The New Diamond Group Won’t Be What You Think

Everyone agrees that the diamond industry should do more generic marketing, along the lines of the fabled De Beers campaigns that created the industry. So the news that the major miners are forming a Diamond Producers Association was warmly received.

Except, as we have said before, this won’t be a new De Beers.

For one, it is starting with a $6 million budget. “Anyone who thinks he can do generic marketing on a $6 million budget, I wish him well,” says Jim Pounds, president of Dominion Diamond Corp. 

Still, that might be enough to get the ball rolling, says Jean-Marc Lieberherr, head of Rio Tinto Diamonds.

“We are never going to back to the $200 million advertising on television,” he says. “The young people we are targeting  don’t even watch TV. If you look at the brands that target young people, they do it with social media and digital advertising.” 

The group may also look for partners down the road.

“If we have campaigns that are compelling and value-adding and others wish to contribute, we will make that possible,” Lieberherr says.

At this point, the group’s priority is finding an executive director who will carry out its mandate. And while that mandate includes increasing consumer demand and confidence in diamonds, it also entails industry research and sharing best practices as far as health and safety. 

Just about all of the seven producers who have signed on have some historical connection with De Beers. And, as we know, not all diamond producers are alike: Some have been the subject of controversy, including accusations of human rights abuses. But organizers say that any producer who joins their group has to meet certain criteria.

“There are clear critieria around the area of responsibility,” says De Beers executive vice president of marketing Stephen Lussier. “We need to have that if the organization is going to speak on matters of reputation.”

For now, most of the organizers say the group is long overdue.

“We are one of the few commodity sectors that doesn’t have a producer association,” says Lieberherr. “Tin, nickel, even milk, have associations. We are in a catch-up role. Because of the structure of the industry and because of the past role of De Beers, the industry has not matured. We are becoming a more normal industry and the fact that this group is coming now is a sign of maturity. The ability to speak with one voice is important and something we didn’t have before.”

Adds Lussier: “This isn’t going back to 20 years ago with $100 million budgets. We want to put forward what is good about our product and get that message out. But the industry can’t look at the DPA as the solution to all its issues. The industry has to do its bit.”

JCK News Director