Alex and Ani is an accessories and jewelry company that offers eco-friendly, approachable products backed by influential content and powerful brand image. Founded by jewelry maker Carolyn Rafaelian in 2004, the lifestyle brand has shaken up the jewelry world by focusing on how the jewelry makes the wearer feel, rather than just how it makes them look.
The brand aims to design bangles, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, and rings, while enlightening the mind and empowering the spirit. The purpose of the accessories is to allow wearer to more easily and effectively express their own individuality.
The small Rhode Island factory basement venture started gaining traction in 2004 when they designed an apple necklace for Gwyneth Paltrow following the birth of her daughter, Apple. In 2011, the Paper Store chain built an Alex and Ani “shop within a shop” at each of its 72 outlets. Tom Anderson, Paper Store CEO, said, “some would call it a risk. But right out of the gate, we couldn’t keep it in stock.”
The brand is targeted towards those who want to embrace a “positive energy” lifestyle. According to Brent Cleaveland, executive director of the Fashion Jewelry & Accessories Trade Association, the difference with Alex and Ani is that “they don’t really sell jewelry. They sell positive energy. The bracelet is just a vehicle.”
More Than Meets the Eye
Alex and Ani has found a way to market themselves as a lifestyle brand, rather than just a jewelry company. The brand has attracted just as many people through its products as it has through its powerful brand story and social media presence. This has really resonated with millennials, with some even following the brand before ever making a purchase. Many have said that the fandom has reached “cult status”.
In fact, Forbes found that a majority of millennials follow their favorite brands on social media, so it’s an integral marketing strategy. The brand’s mobile app also offers positive lifestyle content and motivational quotes to help further their ultimate goals. Fans were so anxious for the positive boost that the app was downloaded 80,000 times within the first three weeks.
The brand also published an inspirational book to complement the brand image, called “Path of Life: Why I Wear My Alex and Ani”. Written by CEO, Giovanni Feroce, the book includes a collection of inspiring stories from customers about how their Alex and Any pieces have helped influence their lives. He said, “I put this book together to show the world that you can indeed offer products that are infused with intentions of love, peace and positive energy, made in the USA and eco-friendly.”
As Feroce put it, “We advertise Alex and Ani, but we don’t advertise what we do. I don’t care what we do. Alex and Ani is a brand. It has to do with quality, with what we put into it.”
Charity By Design
The brand has a large impact on the local Rhode Island community – where the jewelry is made – as well as a positive impact on the globe. The “Charity By Design” initiative has been wildly successful, with 20% of sales going to charity, for 20% of sales. This has totaled $44 million donated to non-profits across the globe, to date. The brand’s employees have also volunteered over 7,000 hours to different charitable efforts.
Capitalizing On the Millennial
Millennials are looking for personalized experiences when they shop, which Alex and Ani has capitalized on. The bestselling patented expandable charm bangles are available in thousands of iterations, or you can customize a unique piece, which makes it instantly more appealing to shoppers (and particularly, millennial shoppers).
Every bangle also comes with a “meaning card” and the app offers extensive information on the meanings behind different charms, so customers get an interactive experience with each purchase.
Still Gaining Momentum
In 2010, when Giovanni Feroce joined the company as CEO, sales for the year grew by more than 20 times its previous annual total. While there have been a string of CEOs and senior managers following Feroce’s departure in 2014, Rafaelian has since stepped back into the CEO role.
Currently, just over 10 million charm bangles are sold per year, with revenue soaring from $5 million in 2010 to just over $500 million in 2016. By the end of 2017, there will be at least 80 company-owned Alex and Ani stores.
Rafaelian has become America’s only jewelry billionaire and is #18 on Forbes’ list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women. Some have scoffed at Rafaelian’s method of consulting the stars before making major decisions, but it doesn’t seem to have hurt her yet. In fact, Rafaelian said her winning strategy is quite simple: “I don’t listen. Which is the best thing I do.”