According to analysts and practitioners, five main trends characterise the future of the jewellery industry: internalisation and consolidation; market growth; a new channel landscape; hybrid consumption; and fast fashion. Among these, the process of internalisation, which is started and managed by local jewellery brands, seems of great interest. These brands, generally small and medium enterprises (SMEs), have to plan their international marketing strategies in order to face the biggest jewellery groups and compete worldwide.
In the present paper, through the methodology of a single case study of leBebè, an Italian brand, the standardisation and adaptation processes of international marketing strategies are rebuilt and investigated in reference to the jewellery industry. From the analysis, it emerges that the jewellery industry has specific dynamics that force companies to implement an international marketing strategy that falls halfway between standardisation and adaptation and is generally known as a contingency perspective. The achieved results strengthen the contingency perspective on the standardisation/adaptation debate and, above all, allow for speculating that international marketing strategies partly depend on the brand and mostly depend on the prominence of the brands and on factors characterising each industry.
The report titled “A multifaceted future: The jewellery industry in 2020”, edited by McKinsey & Company (2014), contains a detailed and deep analysis of the jewellery industry. Data included in the report reveal that the industry has achieved positive results in recent years (in terms of net sales) and—above all—still more positive results are expected over the next two years. In this vein, analysts working at McKinsey & Company (2014) have disclosed five main trends that characterise this industry: internalisation and consolidation; market growth; a new channel landscape; hybrid consumption; and fast fashion. Among these, the process of internalisation seems of great interest (McKinsey & Company, 2014; Bain & Company, 2015).
Local jewellery brands, generally small and medium enterprises (SMEs), aspiring to face the biggest jewellery groups and compete worldwide, need to plan and implement their international marketing strategies. In particular, they need to define whether their international marketing strategies are going to be standardised or adapted.
This topic of research—not only referred to in the jewellery industry but to all SMEs—is of great interest among management scholars (Theodosiou & Katsikeas, 2001; Alashban et al., 2002; Zou & Cavusgil, 2002; Ryans, Griffith, & White, 2003; Theodosiou & Leonidou, 2003; Kustin, 2004; Vrontis, Thrassou, & Lamprianou, 2009; Schmid & Kotulla, 2011; Chung, Wang, & Huang, 2012; Akgün, Keskin, & Ayar, 2014; Griffith et al., 2014).
Among them, Schmid & Kotulla (2011) propose an extensive review and offer a theoretical framework useful for proceeding with further studies. Along this path, Griffith et al. (2014, p. 309) focus attention on the fact that local brands need to balance “multiple export relationships across a wide number of countries”. Balancing multiple export relationships at the same time is not easy (Schmid & Kotulla, 2011). For this reason, brands need to establish in advance whether to implement a standardised or adapted international marketing strategy.
According to Theodosiou & Leonidou (2003), management scholars interested in the standardisation and adaptation processes of international marketing strategies can be divided into three groups. The first includes the scholars who support the standardisation process. This choice is due to the main benefits derived from a standardised process: economies of scale; a consistent image communicated across countries; and reduced complexity in managing operations (Theodosiou & Leonidou, 2003, p. 142). The second group comprises the scholars who support the adaptation process. These scholars argue that international marketing strategies cannot be characterised by myopia since there is major profitability related to different consumers’ needs across countries. Finally, the third group embraces scholars who support the contingency perspective. From this perspective, standardisation and adaptation run along the same continuum and, thus, need to be considered together. The choice between standardisation and adaptation is situation-specific (related to a specific market, industry and time) and, therefore, it cannot be easily generalised (pp. 142-143).
According to the above, the main aim of this paper is to investigate how jewellery brands define and implement their international marketing strategies. Put simply, the research question posed herein is: Do jewellery brands implement international marketing strategies addressed towards standardisation, adaptation or the contingency perspective?
In order to try to answer the above question, the paper proceeds as follows. In Section 2, titled “Literature review”, the state of the art of the “4Ps”—product, pricing, placement and promotion—is revised. From an extensive literature review, it is rebuilt if companies standardise or adapt the 4Ps when they decide to enter international markets. In the last part of the section, a special focus on the jewellery industry is presented. In Section 3, “Methodology and data collection”, why the single case study is used herein is explained. In Section 4, the leBebè case study is rebuilt and analysed. The Italian brand (launched in 2007) has already started its internationalisation process; thus, the choice of standardising, adapting or mixing its international marketing strategy has already been carried out.