published Saturday, October 13th, 2012

Rick Davis updates public persona

You've seen him on the highway. He greets you with the morning paper and checks in during the afternoon news.

You know Rick Davis when you see him.

Everywhere you look, there's the trademark white hair and beard, the slight tilt of his head, the knowing smile and the tasteful glasses.

Davis of Rick Davis' Gold & Diamonds has pitched himself successfully as a "friend in the jewelry business" in every medium imaginable. For the last five years, the 61-year-old's gaze never wavered as he looked out across Chattanooga from billboards, TV sets and print publications.

Until now.

It was his 2008 marriage to Lily Davis that did it. She wanted him to cut his hair, but he didn't want to do it. Why mess with a good thing?

"I kept my hair like that for about 30 years," Davis said. "But when I went on a cruise for my honeymoon, I didn't want to get that windblown look. So I got it buzz-cut."

Ever since that spur-of-the-moment decision, there's been a split between the real Rick Davis and his bespeckled, long-haired public persona.

"After I got all my hair cut off and I was having people come in and ask me if my daddy was there," Davis said. "They thought I looked 10 years younger."

Some customers didn't believe he was the real guy, or thought he was a close relative of Rick Davis.

As the months ticked by and confused customers added up, Davis decided it was time to update his ad campaign. As a man who says he wants to be genuine with customers, it didn't make sense to splash photos of the old Rick Davis all over Chattanooga if people were going to be dealing with the new Rick Davis in person.

But there was a problem.

"The studio was going to charge $600, and I wasn't going to pay that," said the gold aficionado.

Finally, a friend of a friend agreed to do the photo shoot for $100, and Davis agreed. The photographer showed him 40 shots and he picked one.

"It'll all change over within the next three to five days on TV, and it's going out to all the billboards after that," Davis said.

The grandfatherly Davis said the point of using his own picture isn't self-aggrandizement, it's a to create a personal connection with customers.

"A lot of companies use celebrities, a lot of people use their grandkids, or they use look-alikes in commercials to try to get the attention," Davis said. "We feel like we show it like it is. If I look older, I look older, if I look younger, I look younger, but you want to try to feel like you know who you're dealing with."

about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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