Here in the United States, there’s a lot of talk about how one of our political parties has not kept up with changing demographics, and has failed to appeal to younger voters. This got me thinking how our industry may be in danger of doing the same thing.
Many of today’s younger consumers have never seen a De Beers diamond commercial. If they do hear about diamonds, it is due to an ad from a retailer, or in the context of celebrities wearing them (a positive association), or a news report about the industry (generally negative). And while De Beers’ marketing was powerful enough that diamond demand remains strong—and its ideas still provide the template for diamond advertising today—at some point that demand will begin to lose steam. That has arguably started already.
During the Mumbai debate about the Diamond Source Protocol, some lamented the industry’s constant focus on social issues, arguing that the trade should instead be talking about advertising its product. I’m all for more diamond promotion—and the new “World Diamond Mark” campaign is at least an intriguing start. But promoting the business and inoculating the industry on damaging social issues are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they are two sides of the same coin. That coin is about the consumer. Yes, we must convince buyers to patronize our industry. But we also must make sure that shoppers never have a reason to turn away from it either. That particularly goes for younger affluent consumers, who are our industry’s target and tend to care about these issues.
It’s no secret that this industry has failed to attract much new blood. And this will also prevent us from attracting younger consumers. Too often, I go to events, and hear older men talk about how the consumer wants one thing or another. But how many of these statements are backed up by actual quantitative research? Do we as an industry have any true sense of what the consumer wants, particularly the consumer of the future? I fear that our industry has become dangerously out of touch with the people we need to buy our product.
Right now, we are in a fierce fight with other luxury goods for market share. The last thing we want to find out is that we have lost a generation.