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MILAN — If text messages are too cut-and-dried to entice one’s beloved, then DoDo offers an engaging alternative: an animal-shaped charm.

Each of the 54 charms that belong to the DoDo line carries a distinct message, meant to carve a niche in the recipient’s heart. Cases in point are the frog (kiss me, I’m your prince), the snail (honey, slow down), the dog (always by your side) and the starfish (I’m fragile).

“DoDo is an easy way to talk to the heart because it transmits an emotion,’’ said Francesco Minoli, chief executive officer at Pomellato, the high-end jeweler that owns DoDo. “It’s a code to communicate. People will associate a particular animal with a specific person and intimate moment.”

As simple as it is successful, DoDo’s formula is on fire, especially in the U.S where Bergdorf Goodman’s DoDo sales tripled in 18 months, reaching the $700,000 mark, Minoli said.

Over the past three years, Pomellato’s group sales in the U.S increased from $1.8 million in 2002 to the current $5 million figure. DoDo’s estimated retail turnover for 2004 is $85 million, or 35 percent of Pomellato’s group revenues. This year, Pomellato’s expected retail volume will exceed $200 million.

Launched in 1994, DoDo has morphed into a stand-alone collection and not Pomellato’s secondary line, Minoli said.

“A DoDo charm has become a collector’s item and it’s not even a question of age anymore,” he said. “Receiving a DoDo as a gift ignites a mechanism for which a woman will then buy new charms for personal gratification.”

Thumbing through a company profile, Minoli opened a page where charts illustrated DoDo’s consumers’ age breakdowns: 34 percent and 30 percent of DoDo fans are between 21-30 and 31-40, respectively, while the 41-51 age group and the 50-plus account for 16 percent and 13 percent. The remaining 7 percent is the 16-20 age group.

He cited the sea family, which includes a starfish, octopus and dolphin, as the bestseller. The charms usually dangle from a black cotton string, also available in primary brights, which can be enriched with silver beads.

This story first appeared in the July 19, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

DoDo gets its name from an extinct flightless bird that lived in Mauritius until the island was colonized, and a lump sum of DoDo’s annual sales are donated to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The line’s decade-long life span triggered a legitimate question: whether or not the consumer has grown bored with DoDo. Apparently not.

“We came to the conclusion that we shouldn’t tinker with a successful formula because that’s what people expect from DoDo, and we didn’t want to betray them,” Minoli said.

But, striking while the iron was still hot, DoDo’s family grew to include DoDo Color and DoDo D. The first product extension includes silver charms, earrings and rings with colored resin insets, obtained from coral, turquoise and lapis lazuli, and crafted to form fish, coral branches and ivy, while the second features white gold and pavé diamond combinations.

“DoDo color is an extension of the brand, which we are careful not to stretch too far,” Minoli said.

DoDo’s packaging also underwent a makeover, trading its former sage green box for melon orange, acid green and strawberry red paper boxes, complete with an explanatory leaflet and matching little bag. The average retail price is $150.

DoDo has 300 exclusive sales points worldwide. Minoli’s retail game plan is in line with DoDo’s consumer-friendly approach and a far cry from what Minoli dubs the “intimidating Place Vendôme style.”

“Today a jewel equates an accessory, and we want people to feel at ease walking into a store to buy a DoDo,” Minoli said.

To wit, DoDo opened its first freestanding store in Naples in 2002 and plans more franchised units in Milan and Turin this fall. Penned into the 2005 agenda are three or four new venues in Europe, plus a possible location in New York.

The blueprint for the stores includes beige-gray walls, wenge wood, colored shantung armchairs and plasma screens that project Mother Earth images.

As for the U.S., Minoli doesn’t conceal his disdain at the modus operandi of certain department stores when it comes to new brands. “They are too conservative and risk-free, which penalizes us,” Minoli said. Consequently, Minoli is looking to expand through franchising agreements in upscale shopping malls.

“Our brand gives an emotion, and we believe that we can do that anywhere,” said Minoli. “Consumers are well aware of DoDo’s handmade qualities, a trait that needs to be well represented at retail too.”