Many years ago, when I was ‘on the road’, selling loose diamonds to some of the finest retail stores in the US, I came to the realisation that it did not matter how well designed the store was or how well lit the showcases were — if the sales staff didn’t understand what they were selling, they couldn’t do it with confidence.
So, together with a work colleague who was not only particularly persuasive but a natural-born showman, we devised sales training seminars aimed at educating and motivating staff. Sales of our diamonds grew. At the time, we were quite revolutionary in our approach. Today it’s a given that brands train staff to sell their product. So why am I telling you this? Because our introduction was to emphasise how rare diamonds are, to talk of their history and romantic powers.
Today I look back and ask myself, how I could call a diamond rare? There are hundreds of thousands of jewellery stores worldwide. In every mall, there are a few stores exhibiting tens, sometimes hundreds, of diamond jewellery items in the window, often with slashed prices, aimed at catching the consumer’s eye.
We have a confused and saturated jewellery market with a proliferation of brands and wannabe brands — in house labels and signature lines.
Do consumers think diamonds are rare? No. A bottle of 1787 Chateau Lafite is rare. Truffles are rare (when was the last time you saw one in your local supermarket?). A Louis Vuitton Tribute Patchwork bag is rare. Spin Jeans by Damien Hirst are rare. You get my drift, don’t you?
So again, do the consumers think diamonds are really rare? No. The quicker we understand this, the faster the market for diamonds will recover.
Then why do women still love diamonds? Why has the slogan ‘A Diamond is Forever’ captured the hearts and wallets of millions? We know they are so not rare. So what is it?
The answer lies in the fact that they have no function whatsoever other than to prove a man’s love or a woman’s worth. It really is that simple. Men are experts at buying things they enjoy. Watch him buy a car, a new fridge, a new pair of sunglasses and you will see a man who has researched the market thoroughly in order to get exactly what he wants at the best price.
Ask him to buy a diamond, and he has difficulty. Why? Because it doesn’t get him from A to B, it doesn’t keep food cold, it doesn’t keep the sun’s glare out of his eyes. A diamond has no function other than to say ‘I’ve stretched myself and thrown away common sense, because you’re worth it!’
Move away from men a moment and lets look at the female self-purchasers. Why do they buy diamonds for themselves? Well, because they can.
Because Diamonds are reassuringly expensive, because they’re saying, “I’m independent and I’m worth it”. In this case, design is key. The solitaire studs, solitaire ring or three-stone pendant isn’t going to cut it.
These women are all about self-expression. They wear jewellery as an extension of self, an affirmation of who they are.
Now lets look at the ‘new money’ purchasers. They’re buying because they probably haven’t inherited any jewellery. Brand is key to them. It’s all about saying, “I’ve Made It”. You wont find this consumer ogling at the cut priced items in Zales. They’re in Graff. But you know what? They have no heritage. Maybe we should start selling them heritage! Something a mother can pass down to her daughter.
And the marketing initiative list goes on and on. Once the old-school family-owned manufacturers of the world can ask themselves, “Why should anyone want to buy a diamond?” they are halfway to reaching their intended target consumer.
We live in a world of fast fashion and intrabrands. Things are in one year and then out the next. Truffles get eaten, wine eventually gets drunk, handbags wear and tear, jeans start to fade. But diamonds ARE forever. If we start making the consumer see that, we can collectively breathe life back into our fading industry.