The Diamond Trading Company, De Beers’ marketing arm, will boost its U.S. marketing budget by 17 percent over its proposed plan for 2006. The company declined to provide an exact number for its marketing budget, which has been its policy for the last several years.
It all adds up to “probably the largest program we have ever run,” says Richard Lennox, director in charge of the DTC account at JWT, noting that the industry had to respond to “competition from things like iPods and plasma TVs.”
The new budget will focus on four items, Lennox says: the “Past, Present, Future” campaign for three-stone rings, which JWT thinks still has some life in it; the diamond right-hand-ring campaign, including a repeat of last year’s designation of October as “right-hand-ring month”; the campaign for Christmas, which will have a new component based on “statement” (i.e., bigger) diamonds; and its “Journey” campaign, which it launched in Las Vegas.
“Journey” will be supported by a 60-second TV spot, as well as two-page spreads in print publications, built around the line “With every step, love grows.”
As for the “I Forever Do” campaign for anniversaries—launched with great fanfare last year but keeping a low profile since—Lennox says the DTC isn’t supporting it this year, but it could reappear in 2007.
Despite some gloomy market sentiment among retailers and wholesalers, the DTC has high hopes for this Christmas and this year in general.
“My sense is consumer demand is really quite healthy,” he says. “The fundamentals in the market are strong. But we are seeing rising fuel prices, increasing interest rates, home prices going up, and increased competition from other products.”
Even so, JWT considers last year one of the trade’s best ever. It says that, in 2005, retail sales of diamond jewelry in the United States increased by 7 percent. The total number of transactions grew by 3 percent over 2004 figures, and the average ticket price jumped 4 percent. U.S. retail sales for diamond jewelry now total $33 billion.
Among 2005’s best performers:
The still-chugging-along three-stone-ring category had double-digit growth of 11 percent.
The right-hand-ring category grew by 15 percent, the DTC says. As even the DTC acknowledges, those aren’t necessarily the “right-hand rings” featured in its advertisements, but Lennox credits the campaign regardless: “The fact is, the fashion ring has had two consecutive years of 15 percent growth after years of decline. The variations are so great right now I don’t even know exactly what a right-hand ring is. The important thing is women know what a right-hand ring is.”
Diamond engagement rings reached their highest average price at $2,750. The total retail value for the diamond-engagement-ring category is now $4.8 billion, a growth of 7 percent over 2004 figures.
Sales grew by 6 percent at Christmas.