Can the DEF Convince Consumers That Diamonds Do Good?

There has been a lot of talk about the need for the diamond industry—particularly big miners and retailers—to act collectively to promote diamonds generically, like De Beers used to. Five years ago, there was an attempt to establish a new entity called the International Diamond Board to do just that. That fell apart, and at last week’s De Beers forum at the JCK show in Las Vegas, Forevermark CEO Stephen Lussier expressed neither much hope it would ever be resurrected nor enthusiasm for the idea in general. 

However, it appears the industry is quite interested in promoting the “diamonds do good” message—the idea that the trade contributes to development in Africa and elsewhere. And the vehicle for doing this may turn out to be the Diamond Empowerment Fund.

The DEF was founded seven years ago, around the time Blood Diamond was released, by Russell Simmons and veteran civil rights activist Dr. Benjamin Chavis, as a vehicle for the industry to “give back” to diamond-producing countries. Along the way, it’s funded many worthy educational initiatives—you can read about them here.

Now the group is doing something of a “pivot,” Chavis says. Before its “Diamonds in the Sky” event last week in Las Vegas, the DEF gathered an impressive collection of movers and shakers for a lunch, during which they expressed enthusiasm for the idea of a consumer-facing “diamonds do good” campaign. The DEF has already gotten a grant from the JCK Industry Fund to explore the idea, but the commitment of these players could bring it to the next level. 

The reason for such a campaign is clear: The industry does not have the greatest image among certain consumers, and surveys of millennials say they look more favorably on industries and companies that support charities and good works. “The industry has [doing good] as part of its DNA,” says DEF executive director Nancy Orem Lyman. “That is an important thing to communicate. We need to be a conduit of the good stories to consumers.”

The envisioned campaign will start with a digital component, including a website, and then go from there. The DEF plans to work with an agency that is experienced at these kinds of campaigns, as well as talking to younger consumers. “It has to be authentic and transparent,” says Lyman. “Otherwise people will shoot it down.” And while the DEF has been, up to now, mostly focused on Africa, the campaign will also talk about the benefits the industry brings to countries such as India and Canada. 

The DEF will, of course, still continue to support its beneficiaries. But if this campaign bears fruit, it will make the group much more important to a business in need of an image boost. “There has been a void,” says Chavis. “The DEF is going to fill that void.”

JCK News Director