Faced with another slew of bad publicity stemming from the planned Christmas release of the Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Blood Diamond, the diamond trade has launched a campaign to educate jewelers on how to respond to consumer concerns and present its side of the story.
The movie tells the story of a diamond trader involved in Sierra Leone's horrific civil war in the late 1990s. But industry executives worry it could tarnish the industry in the minds of consumers who think the war is still going on.
“The story that is going to be told is a true story, and we all applaud that it is going to be told,” said World Diamond Council chairman Eli Izhakoff, at a meeting devoted to the issue at New York's Roosevelt Hotel. “What we need to ensure is that we tell the truth too, and that consumers know what the trade has done to stop this problem.”
Richard Lennox, director in charge of the Diamond Trading Company account at JWT, says the movie “presents a very real danger to our industry,” as the film could leave viewers thinking that “a diamond purchase makes you morally responsible for murder and mayhem in Africa.”
He noted that its survey showed that 90 percent of consumers would be less willing to buy a product if it was shown to be involved with terrorism or a “blood diamond.”
Lennox noted the problem isn't just the film itself, but the publicity surrounding it. “It's a big-budget film with a $40 million marketing budget,” he noted. “As we are seeing with The Da Vinci Code, it's possible that the media may pick up the story and we may be facing a broad front of media attention.”
He also noted that the director, Edward Zwick, has serious credentials in Hollywood and could be nominated for an Oscar. “If that happens, this film will be with us to the end of the Academy Awards,” he said.
The trade is trying to get its side out with a new site, diamondfacts.org, which will launch in July. In addition, the World Diamond Council is developing a “consumer confidence” card to handle queries, as well as a back-room poster explaining the issue to sales associates.
Cecilia Gardner, president and chief executive officer of Jewelers Vigilance Committee and general counsel of WDC, urged retailers to comply with the Kimberley Process system of warranties. “Retailers should be insisting that their suppliers include warranties, if only to protect themselves,” she said.