In hindsight it wasn’t such a good idea.
I had already tossed my blue box of fishing hooks and lures down into the boat next to my rods. Instead of climbing down the ladder after them, I had the bright idea to jump the three feet from the pier to the floating dock below. I put my hand on the piling to steady myself and stepped off. But the second I headed down I felt a searing pain in my left hand. Crashing onto the dock, I looked down at my palm and wondered where my wedding ring was and why my finger was turning red and hurt so much. It suddenly dawned on me that my ring was jammed up against my first knuckle, sort of under the shredded skin, so I gritted my teeth and pulled the ring back down and then slid it off my finger just before my ring finger swelled up like a chicken drumstick.
After my wife pulled a bandage from the first aid kit in the blue box and cleaned the wound, I figured out what had happened. When I grabbed the piling, my wedding ring got caught on an errant nail sticking out of the wood. When I jumped off the dock, my ring stayed behind. Lucky for me the piling was old and weathered and the nail had been hammered in with the grain, so my weight pulled the nail up and out of the wood instead of causing the awful alternative.
To this day, my ring is an oval instead of a circle and has a little nick in it and my finger has a scar where the ring dug in. Remember to ask me the next time we see each other and I’ll show you.
Already a repository for emotion, this near-miss gave my wedding ring a whole new meaningful story. But it didn’t change the functional value of the ring itself – despite what it represents, including almost yanking my finger off, my wedding band is still only worth its paltry weight times the current cost of gold.
If I was selling wedding rings, it would behoove me to not sell their functional value (weight x cost of materials) but instead to sell their emotional value. The big question is how do you do this in the store or online to make the ring more valuable BEFORE it has been invested with personal experience?
One company has figured this out. By taking their wedding bands (and other products) and presenting them in blue cardboard boxes with white ribbons, Tiffany & Co. instantly instills their goods with additional perceived value at very little cost.
Are Tiffany’s wedding bands and engagement rings better than the competition’s? It does depend on how you define the word better, but from a functional point of view it would be hard to argue that any well-made ring is much different than any other. However, when a spouse-to-be is on their knees proposing to the love of their life, most of us would agree that the experience would be even more dramatic if the proffered ring is presented in that iconic blue box with the white ribbon.
What I find most interesting is that you can purchase jewelry, watches, sterling silver accessories, cut crystal, and other gifts in a Tiffany store but you can’t buy the blue box itself. You only get one if you buy their products.
Car companies don’t require that. You can buy Ferrari racing shoes, BMW fitted luggage, and Mercedes-Benz key rings regardless of whether you drive their cars or not.
Universities don’t do it either. You can buy a Harvard sweatshirt, a Michigan State baseball cap or a University of Florida license plate frame even if you’ve never set foot on their campuses.
What’s the takeaway here that you can benefit from? Quite simply, it is in understanding that the things you do are no different from the things inside Tiffany’s blue box. At their most functional level, your services are worth what the market says they’re worth – metaphorically defined as weight x cost. But at an emotional level what you do is worth as much as you say its worth, IF you can define it in a way that imbues your services with value.