Jean-Marc Lieber­herr: In­dia’s Di­a­mond Con­sump­tion Po­ten­tial Is Huge

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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.

Rough di­a­monds from Rio Tinto’s Argyle mine in Aus­tralia.

Aurelle by Leshna Shah

An­mol Jewellers

Aurelle by Leshna Shah

An­mol Jewellers

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