Allure of the new millennials
New consumer trends presented an opportunity for De Beers and Anglo American Platinum
Diamonds may be forever, but consumer habits keep changing — and De Beers’ savvy marketers know just how to tap into the trends. With millennials (defined as people born between the early 1980s and late 1990s) accounting for nearly half of the total retail value in De Beers’ four largest markets — the US, China, India and Japan — adapting to their shopping preferences is crucial.
In the US, which accounted for slightly more than half of global polished diamond sales last year, millennials represent about a third of the population, but account for more than 40% of value, says Stephen Lussier, executive vicepresident of marketing for De
Beers and CEO of Forevermark, its high-end diamond jewellery brand. “In China, they’re really the drivers of the market,” he says.
There are three key trends influencing millennial sales: the broader trend of female economic empowerment; the way millennials consume media about products and services; and their desire to buy goods that have been responsibly sourced and make a positive contribution to the world, says Lussier.
One aspect of female economic empowerment is that people are getting married later, and that they have much clearer ideas of what they want than was historically the case. “They’re much more interested in unique designs,” says Lussier.
Tied into the trend of female economic empowerment is the rise in self-purchase. “Particularly in the West, it’s not about gifting only; it’s also about ‘if you really like that diamond ring, buy it’. Women — both single and married — increasingly buy for themselves.”
The millennial market also consumes media about products and services in a different way. “This is the digital generation; they’re living in this world of social media, a world of experiential media and marketing. So we have to market to them differently than we have before. We have to tell them stories about our products, rather than just tell them that they exist, and we have to show how influencers are using our brands and products.”
The third big differentiator is millennials’ desire for products that were responsibly sourced. “This is particularly important in luxury because nobody needs luxury goods, and if you want to enjoy the joys that come with owning them, you want to be pretty sure they’re doing good as well. And that’s a new era of marketing,” says Lussier.
The platinum link
There is also scope for closer collaboration between Anglo American Platinum and De Beers to market platinum diamond jewellery. “We believe a diamond is best set in platinum, so there is a lot of opportunity for collaboration,” says Kleantha Pillay, head of market development, precious metals at Anglo American Platinum.
Marketing efforts, which initially focused on developing a market for bridal jewellery in China, where wedding bands are not traditional, are now focused on nonbridal jewellery and entrenching platinum in some of the smaller tier 3 and 4 cities, Pillay says.
“The Chinese associate platinum with love, so platinum is popular for gifting — not in the corporate sense, but boyfriend-to-girlfriend; husband-to-wife; parents to a daughter who lands her first job.”
Pillay says some significant work is under way in China and India, both countries that have been more familiar with gold than platinum.
Platinum Guild International (PGI) — an industry-funded organisation that promotes platinum jewellery — moved its head office from London to Hong Kong in 2015 to reflect the growing importance of Asia for platinum producers.
In gold-loving India, PGI launched the Evara brand to grow demand for platinum jewellery. Evara, which means eternal blessings in Sanskrit, created a range of bridal jewellery in platinum.
“What’s interesting is that it isn’t just about the jewellery that the bride would wear on the day; it also encompasses male jewellery, which is still a fairly big deal in India. It also includes gifting sets from the in-laws to the bride and/or groom; the two sets of parents to give to one another; and gifts for the extended family. “Exchanging of gifts between families that are coming together is part of the wedding,” says Pillay.
Forevermark: Today’s discerning woman wants more in a wedding band, with much more value and sentiment
Kleantha Pillay: Platinum is gaining popularity in Asian countries