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Is the Two-Stone Ring The One?


Oct 29, 2015 9:46 AM   By Avi Krawitz
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RAPAPORT... The last few years have been a tiresome journey for the diamond industry but recent announcements from Signet Jewelers and De Beers signaled that the urgent call to sales by stepping up marketing activity may have finally been heard. 

“We’re expecting good results from these campaigns because we’ve realized the industry can’t only grow by expanding into new markets anymore,” Maxim Shkadov, president of the International Diamond Manufacturers Association (IDMA), told Rapaport News in a phone interview. “We have to create new interest in diamonds. Nobody invested in marketing polished diamonds for a number of years, and from my point of view it’s already late. That’s why we need to do it fast.”

De Beers last ran a category, or generic, marketing campaign in the U.S. in 2009, just before it launched Forevermark in the country, and has since focused on building that brand.

Meanwhile, as demand for diamonds has slowed in 2015, businesses across the distribution chain are stuck with high inventory and orders have been slow heading into the season. The trade has repeatedly pointed to the lack of category marketing over the past few years as a reason for the lull, especially as competition in the luxury space gets even more intense.

Stephen Lussier, CEO of Forevermark and executive vice president of marketing at De Beers, noted that diamond jewelry has been losing market share for the last 20 years. He explained this was largely due to the growth of the luxury brand phenomenon – mainly in fashion, while the challenge of attracting younger generations has also increased with the rise of mobile technology.

Call to Action

The expectation is that stronger consumer demand resulting from a “substantial” increase in marketing this season will have a knock-on effect throughout the trade, Lussier explained.

“The importance of this fourth quarter period both in the U.S. and China is clear in terms of the requirement to move a lot of goods from the retailers to the consumers, and to create a more positive foundation for our sightholder sales next year,” he told Rapaport News by phone. “So we’re responding to requests from our clients to do more and to help support demand to a greater degree and we inherently see the rationale and logic in doing so.”

De Beers made two key announcements ahead of this year’s holiday season: It renewed its investment in category advertising with a “Call to Action” to generate increased consumer demand for diamond jewelry. Second, it re-introduced the iconic “A Diamond is Forever” slogan.

Meanwhile, Signet earlier in October launched its first iconic global strategy with the ‘Ever Us’ two-stone ring collection. Significantly, the jewelry retailer has tied up with Forevermark to allow approximately 400 independent U.S.-based jewelers, which carry Forevermark, to offer the ‘Ever Us’ collection, as well as in Signet’s own stores.

For “Ever Us”

“This is the first time Signet has developed an iconic merchandising and marketing program, and chose to share it with other retailers beyond the Signet store brands,” David Bouffard, vice president of corporate communications at Signet, wrote in an email to Rapaport NewsThis combination along with Forevermark’s participation will help position ‘Ever Us’ as the “next big trend” in the jewelry industry, he claimed.

The campaign evokes memories of previous De Beers-led, product-focused initiatives that Lussier said were key drivers of growth in the U.S. The three-stone ring, journey necklace, the right-hand ring, anniversary bands, diamond tennis bracelets, and the solitaire necklace, were all De Beers campaigns that the company could pull-off when it had wider influence through its “old” larger market share and when it was still investing in category marketing, he said.

In order to pull off the same feat and have the same influence today, Lussier suggested, requires the involvement of multiple levels of the trade, which he believes will be achieved through the combination of Signet’s vast network of stores and the independents carrying Forevermark. “You need that scale for the consumer to view it as a movement rather than just an industry player promoting their branded product,” he explained. “If you can create that sense of trend, you can have a much bigger impact in terms of consumer behavior.”

The collection marks the first time that Signet is running a single campaign across all its store brands in all geographies, including Kay Jewelers, Zales and Jared in the U.S., and its stores in Canada and the UK.

‘Ever Us’, which was introduced on October 15 in about 2,600 stores, features one design in 14 karat white gold, with options of five different weights for the center stones, ranging from 0.50-carat to 2 carats. The ring’s band has a number of small melee diamonds along each side of the center piece. Price points range from $999 to $4,999.

But it’s the two-stone concept that Signet hopes will resonate with consumers. The company’s research points to better acceptance of the concept than the three-stone ring from De Beers because people identify quickly with the concept of two, Bouffard said.

“Two stones is ‘Us.’ It’s our relationship together,” he explained. “When a couple sees themselves as both friends and lovers, anniversaries and other important life events are even more special.” The theme of love and friendship will run through Signet’s TV advertising (see clip above), as well as its digital, search and social media campaigns. Independents will carry the same ‘Ever Us’ theme coupled with Forevermark’s “A Diamond is Forever” slogan.

Seize the Day

For its part, De Beers is very careful to differentiate the messaging between its various campaigns.

The company’s flagship Forevermark campaign aims to re-engage potential Forevermark customers with the “A Diamond is Forever” concept and the intrinsic forever-ness of diamonds, according to Lussier. The campaign, titled “The One,” was launched on social media on Wednesday (see clip below) and will roll out on TV in November.

The challenge in creating a commercial today as opposed to earlier TV advertisements is you have to live in the social media world to tell a story in an intriguing and interruptive way, Lussier explained.

“We produced a commercial that is almost film-like, telling the journey of the diamond from the earth to the finger of the woman that he loves,” he said. “It’s designed to make people think about what ‘A Diamond is Forever’ means and that its important enough that you should buy the best diamond you can afford – which we obviously believe is the Forevermark.”

In contrast, the company’s category marketing will aim to simply sell as many diamonds as possible whereby the messaging – which will include the ‘A Diamond is Forever’ slogan – will focus on the benefits of buying diamonds during the holiday season.

That campaign, which will run in digital, print and on billboards from November 30 to December 24 under the banner ‘Seize the Day,’ will target “panic-stricken” men who’ve left their gift buying to the last minute. “The idea is to plant the seed that diamonds is the ultimate go-to gift for Christmas,” Lussier added.

De Beers is also taking ‘Seize the Day’ to China, adding a TV commercial to the mix, using celebrities to energize the younger generation to “act now” and buy a diamond for the Chinese New Year.

Creating a Buzz

The trade has welcomed the initiatives, especially since they haven’t been created in a vacuum. Lussier noted that the Diamond Producers Association (DPA), established this year, will take on much of the category marketing responsibility in 2016.

The group, which consists of the top 8 diamond miners, last week appointed Sally Morrison as its managing director of marketing. She was previously managing director of jewelry and marketing at the World Gold Council and a diamond executive at JWT, the ad agency responsible for many of the previous De Beers campaigns. Morrison is expected to appoint an agency partner for the DPA in the coming months to drive an industry-wide promotion strategy.

Furthermore, the World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB) said it will discuss its World Diamond Mark marketing initiative and ways to engage with the DPA at its executive committee meeting in Germany next week.

“From my point of view, whatever advertising that is done is good,” WFDB president Ernie Blom said by phone. “The lack of advertising has not been good so I’m very happy with what is being done.”

Certainly, the rise in marketing activity has brought good news for an industry yearning for some Christmas cheer. While the proof of the (Christmas) pudding will be with its post-season, January eating, at least the trade’s call for action to invigorate sagging sales is getting a response.
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Tags: Avi Krawitz, De Beers, Forevermark, Maxim Shkadov, Stephen Lussier
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