Platinum Marketing Goes Global

The Platinum Guild International (PGI), the London-based marketing arm for the worldwide platinum industry, this year launches its global branding initiative, “our most significant single project” in 2003, says James Courage, PGI chief executive officer. Details won’t be unveiled to the trade press until May, but Courage recently took time from the project to discuss it with JCK.

“Hitherto a lot of PGI programs around the world have operated according to local market needs,” he explains. “But research shows there’s a lot in common threading through all those markets. Since this is a much more global market overall, with consumers traveling from market to market and other links as well between markets, it’s better to draw our programs together under one brand umbrella.”

PGI’s new program is built on extensive research, including consumer focus groups, conducted during 2001 in PGI’s seven major markets (China, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States) “to see where platinum stands globally,” he says.

The surveys found that consumers shared similar opinions about platinum, “whether they are in established markets like Japan or the United States, or newer ones like China and India,” says Courage. They see it as “a very aspirational metal that appeals to young consumers as well as more mature ones.” Respondents also described platinum jewelry as “a reflection of the individual, and of a woman’s inner strength.”

The results confirmed platinum as the metal most strongly associated with bridal jewelry (especially in the United States, Europe, and Japan); indicated “plenty of potential for [marketing platinum jewelry for] significant occasions besides weddings,” specifically in the United States and Europe; a strong desire for self-purchase by younger women in China, and both younger and older women in Japan; and noted Germans’ “special fondness for platinum, especially in more avant-garde designs.”

The overall findings are reassuring, says Courage. “They build up our understanding of those markets and will help us move forward with a more unified look and approach.”

But the yearlong research also found that while “there is much awareness of platinum, there isn’t a deep understanding of it,” he notes. “A lot of people don’t have as much knowledge about it as we would like. There’s a need for people to better understand what platinum is.”

The research results were analyzed late last year and reviewed by PGI’s officers and regional directors at their annual meeting in January, where they began drafting plans for the global project based on the data. PGI is working on details of the project with the London office of Interbrand, an international consultancy specializing in brands, rebranding operations, and brand-related services and activities.

Features of the initiative include the following:

  • PGI’s new global ad campaign will launch in the second half of this year, featuring “the same look globally” in ads and promotional materials, says Courage. However, “different models will be used in different regions, and jewelry styles featured in the ads will vary a little from market to market (e.g., emphasis on general jewelry in China, on bridal in the U.S. market). No decision had been made at press time as to whether PGI will also promote a signature jewelry piece in its global marketing.

  • PGI’s Web site (www.preciousplatinum.com) will be expanded and upgraded. “We believe it is a key vehicle to allow people a better opportunity to find out more about platinum, to see the wide range of creations in platinum, and to reach elusive markets like young people,” says Courage.

  • In addition to its regular training in selling platinum jewelry for jewelers and sales associates, PGI will introduce “a more focused program focusing on those elements a consumer needs to have a better understanding of platinum, such as its relative difference from other precious metals.”

  • In the United States, the focus continues to be on strengthening platinum jewelry’s growing bridal market, its core business here, but there also will be “a non-bridal element to the program. We see this as an area of strong potential growth,” says Courage. The bridal business “provides a platform of opportunity” on which retailers can build to encourage customers to consider platinum for “important jewelry pieces for [other] special occasions.”

  • In China—the world’s No. 1 platinum jewelry market since 2001—PGI’s marketing spotlights popular Chinese actress Maggie Chung, “an Audrey Hepburn-type figure,” says Courage. There is “a lot of focus on design,” he says, and PGI also is expanding its marketing (which began in major metropolitan areas) into smaller Chinese cities.

  • India is a young market for PGI, only two years old. There, the group is focusing on a younger audience and is working with specific manufacturers and retailers to position platinum with diamonds as an “aspirational” jewelry product.

  • In Italy and Germany, the focus is on bridal as well as some non-bridal fashion jewelry, with PGI spotlighting new designs in Germany and working with manufacturers in Italy on platinum jewelry for export.

Courage declines to say how much PGI is spending on its global initiative but calls it “a significant investment in research, development, and implementation and a significant portion of our budget.”

U.S. Platinum Jewelry Sales*

Year Platinum Jewelry SALES Overall Jewelry Sales
*Sources: Estimates by Jewelers of America, based on its “Cost of Doing Business” survey.
1999 $987 million $42.9 billion
2000 $957 million $41.6 billion
2001 $934 million $40.6 billion
2002 $973 million (projected) $42.3 billion (projected)
2005 $1.185 billion (projected) $51.5 billion (projected)