AUSTIN, TX: A jewelry company that began selling its wares at Wal-Mart last year has hired Ketchum to spread its message of quality and value.Founded in 1930, Keepsake Fine Jewelry traditionally sold wedding sets and gemstones through independently owned jewelry stores. "Keepsake is a nonretail brand, which is rare in this industry," explained brand marketing director Lisa Raper. More commonly, chains like Zales sell jewelry under their own brands. Keepsake hired Ketchum as its agency of record after retaining the firm for project work, Raper said. VP Kimberly Schramm will lead the account from the Austin, TX office. Ketchum will focus its initial efforts on building brand awareness among consumers while emphasizing product quality. Media relations will include Hispanic outreach, and will target lifestyle and fashion magazines, explained Schramm, noting that most readers of bridal magazines already have engagement rings. Although PR will support the jeweler's link to Wal-Mart, which is now Keepsake's largest distributor, Raper said brand building will be vendor-neutral since the company's products are also sold by independently owned jewelers as well. Product launches are scheduled at Wal-Mart locations, however, similar to Keepsake's "Facets of Fire" diamond introduction in September. Keepsake is owned by Commemorative Brands, which also owns Taylor Publishing, a yearbook company, as well as Balfour and ArtCarved, both of which make class rings. Keepsake was managed separately by its manufacturer until last spring, when the parent company took over its brand management and negotiated its distribution in Wal-Mart stores beginning in April 2002.