Jean-Marc Lieberherr: India’s Diamond Consumption Potential Is Huge
JEAN- MARC LIEBERHERR, chief executive officer of the Diamond Producers Association ( DPA), tells Solitaire about the India launch of the ‘ Real is Rare’ promotion that will attempt to bring the shine back to diamond jewellery sales. The campaign, which is slated to run from November 2017 till January 2018, aims to help diamonds reinforce their emotional symbolism as the ultimate expression of love and commitment.
Expressing emotions is at the centre of what diamonds are. We want to make sure that it remains so, and that diamond purchase and diamond gifting is driven by an emotional meaning rather than a socially prescribed or ritualistic driver.”
The ‘Real is Rare’ campaign will be rolled out in India this November. So will the communication be skewed towards the wedding/festive season or will it be more generic in nature?
The campaign will be more generic in nature. It’s about taking a fresh look at what diamonds mean in a modern Indian relationship, as opposed to specifically driving bridal purchases or occasions.
Could you share the key findings of the research that DPA conducted in India? What are the key drivers of diamond jewellery sales among Indian consumers?
Obviously, the key drivers of diamond jewellery sales today are occasions/ celebrations, luxury and status. That’s a strong base and there is a strong affinity among Indian consumers for diamonds. Also, there is a long history between India and diamonds. As we went through our research, what was clear is that there is an opportunity to inject more emotional meaning into diamonds than there is today. At the end of the day, diamonds are an emotional purchase. It’s an emotionally driven product that is a symbol of love and commitment. Expressing emotions is at the centre of what diamonds are. We want to make sure that it remains so, and that diamond purchase and diamond gifting is driven by an emotional meaning rather than a socially prescribed or ritualistic driver. What we find in our research is that it’s an extraordinary journey in the context of an Indian marriage, of which 90% are still arranged—to go from being a couple on paper, in what is effectively a social construct, to being a couple in real life. It is something that happens through lots of important, defining moments in the life of a couple: for instance, moving to a nuclear set-up from living in a joint family, having a child, or even small things like the husband siding with his wife in front of his parents. It can be moments such as these that transform a social construct into a real, deep relationship of intimacy, tenderness and love between two people. This journey is very interesting and we find there is a great opportunity to celebrate that journey and for the diamond to be the symbol of that achievement. Occasions are great triggers for jewellery purchases, but we want to inject meaning into them, rather than just position the diamond as a reward for the wife for a job well done.
What about the self-purchase market? There are many single women who perhaps want to celebrate the milestones that they’ve achieved with diamonds.
True, that’s an emerging trend, not just in India but everywhere, and it’s an important market. As far as we’re concerned, right now it’s the very beginning of the DPA; it’s our first campaign and the gift of love and the gift of commitment is the cornerstone of the diamond market and we want to focus on that first and make sure that we inject that with meaning and remind consumers how extraordinary a diamond is. It is not just beautiful, it’s not just hard, it’s not just expensive; it’s hugely symbolic as well and we want that to be at the centre of our communication of diamonds as a gift of love.
The DPA’s US campaign was focused on millennials. What consumer segment will you be targeting in India?
In the US we focused a lot on millennials because that gift of love and commitment mostly takes the form of an engagement ring, which is the cornerstone of the market. We want to make sure that we reinforce that. In the case of India, there is no strong tradition of engagement rings; it’s not a big part of the market. A small proportion of couples do that for a number of reasons, one of them being that from an economical point of view, it takes a few years after marriage before you’re in a position to be able to afford or gift a diamond. So there were economic considerations that led us to talk to couples a few years into their marriage. The other aspect is that if you want to talk about the authenticity and sincerity and the diamond being the symbol of that, you’ve got to talk to the couple after they’ve had a chance to build something that’s authentic and meaningful between them, as opposed to at the time of marriage when everything’s still to be built.
What age group are you targeting?
We think more in terms of the number of years into the marriage -- about three to eight years post marriage, which makes the target age group around 26 to 34 years; so late twenties to mid-thirties is the core of the target.
Tell us about your media strategy for India.
It’s going to be multiplatform. So we’ll have two television commercials and digital commercials. The films will be translated in regional languages for different markets. We’re also looking at print and obviously PR and social media will play an important role as well. What’s important is we’re bringing the ‘Real is Rare’ thought to India and making it part of the conversation, and bringing it to life through social media is going to be an important part of the campaign.
Are you going to use celebrities in your communication?
The use of celebrities is an interesting question for us. We won’t be using them in our films because ‘Real is Rare’ and ‘real’ has got to be real people. We want to talk about what’s real in people’s lives. So it will be a very selective and thoughtful use of celebrities; they must match our message of being authentic, sincere and real. We’re not going to pay celebrities just to give a message that’s crafted by us, because authenticity is the whole platform.
Is the DPA’s $59 million ( I378 crore) budget a one-time contribution or will it continue on an annual basis?
It’s an annual budget. Next year we hope to increase it to be able to go into China and launch a campaign there in April 2018. It’s a renewable commitment. Marketing works in a cumulative manner so you need to keep consistency of investment and message over many years to have an impact. The members understand that very well, and even the Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) has made an in-principle three-year commitment of $2 million ( I12.8 crore) each year, provided they are happy with what we’re doing.
Given that they stand to benefit the most from the DPA campaign are you getting any support from Indian jewellery retailers?
We’ve started the engagement with them. We’re not going to be asking them for financial support. We will see how we can best work together to bring our communication and a clear diamond narrative to their consumers; maybe over time see how we can help them modernise their in-store experience. So we’ll be working very closely with retailers and engage with them on an ongoing basis. We’re going to be recruiting a team here in India. We’ll start with a fourperson team. It will be a mix of people with industry experience, especially on the trade side, someone to manage that collaboration and interface with retailers. But mostly from outside the industry we’ll try to bring marketing talent from other relevant businesses like fashion or beauty into the diamond industry to benefit from their experience in marketing to women in particular.
Your comment on De Beers’ announcement that it is spending $140 million ( I897 crore) on diamond marketing this year.
It’s all additive and synergistic. I think the way to look at it is that category marketing talks about diamonds as a whole; it’s the idea of a diamond and the emotional imperative to consider a diamond because it’s relevant to you in your life. Then the
brands build their own specific proposition around what it is they want to say about themselves. Our vocation is not to replace the brands. At the end of the day, consumers buy from the retailer – whether it’s a Forevermark diamond or a Tanishq diamond. Retailers can work on their own specific targeted promise and build on the fertile consumer mind space which we are creating. We’re talking to everybody about the idea, symbolism, meaning and value of a diamond. That’s the way it has worked for many years. Think about the way ‘A diamond is forever’ has created a platform on which the brands have built their own business, whether it’s Tiffany or Signet. That is all built on the fertile territory that ‘A diamond is forever’ has created and still exists today. So we’re creating another fertile territory, another big idea that’s specifically crafted for younger generations. That’s around the quest of authenticity and the way that diamonds can respond to it.
So the ‘Real is Rare’ campaign will continue in India, China, etc...
It will continue for 20 years, if I have it my way! What is the budget allocation for India? We’re looking at the whole annual budget for India of around $7 million ( I44.8 crore).
Do you look at the economic indicators before you decide to spend money in a certain market?
No, we have a long-term approach to creating demand. So, we don’t need to know if India is doing well this year or next year to decide to invest in India. We just need to know that India is a very promising market – that the economy is going to grow, the middle class is going to grow, there is very strong affinity to jewellery in general and diamonds in particular. Today, just 10% of Indian women have diamonds or a piece of diamond jewellery, so the potential is absolutely huge. That’s all we need to know. India will continue to grow and the diamond market will grow even faster.
What is your measure of the campaign’s success? If things go according to plan, would you increase your budget next year?
We’re tracking all sorts of indicators like any marketing campaign does. Of course, the fact that we have a long-term objective makes it harder; we can’t track market share, for example. We are building campaign evaluation measurements that tell you whether your campaign is effective, whether consumers understand it, react to it, whether your span is effective; and we have all sorts of methods to gauge that. We’ll be doing research very rigorously. Every six months we do tracking research in every market to track diamond perceptions, intentions to buy diamonds, and every two years there is the diamond acquisition survey by De Beers that provides us more data points to tell us whether we’re in the right direction or not. There are plenty of indicators to say whether we’re successful or not, but of course, the long-term objective is to grow the value of the diamond industry.
Would sharing this data with manufacturers benefit them in any way? For instance, fine-tuning their product offerings for specific markets, etc.
It’s not the same research. The research that I’m talking about deals with image perception, usage and attitude. What you’re referring to is more product-related research. We’re going to get to that eventually. We’re starting with usage and attitude at the general level. Over time, I’m very interested in doing research on how we can best target consumer age groups with very specific product propositions and very specific communication programmes. Of course, we’re going to be taking that information and providing it to the trade. One of our missions as an industry organisation is to secure, generate, and provide valuable insights to the trade – for all of us to improve and provide a better fulfilled emotional promise, a better product and a better experience, online or offline, to consumers at the end of the day.
Tell us the findings of the research conducted after the US campaign.
Very positive! The campaign benchmarks have been very strong, especially in the digital space, where there is a lot of focus in terms of engagement with the campaign, click-through rates, sharing, etc., it’s well above, some 2.5 times industry standards. As far as the indicators are concerned, we really started investing in the US significantly in August-September because our full budget, which gives us the firing power that we could put behind the campaign, was released only at the end of May. We will learn a lot more in terms of impact in January-February 2018. We’re going to do a big evaluation. We’re going to have a new campaign in the US this November. There are two new films coming at the end of October in the US market that will run in parallel with the existing assets.
Do you have any other message for the Indian industry?
The key thing is that we’re going to be working collaboratively with retailers and the GJEPC. We have a marketing committee and the GJEPC will be part of it and will have an opportunity to provide inputs and comment on the directions that we take, not just in India but globally, as main contributors. I think that will be a great way to ensure that the interests of the diamond trade are being represented in the work we are doing.
Aurelle by Leshna Shah
Aurelle by Leshna Shah
Rough diamonds from Rio Tinto’s Argyle mine in Australia.