Las Vegas, NV—At the annual Forevermark retailer breakfast, the brand announced a new initiative to sell directly to consumers online, and to reintroduce the De Beers brand in all its advertising.
All direct online sales will be credited to Forevermark retail partners, effectively avoiding what could have become a very contentious issue, while plans to amplify the De Beers brand feels like essentially returning to the brand’s original roots when “A Diamond Is Forever” was launched.
“We are fortunate to live in interesting times,” said Forevermark CEO Stephen Lussier, referring to the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius. He compared today to World War I—not in conflict but as a period of extreme technological change. 19th century war tactics used on 20th century weapons made leadership extremely difficult. Winning required bold action maximizing technological advances.
We are living in a time of unprecedented change, from the digital world to economic empowerment of women and more, and that’s even before robots, artificial intelligence, blockchain technology, and the Internet of Things, he said. "How do we navigate? Like the WWI generals, just doing the same thing is not the answer. But above all you need to take some action,” he told the audience.
De Beers is doing just that, he said, and thankfully doing it in a period that’s not a crisis but in fact globally pretty healthy. But it’s when times are good that you need to act boldly to shape the future, he said. In that context, he briefly addressed the Lightbox synthetic diamond brand announcement before returning to the core business goals.
“De Beers’ goal is making emotional connections with consumers, being known for social responsibility, and maximizing the power of the De beers brand.”
Beyond Forevermark, De Beers has invested heavily in the Diamond Producers Association, he said. DPA will invest upwards of $40 million in diamond marketing in the United States to make diamonds a part of Millennials’ world, not just something their parents have. “DPA’s campaign will take time to build its effectiveness, but I believe ‘Real Is Rare, Real Is A Diamond’ is a concept that has legs and will resonate,” he said.
He also addressed the growing importance of the female self-purchase market in the United States. It’s now up to one third of the diamond market, up from 25% five years ago.
“We need to stay focused on this motivation. It’s not a short-term promotion; it’s a long-term growth opportunity in our sector. It’s separate from the gift of love but it can live alongside it. For me, the key to diamond marketing is about symbolism. Not that it just looks nice or is about status, we symbolize something beyond money. It symbolizes love for the gift market, and symbolizes confidence and invincibility in the self-purchase market.”
Trackability and responsibility. Lussier addressed De Beers Group’s initiatives to build confidence among consumers, including Tracr, its multimillion dollar investment in blockchain technology and the Gemfair initiative, which is bringing a new, technologically-driven approach to so-called “informal diamond mining” (such as alluvial diggers).
“Gemfair is about creating a commercially sustainable solution in those environments. It’s in the early stages but we have a lot of hope it could address those issues for us.” It’s a proactive plan, he said, not just NGO responsive.
Lussier also addressed De Beers’ involvement with the United Nations programs to empower women, highlighting how that can drive new customers and build sales. “Don’t think of that UN program as just something high up in the media. It can be effective in the store, as women say, ‘this jeweler shares my values and demonstrates something I believe in.’”
He also talked about De Beers’ work with Peace Parks to address elephant overpopulation in the Venetia region of South Africa, and transport 1000 elephants to Mozambique rather than simply cull the herd.
“You have to create an emotional connection with consumers, and show how diamonds are a force for good in this world. You can be part of it with a Forevermark diamond.”
Charles Stanley, president of Forevermark U.S., said American consumers are spending more on diamonds than ever before, and that Forevermark sales grew 38% in Q4 2017 on the heels of its “Tribute” campaign.
But growth of diamond sales in independent jewelers barely grew in two years fro 2015—only 1%—compared with 47% growth online.
“We must embrace the idea of everywhere commerce. While the majority [of diamonds] are still bought in store, since 2015, the value of what’s bought online has increased 67%, from $1100 to $1800.” Pure online sales are about 3% of total sales, compared to 18% that are bought online from brick/mortar retailers, he said. That’s why Forevermark is introducing its direct-to-consumer online sales channel.
“With Forevermark, you have a partner committed to being at forefront of landscape. A seamless transition between online and offline is going to play a vital role in our future success as a brand.”
He recapped plans introduced at Forevermark Forum earlier this spring: In Q4, Forevermark.com will allow consumers to book an appointment at a subset of Forevermark retailers, eventually expanding to all Forevermark retailers. Also coming are live-check functionality to get real-time answers about product, and a store locator.
In the next phase, consumers can purchase Forevermark jewelry through e-commerce and social commerce platforms. E-commerce will have the Tribute and Jade Trau collections online; Forevermark will handle the transaction with full retail value credited to the retailer (at a certain level of Forevermark jewelers), regardless of how the customer buys. Credit will be for full purchase minus wholesale value and some costs for administration, he said.
For fall product, the Exceptional Diamond collection has been expanded to three carats and more; the Black Label bridal collection will continue to be featured; and the holiday focus again will be on the Tribute collection—in particular, stackable rings, which contributed 25% of all rings purchased in 2017 and were especially popular with Millennials. Product gaps that will be filled this holiday season include hoop earrings, studs, bangles, bracelets, station necklaces, and additional pendants and rings.
A cushion-cut halo ring from the Forevermark Exceptional Diamond collection.
Advertising. Forevermark print and digital ads will be updated for fall 2018, and NFL football will be a focus for national broadcast of TV spots. “Search spiked after it aired every time [last year]” said Stanley. For the self-purchase demographic, a campaign featuring three accomplished women and their stories will run in Hearst Media publications Elle and HarpersBazaar.com.
Bridal advertising will center around “Forever begins when you and me become we,” with variations on the theme. Bridal spots won’t be running on a national level but jewelers are encouraged to run them locally with their own tag. Print, out-of-home, and social assets have been developed, and a tool kit is available for retailers to use in local advertising.
“De Beers remains fully committed to marketing the diamond dream. As Forevermark partners, you will benefit from this ongoing commitment, and together we can continue to grow a really profitable diamond business for ourselves,” finished Stanley.