The organization formerly known as ‘Diamond Producers Association’, assembling the world's leading diamond mining companies and charged with the generic promotion of diamonds, today relaunched as the Natural Diamond Council (NDC).The NDC will continue the DPA's mandate to promote the desirability of natural diamonds and support the integrity of the diamond jewelry industry. As part of the launch, the NDC is repositioning its "Real is Rare, Real is a Diamond" consumer campaign with a new focus under the header ‘Only Natural Diamonds’ (OND), through a digital approach that focuses on content creation towards consumers (www.naturaldiamonds.com). A separate website for industry members, www.naturaldiamonds.com/Council, aims to be the go-to point for diamond professionals all across the value chain, where they can access resources, marketing materials and educational materials.
The Diamond Loupe sat down with David Kellie, CEO of the Natural Diamond Council to find out more about the rebranding strategy.
Pandemic aside, the luxury industry hasn’t performed all that bad in recent years, yet diamond jewellery sales have not followed the same track. Where did it go wrong?
Over the last 15 years, the natural diamond market has indeed grown at a slower rate than the luxury goods industry generally. The high-end diamond jewelry brands have performed in line with the luxury market (Cartier, Bulgari, Van Cleef etc). The challenge has been more felt in the mid-tier of retail jewelers where there are no dominant brands.
Luxury growth requires an investment in building consumer desirability over a significant time period. During these past 15 years, consumers have had less access to the category marketing information and adequate tone of voice that served as the bedrock of the diamond dream for so many generations. The fashion and accessories categories have done a better job stimulating consumption through defining and promoting trends and innovation, and by having a confident approach to trendsetting. In addition, the other luxury categories have adopted digital strategies early on and therefore have better targeted a younger audience.
This is why the new platform and content strategy of the Natural Diamond Council is so important. We seek to reestablish that important access to consumer education and information for the growing number of mid-tier luxury consumers. We will be agile in fine tuning our messages and we will maintain consumer desirability 365 days/year.
What will be the key points in this new strategy and how do you plan to execute that strategy?
We need to reignite the diamond dream among new and millennial consumers. With our new digital platforms (Only Natural Diamonds consumer hub and social media channels), we’ll be well positioned to do so. Presenting ourselves with authority in the digital world we will become a go-to resource for innovative content that is both aspirational and educational for consumers, and we’ll speak to them in a new way about diamonds. We have chosen to partner with esteemed contributors from editorial veterans to emerging talent from the worlds of jewelry and publishing, in order to provide a fresh and influential type of storytelling around natural diamonds. The website will also provide an education hub that includes all the facts needed when considering buying diamond jewelry.
In addition, we will also launch a ‘Style Collective: Trend Report’, that includes a compilation forecasting the natural diamond jewelry trends from leading experts. The biannual trend report will help guide retailers for the upcoming season. In autumn, ahead of the important holiday season, we will also launch a new advertising campaign which we will push out across all channels as we partner with key retailers.
Do you believe at some point midstream traders/retail could or should be part of the NDC’s structure?
The Natural Diamond Council will be focused on consumers, listening to their desires and contributing to their dreams. Due to our online content and digital platform strategy, we are also building a system in which we can adapt our marketing and communication efforts in an agile way.
With regards to the tools for industry, our relaunch also includes a new resource portal for Diamond Professionals, from retailers to designers. The portal provides access to an array of industry resources, customizable marketing materials, e-learning programs, instrument testing and the latest industry news - naturaldiamondcouncil.com.
As we set out on our new vision, we will be establishing partnerships throughout the industry. These will primarily be focused on other organizations that connect directly with the consumer (retailers, press, influencers) but we’re also grateful for financial support that we receive from organizations in the supply chain. As our Trend Report becomes established, we will look to designers, manufacturers, retailers to come together to unite with innovative product statements
The messaging of the (former) DPA focused largely on differentiating natural diamonds vs synthetic, has that changed somewhat?
There is huge open space for us to grow in to. Our “competitors” are all of the other products and experiences that compete for discretionary spend at our price points. Laboratory-grown diamonds make up such a small share of this that we caution our partners against focusing on them as a threat but instead focus on the opportunities we have as the world emerges from the Coronavirus crisis.
In the new normal, some experts say, consumer behavior will focus even more on transparency, sustainability, experiences. To what degree is the new campaign responding to those shifts?
I completely agree that in the current economic climate consumers will have an even greater respect for all things natural and will align with brands that have an honest commitment to sustainability. Our new platform and natural diamonds in general are well positioned to meet these behavioral shifts. Consumers are making more meaningful and sentimental luxury purchases, items that represent connections between friends and loved ones. Our platform will serve to inspire these meaningful purchases, while providing new insight on the ethics, sustainability and progress of the industry.
De Beers, in recent public communication, has been focusing a lot on COVID being an opportunity for the diamond & jewelry industry to regain and even become stronger, and the key to unlocking that potential are brands. Does that contradict with the mandate of the NDC to create “generic marketing”?
Very high-end luxury brands, the Cartiers and Bulgaris of the world already do a wonderful job marketing – which is why our focus is more on the mid-tier. But it’s not a contradiction, category marketing benefits the industry as a whole regardless of brand. If we’re successful at attracting a younger audience and can speak to them about diamonds in a way that resonates, that’s a shared goal. And presented correctly, Natural Diamonds is a “brand” in its own right. There are strong values associated with natural diamonds and we agree with DeBeers’ outlook that consumers will come back looking for brands and products with strong values.
When speaking about generic marketing, often people refer to budgets, what is the budget you have at your disposal and do you feel it is sufficient to tackle the challenge?
We are very fortunate to have both the strategic and financial support of our members. Despite their own challenges during the crisis, our members remain committed to role of the Natural Diamond Council and our budgets remain as planned prior to the current crisis. We are collectively confident in the future of natural diamonds and our members continue to prioritize consumer communication as the means to reach our ultimate goals.