Featured case: Fabergé – The Survival of an Iconic Brand
(A, B and C) and The Fabergé Big Egg Hunt

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The case

Who – the protagonist

Peter Carl Fabergé, creator of arguably the most sought-after jewellery in the world, and Sean Gilbertson, CEO of Fabergé.


What?

Imperial egg Whilst also creating jewellery, it was Peter Carl’s Imperial (Easter) Eggs, initially commissioned by Russia’s Tzar Alexander III in the late 1800s and a tradition continued by his son Nicholas II until 1916, that he was to be remembered for.

Fabergé went from strength to strength until 1914 when the outbreak of the Great War, the Russian Revolution and the nationalisation of the House of Fabergé, caused Peter Carl’s empire to crumble.

Why?

90 years later, and after the Fabergé brand had passed through a number of hands, venture capital business, Pallinghurst, wanted to restore Fabergé to its former glory after obtaining the naming rights from Unilever (as documented in Cases A, B and C).

Pallinghurst formed the Fabergé Heritage Council, made up of Sarah and Tatiana Fabergé (great grand-daughters of Peter Carl) and Fabergé aficionado and family friend John Andrew, in 2007. The Council would provide advice, support and help.

bracletWhen?

Pallinghurst acquired the Fabergé brand in 2007 and relaunched the brand on 9 September 2009 with the introduction of the ‘Les Fabuleuses’ High Jewellery collection.

Where?

Fabergé launched its first collection of jewellery at a high-profile event at Goodwood House, Hampshire, UK, and has since established a worldwide distribution channel.

What next?

The brand has grown globally, selling luxury pieces such as fine jewellery egg pendants, necklaces, rings and watches, but how does Sean summarise the achievements and success of Fabergé as a modern luxury jewellery brand? Have they done enough to justify the investments they have made? Is there a strong case that the profits record might have been stronger?

Meanwhile, as documented in The Fabergé Big Egg Hunt case, did the charitable Big Egg Hunts in London and New York in 2012 and 2014, which Fabergé supported, attract the ‘right people’ to look more deeply at their new ranges of jewellery and watches, either online or by visiting the boutique? Had there been genuine impact? And, significantly, had it affected sales?

Hear from Fabergé

Supporting the case material are interviews with Fabergé’s John Andrew, Sean Gilbertson and Sarah Fabergé, who discuss the reinvention of the brand. Watch a short excerpt here:

To purchase the full video click here.

 
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Fabergé Case 1: The Survival of an Iconic Brand (free case)
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Fabergé Case 2: The Reincarnation of a Luxury Jewellery brand
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Fabergé Case 3: Realising the True Potential of an Iconic Brand
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Teaching note for case 1, 2 and 3
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Also available:
Fabergé Case 4: The Fabergé Big Egg Hunt (free case)
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Teaching note

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Supporting video
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The authors

author

John Thompson and John Day

The duo discuss their thinking behind producing a case series, writing a ‘taster’ case for both undergraduate and postgraduate students, and the appeal of Fabergé.

Doing Fabergé justice

John Thompson said: “We did not set out to write a series of cases. We literally stumbled across the exquisite enamelled eggs designed by the late Theo Fabergé and became convinced there was an interesting back story.

"Theo, the last surviving grandson of Peter Carl did not own the Fabergé trademark, and his later work after 1985 was branded 'designed by Theo Fabergé' and marketed on his behalf by an independent London small business - the St. Petersburg Collection.

Ivory casket by Theo Fabergé"Theo was producing equally exquisite decorative objects prior to that, an ivory casket made for the Silver Jubilee in 1977 led to him being elected to the Worshipful Company of Turners as a Freeman Prizeman and later on his 80th birthday in 2002, he was awarded the rare honour of being presented with an Honorary Liverydom.

“We knew something of the history of the Imperial Eggs, of course, but we had no idea how complex and fascinating the real story is. Or rather the multiple interwoven stories – about the preservation of Fabergé’s heritage; Fabergé shopabout the ceding of the brand name to some very smart entrepreneurs in America; about the intervention some ten years ago when the brand name was bought by Pallinghurst; and about their desire to create a mine and market business model for coloured gemstones to rival that of De Beers with diamonds.

“Once we started writing it was obvious that to do justice to both the story and the brand we needed more than one case. After all, the story encompasses business history, entrepreneurship and corporate entrepreneurship, strategy and entrepreneurial marketing.”

Catering for different audiences

John Thompson added: “The ‘taster’ case (The Fabergé Big Egg Hunt) is very much part of the whole story but it is a stand-alone.

“We were looking into the actions that the team running the new Fabergé business took to re-build the brand, and its recognition in a very crowded and competitive marketplace for high-end luxury jewellery products – just think about the numbers of expensive watches you can see in high streets and shopping malls everywhere in the world – when we were told more about the two Big Egg Hunts.

“We had both come across charity-linked street architecture trails in America – and John Day had seen some of the eggs on display in London in 2012 – but we weren’t familiar with the Elephant Family charity. As we asked more questions, it became obvious that evaluating the value of such promotions for sponsors and supporters is much more difficult than quantifying the value for the charitable causes involved.

“Whilst the Big Egg Hunts can – and should – be evaluated in respect of their value for Fabergé, they also present a wonderful opportunity for students to engage in the operational details, and potentially design either their own eggs or their own promotional event – which, of course, they could then actually run at a local level and raise money in their town or city.

“The story is multi-layered with interlocking contemporary and historical events - so creating a challenging package, particularly concerning preparation time, suggests a postgraduate audience. However individual parts stand alone, for example, as we were drawn into the Big Egg Hunt we realised that this could be treated differently and distinctively and would work for both undergraduates and postgraduates.”

Caught up in the romance

John Day commented: “When we introduce students to the cases we want them to read and analyse, we normally begin by asking what the name “Fabergé” means to them – if, indeed, it means very much.

“Fabergé Eggs definitely get a mention from some students – most typically because of them being associated with particular movies – and occasionally Russia is also mentioned. This reinforces the scale of the challenge, of course, and is a reminder that rebuilding a brand in this way takes time and considerable learning through trial-and-error.

“Perhaps significantly it is very rare that students associate Fabergé with Brut, without any prompting, although many are familiar with Brut-branded products.

“As people read and learn more, the romance element becomes more significant and, we believe, there is genuine respect and support for taking on the challenge in the way the new owners have. After all, in the context of jewellery, Fabergé was once the ‘best of the best’ and, amongst its target customers, unrivalled. There is no automatic right to assume this has been put on hold for 90 years.

“More significant, perhaps, is the extent to which this romance needs to be part of the story of the new products. The importance and value of the heritage is key to everything and the cases show how different key stakeholders have held different perspectives on this.”

About the authors

John Thompson is Emeritus Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Huddersfield.
e j.l.thomspon@hud.ac.uk

John Day is a Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship at the University of Huddersfield.
e j.day@hud.ac.uk

 

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