Sister Sister

“guys, #coachella in #paris!!! #comingsoon #sistersister”

Who is Dannijo?

The story behind Danielle and Jodie Snyder and their brand Dannijo is the quintessential ‘American dream’ of the millennial generation: through hard work and the use of social media, you shall acquire a life of luxury.

The Snyder sisters have a had a passion for jewelry from a young age, beginning their venture when they taught themselves how to make handmade jewelry as children, playing with their father’s medical tools. In 2003, the sisters opened their first store in their hometown of Jacksonville, Florida, selling their handcrafted collection as well as a range of other fashion jewelry and accessories labels.  After a few years, the sisters found themselves in New York after graduating college and pursuing careers in fashion. While their craft of jewelry making had been a talent of the past, an opportunity to design jewelry again pesented itself through a charity organization that Danielle had co-founded while in college. The sisters collaborated on a collection for the non-profit and received rave reviews, including an endorsement from celebrity Natalie Portman who deemed their jewelry the ‘gift to give’ for the 2007 holiday season.

The enthusiastic response to their sample line in 2007 motivated the Snyder sisters to return to their passion of jewelry making. Unlike in 2003, however, the Snyders distanced themselves from retail and decided to launch a luxury jewelry brand. In an interview with  Inc., the Snyders explicitly stated their strategy of “shopping their designs to the biggest names in fashion. ‘We knew that if we were going to do the jewelry thing and not have jobs, we needed to make sure we landed great accounts.’ First stop: Bergdorf Goodman.” Through the support of A-lister Natalie Portman and a stroke of good luck, the Snyder sisters acquired an account with Bergdorf Goodman during the pit of America’s recession and the rest was history.  In an interview with Nicole Williams, Danielle said “by introducing our brand with a prestigious venue like Bergdorf, we were able to use it as leverage to open doors at other target accounts, ultimately creating a very unique and exclusive niche in the fashion-jewelry arena.” Since March 2008, Dannijo has attained huge name brand accounts such as Henri Bendel, Intermix, Harvey Nichols, and Lance Crawford. Dannijo also acquired a ranch of celebrity clientele, including Britney Spears, Blake Lively, Katy Perry, and Beyonce Knowles.

A critical analysis of the Dannijo brand has lead me to conclude that it is no coincidence Dannijo has attracted such a specific following. Dannijo is strategically targeting a very specific demographic that all lead very similar lifestyles. Their ideal consumers are upper-middle class, affluent, authentic, and educated young women. I argue that due to the limited availability of Dannijo’s high priced products, the sisters haves succeeded in acquiring an elitist community of followers that tend to have high economic and cultural capital (HCC). As an HCC consumer, this generally implies that you have a knowledge of specific cultural practices that offers you accessibility to a higher social class.  In the case of Dannijotheir consumers are both financially stable as well as culturally informed, specifically in fashion.  The sisters use a variety of strategies to address their consumers. These range from social media strategies, cross promotion, celebrity publicity, and corporate social responsibility. While Dannijo has undoubtedly built a strong following of consumers, there is no evidence to suggest that these avid Dannijo consumers share a similar bond among themselves. It is strictly the bond between the consumers and the brand that has prevailed so strongly, just as Dannijo had initially intended.

The Ideal Consumer: “Audrey Hepburn meets rock & roll”

Due to Dannijo’s high price point and extravagant pieces, it is obvious that their ideal consumer is both affluent and authentic. Dannijo is most acclaimed for their statement pieces and bib necklaces, all of which are extremely unique and attention grabbing pieces. As Rent the Runway said in their brand description, Dannijo is not meant for “the faint of heart or the party flower,” clearly implying an edgy and bold consumer. Rent the Runway’s description accurately depicts the image that Dannijo aims to project. Their ideal consumer is not a wallflower or a follower; she is an independent ringleader who aims to make a statement. As young entrepreneurs who made their own way in the big city, Danielle and Jodie very much embody their brand image. The sisters now lead rather lavish lifestyles, often seen jet setting across the globe through their Twitter and Instagram accounts. Ultimately, the Dannijo target audience consists of young women who either lead similar  lifestyles to Danielle and Jodie, or who at least aspire to lead such lifestyles. In Lifestyle and Consumer Culture, Mike Feathersone describes lifestyle as “connoting individualist, self-expression, and a stylistic self-consciousness. One’s body, clothes, speech, pastimes, . . .choice of holidays, etc.  are to be regarded as indicators of the individuality of taste and sense of style of the owner/consumer,” (55). In the case of Dannijo, the Snyder sisters quite clearly display their lifestyle via their social media accounts. Featherstone claims that rather than passively adopting a lifestyle, the ‘new heroes of consumer culture,’ are able to cultivate their own lifestyle and display their individuality through the assemblage of goods, clothes, practices, etc. Danielle and Jodie have clearly cultivated their own lifestyle as New York socialites, who were once living a simple middle class lifestyle in Florida. With that said, Dannijo is ultimately a luxury brand that will attract people who care about status. Therefore, the sisters express their own luxury lifestyle through their brand using social media platforms. These lifestyle images can be viewed both as a reflection, as well as an inspiration for, their ideal consumers.

Realin’ Them In: How Dannijo acquires their luxury-living gals

1. Do Good by Buying Good

Consumers with high cultural capital tend to be socially aware and therefore conscious consumers. Social elites tend to exude ethical consumption, which Lury defines as a “broad spectrum of practices, organizations and initiatives, and addresses a wide range of issues, including working conditions, fair trade, animal welfare, human rights and envrionmental concern,” (Lury, 177). The practice of ethical consumption by social elites was displayed in the case study “Good food, good people: Understandin the cultural repertoire of ethical eating,” in which the majority of “ethical eaters” were from a white, middle to upper class  background. Ethical consumption can also carry over into the world of fashion, a nation that Dannijo has tapped into. DanniJo advocates creating a sustainable economic opportunity for women in underdeveloped areas of the world and all packaging is handmade in Rwanda as part of their women’s empowerment initiative. Furthermore, their brand serves to attract attention to grassroots nonprofit initiatives such as Living With a Life-long Ambition (LWALA), a nonprofit that aims to involve youth in solving global issues such as the AIDS epidemic. This speaks to an extremely specific consumer who is sophisticated and globally conscious. Dannijo’s connection to non profits speaks to Banet-Weiser’s concept of Corporate Social Responsibility, in which ‘corporations use a social issue as a platform not only to sell products but to further their brand,’ (Banet-Weiser, 135). Dannijo’s CSR serves multiple purposes, it not only attracts Dannijo’s ideal consumer; someone who is affluent yet socially conscious, but it also helps cultivate an authentic relationship between the brand and the consumer by working towards a greater good together.

2. #SocialMediaStrategies

At the turn of the 21st century, Banet-Weiser noted that contemporary brand culture is “not as concerned with individual shoppers, as it is with cultivating authetnic relationships with consumers and communities that work to further extend and uild upon the brand individual,” and that individual entrepreneurs are the privileged subejction positions of the contemporary movement,” (Banet-Weiser, 138).As individual entrepreneurs, Danielle and Jodie have also succeeded in cultivating relationships with their consumers through their social media accounts. Dannijo has referred to themselves as being at the forefront of the social media and blog movement, and they have stats to prove it. Their reliance on social media is one of the ways they are extremely unique and successful in their branding strategies, thus suggesting that their ideal consumer is also a product of the millennial generation who is extremely savvy with social media platforms.

Unlike large fashion brands that often “farm out the task to digital advertising agencies,” the Snyder sister have personal control over the company’s Twitter and Instagram accounts. Rather than solely documenting their jewelry, they use their social media platforms to show their followers what they’re doing, where they’re going, while simultaneously wearing the jewelry. The jets setting sisters have documented their way through Paris Fashion Week, South by Southwest, Coachella, St. Barts, and Montauk, ‘with models, actresses, and blogger friends in tow.’ This branding strategy offers Dannijo a way to display their goods without explicitly advertising it. As a result, consumers who follow Dannijo on social media are first drawn in due to the extravagant pictures, while the jewelry is only an afterthought. As noted by the New York Times, this is one of the reasons Dannijo is able to form such intimate bonds with their customers, unlike massive brands who are disconnected to their brand communities.

What might appear to be a tourist photo of two sisters posing in front of a beautiful landscape, is in fact a clever marketing strategy for Dannijo. A closer look at the photo would should the two sisters subtly promoting their line by wearing their Dannijo jewels around their neck and arms.

What might appear to be a tourist photo of two sisters posing in front of a beautiful landscape, is in fact a clever marketing strategy for Dannijo. A closer look at the photo would should the two sisters subtly promoting their line by wearing their Dannijo jewels around their neck and arms.

One of their more successful campaigns was coining hashtags to perpetuate their brand name. Their most well-known hashtags are “#armparty” and “#putabibonit,” the latter of which has increased their online bib sales by an estimated 20 percent. 

Instagram user @genachandler shows off her outfit of the day to over 2,000 followers

Instagram user @genachandler shows off her outfit of the day to over 2,000 followers

In Celia Lury’s work Consumer Culture, she cites Tiziana Terranova’s use of the term ‘free labor’ to describe a consumer’s willingness to participate in some act of labor on behalf of the brand (Lury, 104).  Each time a consumer hashtags a tweet or Instagram with Dannijo, it is free publicity for the brand, exposing their line to hundreds of networks they never would have been able to otherwise. This can also be seen on their website.

Upon visiting Dannijo's website, consumers are prompted to upload their own photos using their signature hashtags #putabibonit

Upon visiting Dannijo’s website, consumers are prompted to upload their own photos using their signature hashtags #putabibonit

Direct access to all social media platforms via Dannijo.com

Direct access to all social media platforms via Dannijo.com

The purpose of applying Dannijo hashtags not only works to the benefit of the brand, but it also works to the benefit of the consumer. As Dannijo has grown in popularity, their image as a high-status item has become more known. For individuals who want to affirm their taste and lifestyle as a way to legitimize their own identity, they can do so by sharing their high-priced, unique, fashion-forward jewelry pieces on their social media accounts.

Instagram user @jennyozleroy shows followers her bib combined with her #gucci top - #luxurybrands #namedropping

Instagram user @jennyozleroy shows followers her bib combined with her #gucci top – #luxurybrands #namedropping

Dannijo’s social media strategies are also a useful tool for analyzing the Dannijo brand community. Due to Dannijo’s ideal HCC consumers who value authenticity and individuality, I would argue that the Dannijo brand community is extremely exclusive. In Muniz and O’Guinn’s case study on brand communities, they argue that the first element of a community is the consciousness of kind – the intrinsic connection that members feel toward one another, and the collective sense of difference from others not in the community, (Muniz and O’Guinn, 413). I think this is the quality of the brand community that Dannijo consumers can relate most with – the exclusivity.  Since the ideal Dannijo consumer values unique lifestyles as well as material goods, it would by contradictory for them to embrace a wide-ranging brand community. Dannijo’s Facebook page is a source that very much represents the tight knit brand community and also demonstrates further engagement between the brand and the consumer. Dannijo only has a select 23,000 ‘fans’ on Facebook, which is not quite as extensive as a brand like David Yurman, a jewelry brand also directed at the extremely affluent, which has 215,000 ‘fans’ on Facebook. Obviously David Yurman is a far more established brand than Dannijo and has been in existence for over two decades, however I think this comparison accurately demonstrates the exclusivity and intimacy of the Dannijo brand and brand community. Furthermore, Dannijo’s Facebook page is also a source of communication between the brand and the consumer.  Dannijo fans will comment on picture uploads, explicitly asking Dannijo questions about the merchandise. While Dannijo did not necessarily respond to this particular Facebook user, the outreach proves that Dannijo consumers are under the impression that the brand will respond to their inquiry, something you would probably not find on a Facebook page of David Yurman. However, it is noteworthy that these are instances that Dannijo uses to communicate with their consumers, not necessarily the ways in which the consumers communicate with each other. These social media interactions imply that the most communication among the brand community is not with each other, rather it is between the individual consumer and the brand. 

3: Mr. Dannijo – Cross promotion 

One of the most strategic bonds the Snyder sisters have made is with the renowned ‘influencer,’ Leandra Medine otherwise known as ‘The Man Repeller.’ Medine has one of the most influential fashion blogs worldwide and is what Nestor Cancilini would call a ‘cultural intermediary,’ someone who translate tatstes and trends for other consumers around them. This is extremely beneficial for Dannijo because thousands of consumers use The Man Repeller as an intermediary. Therefore, each time Medine references Dannijo, their brand is extended to an enourmous audience of their ideal consumers. The consumers influenced by these blogs are the young women who actively seek out fashion trends, inspiration, and ideas. The links on the Man Repeller blog all have a very specific consumer in mind – the HCC  fashionista. Many of the posts consist of high priced goods such as Alexander Mcqueen pants, Christian Louboutin heels, or a casual neck scarf by Dolce and Gabbana, a pop culture tab dedicated to posts from Kanye West to Woody Allen, and a ‘brain massage’ tab that offers advice on unpaid internships, or offers insight on the upper class with a post literally titled ‘Being Privileged May Not Be a Choice, But Acting Human Is.’ This blog is so explicitly directed at an upper-middle class, affluent, white, educated, self-starting demographic. By Dannijo networking, cross-promoting, and creativily collaborating with Medine they are tapping into an ideal network of HCC consumers that might not have known about the smaller jewlery line prior to seeing them on The Man Repeller. By constantly cross-promoting each other, the Snyder sisters and Medine have continued to expand their brand communities, while still honing in on their exclusive and authentic followers.

4: Friends in High Places

While Leandra is certainly one of the most acclaimed blogger ‘influencers’ in today’s fashion world, Dannijo has also had some of the most-followed celebrities in the world wearing their jewelry. Top A-listers include the worldwide pop star/goddess Beyoncé, as well as the reality television star Kim Kardashian. Screen Shot 2013-12-15 at 12.44.09 PMHowever, it is interesting to note that only Beyoncé has been displayed on Dannijo’s blog as a featured celebrity wearing the line. It is possible that due to Kardashian’s controversial reputation they were not interested in promoting her wearing the line since Kardashian’s fan base definitely consists of a lot of LCC (low cultural capital)  followers which could contribute to diluting the brand image. Regardless, both Kardashian and Knowles have been spotted sporting the trendy line, only further heightening the Dannijo name and brand.

Dannijo’s social media platforms and cross-promotions are not only useful in displaying their products, but they are also used to directly connect with their more influential clientele. For instance, after Brooklyn Decker saw the brand on Man Repeller, Decker was able to meet the Snyders, whom promptly invited her to a private trunk show to borrow jewelry for a press junket.

Decker with Danielle and Jodie

Decker with Danielle and Jodie

Since then, Decker has stayed close with the sisters and continues to wear their line. In addition to Decker, the Snyders have also formed friendships with other high-powered celebrities and influencers such as Natalie Portman, Natalie Morales, and celebrity chef Katie Lee. These relationships (both real and virtual) have proved their success in acquiring an affluent following.  Furthermore, by having celebrities promote their brand, it attracts a different type of follower. These are the people who are more likely to aspire to the lifestyles that Danielle, Jodie, and other A list celebrities follow.

“Everyone in here looks the same!” – A concluding note on Dannijo’s brand community: 

Despite Dannijo’s high-status clientele, it is clear that these select celebrities are only a minority of their following. Rather, the  majority of their consumers within the brand community are the young HCC consumers who aspire to live the lifestyles of these renown celebs. The brand community was well represented at Dannijo’s Sample Sale last week. It was evident that the consumers were apart of the Dannijo brand community because this was a one day sale that was not highly promoted. Only avid followers of the brand would know about the sale, most likely through their social media accounts. While at the sale, I noticed that a majority of the consumers looked and dressed in a similar fashion. Everyone was young, white, well put together, and dressed in at least one luxury brand item. While shopping around the crowded sale, I heard a fellow shopper call out for her friend “Sydney, where are you?” The friend replied that she was in the front of the room, which prompted the response of “I don’t see you! Everyone in here looks the same!” I thought this personal anecdote accurately demonstrated the exclusive yet homogenous brand community of young, white, HCC consumers. Whether it was through their CSR, social media platforms, cultural intermediaries, or high-status clientele, Dannijo has clearly honed in on their ideal consumer and managed to create an authentic relationship with their avid followers which is beginning to be a necessary component of successful businesses in the 21st century.

Works Cited

Banet-Weiser, Sarah. Authentic TM: Politics and Ambivalence in a Brand Culture. New York: New York UP, 2012.

Featherstone, Mike. “Lifestyle and consumer culture,” Consumer Culture and Postmodernism, London: Sage. 1991

Johnston, Josse, Szabo, Michelle, Rodney, Alexandra, “Good food, good people: Understanding the cultural repertoire of ethical eating,” Journal of Consumer Culture, pp. 293-318. 2011.

Lury, Celia. Consumer Culture. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 1996.

Muñiz, Albert and Thomas C. O’Guinn, “Brand Communities,” Journal of Consumer Research, 27 March, pp. 412–32. 2001.

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