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Make Marketing a Collective Effort

Jul 1, 2021 5:44 AM   By Avi Krawitz
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RAPAPORT... After a year and a half as head of the Natural Diamond Council (NDC), most in the industry know David Kellie via Zoom, with the soothing cream-grey surroundings of his study in the background. Covid-19 prevented any formal, in-person introductions that may have been made, for example, when the organization rebranded in June last year.

Perhaps that pandemic-enforced isolation afforded Kellie the opportunity to stay focused on the job at hand and avoid the distractions thrown at him by the trade.

Issues such as bank financing, lab-grown diamonds, rough prices, supply shortages — or excesses — tend to dominate industry discussions but are of no interest to the former Watches of Switzerland and Ralph Lauren executive. Neither should they be the priority of the trade, Kellie emphasized in a recent interview to gain his perspective on the recovery, conducted for the July issue of Rapaport Magazine.

The industry’s main focus should be to stimulate demand. You do that, and 98% of your problems go away, he asserted.

Of course, stimulating demand is central to the recovery, as many question whether the positive momentum experienced coming out of the coronavirus crisis can be maintained. After all, travel will return to reclaim its share of discretionary spending, as too will the wider experience economy.

Consequently, Kellie is trying to change the mindset of the trade, which, he quipped, is naturally pessimistic. The idea is for the industry to be proactive and the master of its own destiny, as it ponders whether it can hold onto the market share it gained during the pandemic.

Such doubt surprises Kellie. “Our industry is a wonderfully engaged, consumer-driven industry. So, whether we want to position ourselves in terms of relevance and desirability is entirely up to us,” he explained. “The industry talks as if success or failure is something that happens to us as opposed to something that we choose to drive ourselves.” Besides, he stressed, jewelry is “an amazing product” with an endless amount of stories to tell.

In some sense, the NDC’s upcoming holiday campaign will be the first test of the industry’s resolve to collectively tell a story — challenging the trade to get on board in ways that previous campaigns didn’t.

For the uninitiated, the organization’s rebrand from the Diamond Producer’s Association (DPA) to the NDC in June 2020 led to a fresh approach and a focus on content through its ‘Only Natural Diamonds’ website and social media engagement.

That presented a new experience in generic marketing for the industry, which was used to the classic De Beers-ish commercials.

The industry felt the void when De Beers shelved its generic advertising spend more than a decade ago. That move paralleled a noticeable drop in demand, with the trade having to navigate through a difficult period without the benefit of coordinated marketing. Diamantaires longed for the days when the catchy ‘A Diamond is Forever’ slogan captured consumers’ imagination.

The DPA tried to answer that call when it launched in 2015. With its tagline, Real is Rare, Rare is a Diamond, the message didn’t quite resonate. Perhaps it appeared too reactive to the lab-grown sector. More importantly, there was a realization that those classic campaigns of old — reliant as they are on catchphrases and TV slots — get lost in today’s social media noise.

Kellie and his team got to work under challenging circumstances. The pandemic hit just as they started planning the big relaunch and their first campaign ahead of the 2020 holiday season. The NDC recruited actress Ana de Armas as an ambassador for natural diamonds and shot its campaign while having to adhere to social distancing and other pandemic-related health precautions.

Rather than making a splash and galvanizing the industry behind the program at the JCK show as planned, everything moved to Zoom. Significantly, the campaign featured a generic product that was already in the market.

From the get-go, the NDC’s plan was to curate a collection around themes that would drive consumer taste and desire. It drew inspiration from the fashion industry, which identifies trends each season and where every part of the supply chain plays a role in pushing it forward.

That’s the model the organization is trying to replicate this year, having had more time and freedom to implement its plan. It unveiled its 2021 trend report in April, identifying five themes that encompass attitudes in the post-pandemic, collective-minded yet individualistic consumer landscape. These are heavy metal chains, gender-neutral jewelry, diamonds and pearls, hoop earrings and the classic marquise engagement ring.

Last week, the NDC unveiled the 11-piece collection that centered around the ideas that will feature in its 2021 fall campaign. It has already filmed the commercial, which will be released in September with de Armas starring for a second year as ambassador.

But the big change is in the availability of the jewelry, which was designed by Brooklyn-based Malyia McNaughton, a recruit in the NDC’s Emerging Designers Diamond Initiative. The NDC owns the intellectual property of the collection and is opening it up for the industry to adapt and use. Manufacturers can sign up to make the collection — with three big ones already having put their names in the ring — and retail jewelers can carry it.

Alternatively, they can simply adopt the ideas behind the collection to drive demand around common themes, as the fashion industry does.

As Kellie stressed, it really is up to the trade to keep up the positive momentum experienced so far in 2021. It now has the generic marketing program to help it achieve that.

As we gradually emerge from the pandemic, the diamond industry has a unique opportunity to maintain and grow its share of the consumer wallet, he added. If it can do that, 98% of its challenges will go away.

Avi Krawitz is the Senior Analyst at Rapaport. His new column, “Field Notes,” will feature as a regular feature on diamonds.net.
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Tags: Ana de Armas, Avi Krawitz, BIPOC, David Kellie, diamonds, Jewelry, Malyia McNaughton, Natural Diamond Council, Rapaport
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