Diamond Advertising 2002: A Return to Love

If you want to see how much has changed in a year, look at the De Beers (now “DTC”) marketing plan for 2002.

In 2001, the DTC was touting an “upscale fashion” piece called the diamond line bracelet, meant for the free-spending Sex and the City demographic.

But in post-Sept. 11, post-dot-com-crash America, there are no hordes of freshly minted millionaires scooping up what’s hot at jewelry counters. Fashion items like the line bracelet are no longer a top priority, and De Beers is going back to basics, with a campaign that stresses love and sentiment—themes it has always used, but which it thinks will play particularly well in the aftermath of last year’s terrorist attacks.

“We want to remind people of why diamonds have been an essential gift,” says Seth Grossman, senior partner, director of market planning for J. Walter Thompson, De Beers’ U.S. ad agency. “We are reconnecting with the reason people buy diamonds.”

Here are the basics of the strategy:

Promoting the “three-stone” concept. In early 2000, Thompson began promoting the “three-stone ring” as an anniversary gift, with the three stones representing a relationship’s “past, present, and future.” This positioning has worked so well that Thompson has expanded the concept to include three-stone rings and necklaces.

This year, the biggest chunk of the DTC marketing budget will go toward touting three-stone pieces. Part of that will be a tender commercial that debuted last year called “Hands,” which features a young couple passing by an older one walking in the park. (The old couple, by the way, is a real one that’s been married more than 50 years.) The ad was nominated for Adweek ‘s Ad of the Month for December.

“It’s more of a subtle approach,” says Wendy Trees, partner/account director at Thompson. “It’s not a hard-sell about diamonds. It’s more about celebrating love.”

Thompson is also continuing to run “Surprise,” the two-year-old ad that shows a man surprising his wife by screening their wedding video in a movie theater.

There also are plans for two different three-stone print ad campaigns. The first, aimed at women and called “Timeline,” tracks the major events in a couple’s life together, urging readers “to celebrate [their] life together with the three-stone earring.”

The second is aimed at men. Using as its template the “Seize the Day” campaign, it prods reluctant diamond purchasers with such typically cheeky lines as “Remember what you gave her last anniversary? Our point exactly.” and “This anniversary show her that men can be from Venus, too.” The campaign is meant to convince confused male shoppers that diamonds are a gift women appreciate.

Singling out solitaires. For all the attention toward three-stone pieces, De Beers hasn’t forgotten about single-stone solitaires, particularly large solitaires. This year, the DTC will continue to promote larger solitaire diamond jewelry (studs, necklaces, and rings), though less as a fashion statement for female self-purchasers—as in years past—than as a gift of love.

The solitaire campaign will mostly use print. For women, De Beers is cooking up a new campaign that should debut in September. For men, there are more “Seize the Day” ads, like the ones that ran around Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. (Sample line: “It’s just like buying her roses. 150 dozen roses.”) The overall message, Grossman says, is “The bigger the diamond, the bigger the thank you”—although, he notes, “We’re looking at a more subtle way to say that.”

The Design Gallery. Located at the DTC’s www.adiamondisforever.com Web site, the Design Gallery now showcases some 340 designs from some 17 manufacturers. Thompson sees it as a way to give consumers a taste of all the different jewelry designs available, thereby fueling desire for diamond jewelry.

“It shortcuts the process for the retailer,” says Grossman. “Once the customer walks in the store, they already have a clear idea of what they want. It lets retailers focus on the elements that make them unique, rather than having them introduce the customer to all the designs out there.”

The DTC is so high on the Design Gallery that it’s running TV commercials for it. The first (“Eye”) features an eye dilating as it sees screen after screen of beautiful diamond jewelry. The second (“Heart”) is much the same thing, but with a beating heart.

Thompson also is planning events to tout the Design Gallery in stores throughout the country from March through December 2002. In the August “Design Gallery refresh,” manufacturers can add 20 new pieces to the site.

Continued support for the diamond engagement ring. Diamond engagement ring acquisition rates are still high, and De Beers wants to maintain those rates and drive up the average price.

The Internet is now a major factor in De Beers’ marketing plans for engagement rings, because it feels that’s the medium in which young male shoppers feel most comfortable.

The DTC has partnered with Yahoo to provide Web site content on how to buy an engagement ring. And together with Maxim Online—the No. 1 site visited by young males—it has created “Buck’s Dilemma,” an interactive cartoon that explains diamond buying to young men using typical Maxim-speak. (A diamond imperfection, for example, is compared to a mole on Cindy Crawford.) See it in all its testosterone-fueled glory at www.maximonline.com/contests/adif/.The popular “Design Your Own Engagement Ring” feature also is getting a refresh in the fourth quarter. It will be integrated into the “Design Gallery,” and the new version will be more interactive, letting surfers twist, turn, and zoom in and out on the pieces.

Finally, Thompson is introducing a new diamond engagement ring commercial that can be used by retailers. For more information, contact the Diamond Promotion Service at (800) 370-6789 or visit www.dps.org.

All of these campaigns—three-stone jewelry, the Design Gallery, plus the continued touting of solitaire pieces and diamond engagement rings—are being backed by heavy p.r. support, including efforts to get diamond jewelry on as many celebrity bodies as possible. At this year’s Academy Awards, stars from Halle Berry to Sharon Stone wore stones. Ellen De Generes sported a three-stone necklace when she hosted the Emmy Awards, as did Sarah Jessica Parker in an episode of Sex and the City.