Charming the Customer

How PANDORA Americas’ chief marketing officer, Charisse Ford, is connecting with the next generation of consumers

Charisse Ford, Pandora Americas

People are storytellers by nature. From childhood fables to Snapchat stories, narratives are a main way that people connect with their communities. “Today’s consumers connect around stories,” says Charisse Ford, chief marketing officer of PANDORA Americas, an affordable luxury jewelry company. “That’s how all of social media has been built, and we have one of the most unique opportunities and brands in that space.”

PANDORA’S brand is built on its charm and bracelet lines, which memorialize key moments in the wearer’s life. “Our business started with the bracelet, and the bracelet and charms lend themselves to storytelling around your life and your successes and triumphs,” Ford says. “That builds a community around you, the individual.”

This personal storytelling is key to the #DOPANDORA campaign, which the company launched alongside the 2017 spring collection. For some consumers, self-expression hinges on conveying their personal style, but for others, it is about expressing their identity—as a mother, a career woman, or a wife—and commemorating the births, promotions, and weddings they have enjoyed along the way.

“The whole idea of #DOPANDORA is really about expressing yourself in the way that you, based on how you feel, want to,” Ford says. “We’re touching you in all of the moments that are relevant and meaningful to you so that you can use the jewelry to reflect who you are.”

Ford’s US team has built a wider community of PANDORA wearers as well, encouraging customers to tell their own stories through social media. In 2017, PANDORA hosted a Facebook Live event called Girls Night Out, which streamed from its flagship store in New York City. One of PANDORA’s key influencers curated products in-store, and more than fifty-eight thousand people viewed the video online. “That was a major microinfluencer moment for us,” Ford says.

PANDORA engages with its customers in person as well as online. PANDORA was the exclusive jewelry sponsor of the 2016 Coachella music festival, where the company partnered with public relations firm Cohn & Wolfe to create a destination with a leather bracelet bar and invited key influencers to style the jewelry.

Coachella’s global following—nearly one hundred thousand visitors attended both weekends of the six-day festival in 2016—presented PANDORA with an opportunity to expand its image beyond its original charm and bracelet brand and to reach a younger consumer audience. The company won a 2017 PRNews Agency Elite Award in consumer marketing for the campaign, which increased consumer awareness of noncharms jewelry and increased the share of social and voice engagement with more than seventy-three million organic social media impressions and more than five hundred thousand social engagements. “Coachella was a big moment for us,” Ford says. “We certainly recruited that younger consumer.”

Soon after joining PANDORA in January 2015, Ford began searching for a nonprofit organization to partner with as both a way to share PANDORA’s mission and to engage younger consumers. “One of the things we know is that this generation of women, especially millennials, is incredibly active and progressive in terms of what they believe in—their community, their value set, and also what they expect from brands,” Ford says.

After completing a comprehensive study of more than a dozen potential partner organizations, Ford forged a partnership with Dress for Success, a nonprofit organization that provides women with professional attire and a network of support to advance both in and outside of the workplace. “We wanted an organization that had a fit with our core consumer and with our mission of empowering women,” she says. “Dress for Success is all about building confidence and really empowering women to go out and take their life back and to be the arbiters of their own future success.” PANDORA has donated jewelry to twenty-five Dress for Success boutiques in the United States, as well as markets in Canada and Mexico, and has sponsored various Dress for Success events for the past two years.

In addition to ongoing partnerships, PANDORA has most recently supported response efforts, such as relief for areas affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma. On September 1, 2017, the company donated 50 percent of all online sales to the American Red Cross to support affected areas.

Ford’s thoughtful and community-oriented approach to marketing, as well as her emphasis on forging strategic partnerships, has earned her admiration from many of her peers.

“Charisse stands out in this industry, not only for her exceptional vision and leadership, but also because of her kindness and generous spirit,” says Suzanne Ayello, executive vice president and global account director at Grey Group New York. “She is more than just a client; she is a friend and partner in the truest sense.”

Along with targeting younger audiences, Ford is recognizing a shift in consumer tendencies. Although PANDORA’s end users are women, when Ford joined the company, nearly 75 percent of the marketing budget went toward targeting men. “We have always appealed to men because we are one of the safest and simply stylish gifts,” Ford says. “Once your significant other has a PANDORA bracelet or a necklace, you know that you can go out and buy and layer incremental charms, bracelets, and earrings, and that they will always be loved.”

Jewelry marketing has traditionally focused on jewelry as a means of building and sustaining relationships as opposed to as a means of self-expressions. To give women more of a hand in the purchasing process, and to foreground their tastes, PANDORA developed a Wish List function on its website.

“It’s really about what she wants and then you as the man really helping to make her dreams or wishes come true,” Ford says. Although the percent of marketing dollars spent on targeting women has risen, Ford still builds campaigns aimed at men. PANDORA partnered with NBC Sports to create video advertisements around key gifting holidays that use humor and sports imagery to engage male consumers.

For Valentine’s Day, PANDORA partnered with two celebrity couples—country music singer Jessie James Decker and her husband, NFL football player Eric Decker, and Canadian hockey player Brandon Prust and his wife, TV host Maripier Morin—for a campaign that targeted married couples. “That was one of our most successful in terms of engagement, in terms of response from men,” Ford says.

One of Ford’s favorite PANDORA stories is of a teacher who wore a pair of earrings from its Majestic Feathers collection. “The earrings were a gift from her boyfriend given to her to symbolize and remind her of the wings she gives her students every day,” Ford says. “That story was so resonant with me because my mother was a teacher, and I know the impact that teachers make. It also touched me because there are millions of women with their unique story or personal expression that they are able to convey through our jewelry. This community and connection is the essence of what we stand for.”

Photo: Brian Schneider /UNCONQUERED