De Beers’ Former American Ad Chief Retires

He was one of the most important people in the U.S. jewelry industry for many years—though few, if any, American jewelers ever spoke with him. He’s Derek Palmer, and he’s retiring from De Beers after 32 years with the company, including 12 years overseeing U.S. diamond advertising.

Palmer developed De Beers’ famed classical-music-laden “Shadows” commercials, variations of which the company used until recently. He noted the ad campaign was originally a hard sell, and the special effects took some tweaking.

“It wasn’t easy putting diamonds on shadows,” he recalls. “But once we got it right, it was a stunning photographic technique that also highlighted the diamond.” And since the “shadows” were of undetermined nationalities, the campaign could be used in the United States as well as across Europe.

Palmer later worked on the first “De Beers”-branded diamonds and helped develop the strategy that later became “Supplier of Choice.” For the last few years he’s held the title of “Global Communications Specialist,” which involved explaining “Supplier of Choice” to the industry.

“There is confusion about ‘Supplier of Choice’ and what it’s really trying to achieve,” he says. “A lot of people think it’s all about ad spending. Advertising is the last thing you do. It’s about getting the product right and the pricing right and the distribution right, and then the advertising is the last thing you put in place. It’s about bringing modern marketing techniques to an industry that hasn’t employed them the way other industries have.”

Palmer predicts that “in 20 years, this industry will be brand driven.”

“Brands bring differentiation and more choice,” he says. “Today, if you look at retailing in America, you will see rows and rows of diamond rings that all look similar. Jewelers have to deliver new and exciting products to the consumer, and brands help them do that.”

While he knows that some jewelers don’t like some brands, he argues that “if they get the right brands that are consistent with their image, they can enhance their own image in the process.”

Palmer isn’t sure what his next move will be, although he expects to be active in The Sreepur Village, the Bangladesh orphanage in which his wife is involved. (For information or to donate, visit www.thesreepurvillage.org).

Still, Palmer adds, “I don’t think I’ll ever get diamonds out of my blood. The one thing unique about the industry is that people have a passion for the product and a passion for life.

“If you ever do group research, it’s actually difficult to stop women speaking about diamonds. I can’t imagine that’s the case with soap detergents. Diamond jewelry has its own mystique and allure and people get captivated by it. And that passion is contagious.”