WJN x Disrupting Diamond Marketing

Why is no-one disrupting diamond marketing?

Diamond marketers needs a lesson in realism…

Perfect hair, straight teeth. Smiling faces and soft focus. Yep, you’ve got it. Another advert promoting diamonds in a bid to grasp some kind of sale from 20 and 30-something shoppers.

I can’t concentrate on the images. Because the alarm bells keep sounding.

 Who are these people?

Because they’re certainly not me; nor are they my friends, colleagues or family.

Sure, Tiffany & Co.’s recent campaign for its Tiffany True engagement ring dared to try something new, at least in its recruitment of real-life couples to star in the minute-long ad. But, a few seconds in and it all unravels: they’re conventionally attractive, mostly white, and the scenes irritatingly saccharin. The chance for Tiffany to show real couples, in real love, with a real diamond ring to symbolise their relationship was overlooked entirely.

The Diamond Producers of America (DPA), the marketing board for the world’s leading diamond companies, stepped up earlier in 2019 with a campaign centred on self-purchasing women. There’s a little more diversity in terms of race, age and jewellery style, but even these women are picture perfect, doing nice ‘lady things’ like sitting outside a café, shopping, and browsing an antiques market. Where is the tattooed girl having a burger with her lover? Or the 50-something men holding hands as they watch their favourite rock band? They too might like a diamond one day.

At the crux of the matter is the consumer. Not only are their values evolving, with greater expectations of traceability around sourcing and transparent pricing, so too are their demographics. New, affluent consumers are emerging around the world, at the same time that digital platforms are democratising access to luxury goods.

Today’s highly visual world of luxury – elevated by social media – has entirely upended who’s discovering diamond jewellery and how seamlessly they can make a purchase. ‘It was [once] a no-marketing model that was handed down from father to son to grandson,’ states Marty Hurwitz, CEO and founder of jewellery sector market analysts MVI Marketing. ‘That isn't working anymore, but the industry has been reluctant to change. And this is a male dominated industry that's selling a product to women, and that's also a large disconnect.’

It’s no surprise, then, that YouGov’s 2019 Affluent Perspective study reveals that only a third of affluent shoppers say they are satisfied with luxury marketing, while 50% agree that luxury brands don’t seem interested in targeting them directly.

In a recent, widely read Retail Dive article on the decline of diamond retail in the US, Hurwitz even highlights that the industry’s lack of diversity – both internally at jewellery companies, and in their marketing – risks turning off future customers. This, at a time when MVI Marketing reports that US-based millennial Asian-American and Latinx-American consumers want to feel valued by luxury brands – a sentiment they rank as the most important aspect of the shopping experience.

In the UK, where the most recent ONS statistics estimate there are 1.1 million people aged 16 years and over identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual, you have to ask: where are the LGBT+ individuals in these diamond campaigns? I’d love to see older women buying for one another, or even a father gifting a diamond to his son. Even better, for brands to celebrate a quarter carat diamond as being as meaningful and special as a (largely unrealistic) 3ct rock.

It would be refreshing for diamond bourses, marketers and industry associations around the world to stop meeting at board tables to condemn the state of the sector, going over the same threats, and then doling out the same, predictable campaigns. Instead, they should welcome the very people they would never dream or expect could – or would – buy their products into the room, and ask them: what would bring you to a diamond? What could inspire you to shout about our brand? How would you wear a diamond? What type of narrative or place will jewellery have in your future?

I have to stop at this moment to note that a sliver of hope has recently emerged by way of Forevermark. Its I Take You, Until Forever campaign might be imbued with echoes of diamond marketing past, but its depiction of love for another is thoroughly modern. There’s a woman proposing to a man, a couple scoffing pizza on the sofa, alongside arguments, sadness and excitement. Forevermark also used a number of real couples for the ad, touts its traceability credentials, and notably calls its collection ‘engagement and commitment rings’.

 In fact, it reminded me of the couple that the DPA dared to tease a few years ago for its Real is Rare campaign. In it, they declare they might not even want to get married and because of that, their story is so much more relatable. It speaks of something bright and realistic. Even if their diamond isn’t forever.