De Beers ’04-MULA: Three-Stone Jewelry and Right-Hand Rings

The right-hand ring and three-stone jewelry will be the stars of this year’s Diamond Trading Company (DTC) U.S. ad campaign.

The DTC’s decision to devote most of its energies to its two newest products is a sign that it still sees considerable potential in both of them. By contrast, this year’s advertising largely omits veteran products—such as engagement rings—that were heavily promoted in years past.

The company isn’t disclosing the amount of money it’s spending on advertising this year, but CMR, a company that tracks ad spending, puts last year’s number at $75 million (see chart). Richard Lennox, director-in-charge of the Diamond Marketing and Advertising Group at J. Walter Thompson, says the company will maintain its “communication weight” this year with a “slight uplift.” The DTC’s advertising budget is a topic of much speculation amid reports that De Beers—heavily indebted from its 2001 privatization—has not increased its marketing budget even as it’s asking sightholders to boost theirs.

Here are the main components of the DTC advertising campaign for the U.S. market this year:

  • The right-hand ring. The campaign for the DTC’s newest product is still in its early days, having premiered last year in print only. The female-empowerment-themed ads have won raves, even if the actual product has yet to ignite at retail. (See “Las Vegas 2004: The Boom Is Back,” p. 114, for the winners of the 2004 DPS-JCK right-hand ring competition.)
    “There has been enormous trade support, and, from the consumer research we’ve done, there is good evidence that we have created a concept that resonates deeply with consumers,” Lennox says. “Our job is to move that momentum to the next level.”
    Among the things the DTC is considering—a TV ad.
    For many in the industry, the designs of the rings remain a problem, but JWT is reexamining its insistence that the rings all have a north-to-south orientation and negative space.
    “We are working very closely with our partners in the industry,” Lennox says. “We are going through a big exercise at the moment to get feedback on and refine the styles. We don’t want to stifle creativity, but we also don’t want the trade to revert back to the same-old, same-old campaign. We want to give the rings a distinct look and style.”
    Lennox notes that the concept has gotten a lot of press attention.
    “We have never had a product that has had such a p.r. profile. It has really been embraced by the editorial community,” he says, though he notes that many articles erroneously call it a product geared only to the self-purchase market.
    “If you look at the advertising, it’s buyer-neutral,” he says. “We don’t say you can only get the right-hand ring for yourself. You can receive it as a gift of love or any way you like. This is not just a self-purchase campaign. It’s a campaign about self-expression and how diamonds are a beautiful means of self-expression.”

  • Three-stone jewelry. Remarkably, this market segment, which has topped $3 billion, is still going strong. Lennox notes that its growth rate slowed last year, from 74% in 2002 to a still phenomenal 57%.
    This year, the three-stone campaign will return to its roots. When it first began in 2000, it was promoted as the “three-stone anniversary ring.” But when “past, present, and future” proved a potent positioning, the DTC broadened the campaign to apply to three-stone bracelets and necklaces, and the anniversary idea was largely left behind.
    Now JWT will explore “how three-stone products and anniversary occasions can work together,” Lennox says. “We want to augment the core ‘past, present, future’ positioning with a call to action around the anniversary.” The target will be newly married men, as research says men are more receptive during that period.

  • Christmas. In recent years, the DTC has sunk a lot of money and effort into its Christmas advertising campaign. This year will be no different.
    “It’s a proven communication model and highly effective,” Lennox says. “Our campaign is designed to let no man in American have any doubt that he should give a diamond to express the way he feels.”
    Lennox adds that, as in past years, DTC will likely premiere a new commercial at Christmas.

What’s left out? There are some notable omissions this year—for example, there are not many plans for promoting staples like diamond engagement rings or solitaires.

“At the moment [engagement rings] are on advertising hiatus,” Lennox says. “They are clearly an important part of this business, but they have their own momentum.” He notes that, counting heirlooms, acquisition rates for new brides are already 95%, and in 2003 the rings’ average price hit a record $2,500.

Solitaires, heavily promoted in the past, will be featured only in the Christmas campaign. Also, last year’s “Statement Diamonds” campaign—the latest in a long list of attempts to convince buyers that bigger is better—seems to have been largely abandoned.

DTC 2003 Ad Budget (in thousands of dollars)

Medium Amount
Magazines $33,417.96
Network TV $27,390.30
National Syndication $6.90
National Outdoor $1,046.82
USA Today $1,168.10
Wall Street Journal $1,056.52
New York Times $153.56
Cable TV $7,525.29
Newspapers – Sunday $105.51
Newspapers – Daily $1,418.05
Spot TV $107.94
B2B Magazines $294.50
Local Magazines $27.36
Internet $1,564.52
Total $75,283.33