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Branding Reality


Jan 27, 2011 1:28 PM   By Avi Krawitz
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RAPAPORT... “It’s a paradox of today’s ‘Experience Economy’: the more contrived the world seems, the more we all demand what’s real. As reality is qualified, altered, and commercialized, consumers respond to what is engaging, personal, memorable – and above all, authentic,” Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore, authors of ‘Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want’.

Historically, the diamond industry has successfully walked a fine line between fantasy and reality. It could be argued that the genius of the De Beers ‘Diamond is Forever’ campaign was that it merged the two concepts.

While the long-lasting physical nature of a diamond is certainly real, the idea that love will last forever, or is as durable as a diamond, represents the ultimate fantasy for any engaged or newly married couple. The diamond came to be a symbol of a fantasy that has every chance of becoming reality.

As a result, the industry appears well-positioned to face the challenges presented by today’s consumer, who increasingly looks for more real, authentic buying experiences. As Pine and Gilmore explain, while, consumer taste was once influenced by the availability of the product, the price, or the quality of the service, today it is based more on experience. As a result, the most valuable aspect about a product is whether it is real, or at least perceived to be so. This might explain why consumers associate more strongly with some brands over others.

“Authenticity is becoming the new consumer sensibility - the buying criteria by which consumers are choosing who they are going to buy from and what they are going to buy,” Pine explained.

The shift toward reality extends beyond preferences for branded products which are better perceived as being authentic. It is rooted in a core attitude of society which has strengthened in recent years and is directly influencing the way we function. Computer game designer Jesse Schell notes that while at first gaming was all about escaping reality, today’s game designers go out of their way to simulate real life experiences. Similarly, one just needs to turn on the television to recognize the popularity, and inexplicable appeal, of reality shows.

Today, it’s all about reality which impacts the diamond market in a number of distinct ways. Diamonds—with their rare and earthy nature—have all the ingredients to capitalize on the trend. They are unique in that while they have a glitzy, glamorous, fantastical aura about them, they are also accessible and real.

To some extent, the consumer trend toward reality should nullify the impact that synthetic diamonds may have on the market as a substitute for natural stones, even if the long-term supply-demand gap may provide an opening for synthetics. However, no matter how “real” technology may enable these synthetics to appear, consumers would necessarily consider them as the fake version and opt for the real thing.

From a marketing perspective, diamonds present an authentic expression of an intangible experience (love) that consumers want to touch, and this should be exploited. That this will be driven in the future by branded, rather than generic marketing, should add to the authentic nature of the product, provided, as Pine and Gilmore explain, company brands are themselves authentic and true to their message.

The industry is clearly moving in the direction of branded marketing, since De Beers has focused on its Forevermark, after years of fitting the industry’s generic marketing bill. While many in the industry lamented the failure of the International Diamond Board (IDB) to develop a new generic campaign, the idea that manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers should contribute to a project that would likely most benefit the mining companies, is something that should be better analyzed.   

As diamond industry profit margins are generally low, it makes sense for a company to invest in marketing its own brand, rather than a generic product, and more importantly, enhance its authenticity in the eyes of the consumer. As companies across the diamond industry assess market conditions for 2011 and strategize how to increase their market share, they might want to hone in on the validity of their brand. As Pine & Gilmore stress in the above quote, “Consumers respond to what is engaging, personal, memorable – and above all, authentic.” Simply put, that is also today’s diamond reality.  

The writer can be contacted at

This article is an excerpt from a market report that is sent to RapNet members on a weekly basis. To subscribe, go to or contact your local Rapaport office.

Copyright © 2011 by Martin Rapaport. All rights reserved.

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