality’ cliff, is that I can describe an item that I find really beautiful… and the listener can picture something pretty in their mind as well. With a photo, some will like it and some won’t. On radio, all can close their eyes and picture something pretty.

As to being a personal spokesman for Shane Co.… this is something that I grew up with. During my teen years, our country was at war in Vietnam. There was a backlash against big business, as the public was somehow mistakenly convinced that big companies were profiting from that war and therefore keeping the war going. Regardless, big was bad, and small companies were in the public’s favor. So, the more I projected our image like that of a small company, rather than a big business, the more popular our image was.

As to the process of determining what to say on the radio, I follow our core philosophy of listening to the customer. From our stores we hear about issues that customers raise, which then gives our marketing people the ideas of what to discuss. I receive from them ‘scripts’ dealing with those issues. I use the word ‘scripts’ loosely, as ultimately I rewrite them and use my own wording. But the ideas themselves, the actual topics, must originate from our customers.

One strength that I believe I possess is an understanding of how the human mind listens to the radio.  Unlike written conversation or normal oral conversation between two people, radio is heard differently, and therefore impressions are made differently than what would otherwise be normal conversation. I understand that people don’t pay a lot of attention to what the message is actually conveying (except when they are specifically interested in purchasing some jewelry). So I try to word the sentences so the impressions will be clear, not confusing, to the casual listener. I try to have the points that I think will register in the mind of the listener be applicable universally (not just in this one message). I don’t want to sound like a car salesman kicking tires, but rather as a knowledgeable person in this arena, offering legitimately good advice. ‘Being a friend’ can sound corny, but there is a certain validity to that message as well. And we are sincerely trying to help.

As to my voice, I try not to be too boring, or too strong. I must confess, last week a customer wrote to ShaneCo.com asking if I was the voice who recorded a tape on relaxation/hypnosis some 20 years ago, as he has such a tape and claims the voice sounds like mine. I was less then flattered, but all my life I have had friends confess to hearing my voice on the radio and pushing the button right away to change the station. My issue is not to brag that I get people to push away from me; but rather that they immediately think of our company when hearing my voice, and pushing away means that they don’t have any interest at that moment in jewelry. The flip side of that issue is that, when they are in the market for jewelry, they listen attentively.

While radio is but one form of advertising, I think the best way to look at my role is as a marketing leader of the company. I have no affinity to radio, or to using my voice or my ‘personality’. I try to focus on the customers, and to read what ways we can connect with them. As communicating with today’s customer has radically changed from the ways in which we would communicate with their parents or, going back before my time, my father or grandfather would communicate with their parents and grandparents, the key issue is to remain relevant to the customer.

I can be in a recording studio executing what I believe is relevant to our customers today. Or I can be sitting in my office in Bangkok or my office in Denver, doing the same thing. On a personal note, it is not so much fun having a voice that allows strangers to pull you out of a crowd! My ego is overshadowed by my desire for privacy, and I guess my friends are grateful that my desire for privacy forces me to close my mouth from time to time!

Our radio campaign is the longest continually running advertising campaign in the history of radio itself, so it must work. We have competitors in many of our markets who copy my campaign, to the best extent that they can. What most don’t realize is that our customers think less of them for doing so, as they assume that their products offered in their stores are also less than original. But leadership in any industry brings on a lot of ‘wannabes’, and we are proud to be the market leader. Part of that leadership position is attributable to the radio campaign, and for that I am grateful to radio.

Tom Shane is the owner of Shane Co., the largest family-owned retail jeweler in the United States. For four decades Tom has traveled the globe buying gemstones, including diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and pearls directly from the gem cutters for Shane Co. He is the third of four generations of the Shane family to work in the jewelry business. Tom started learning the jewelry business at his father's side at age 12, assisting his father in his store. Tom opened his own jewelry business in 1971, establishing Shane Co. He was 22 years old at the time. In 1996 Tom was knighted into the order of Leopold II in the Kingdom of Belgium in recognition of his lifelong achievement in the diamond business. Tom currently resides in Colorado, but spends a great deal of his time abroad purchasing gemstones for Shane Co. You might know his voice from the Shane Co. radio ads which are the longest running radio ad campaign in history, or you might have caught him at a party with other Colorado celebrities in an episode of South Park.

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