The impetus for writing this is that I am a woman in an industry which relies almost entirely on women to survive and grow. And yet has less than one percent women involved in this business in any significant capacity including strategy, marketing, product design and development. There is a general industry concern regarding the declining demand for jewellery. I’ve been struck by a simple yet, a profound question — does the industry really know what women want?
I remember watching with interest years ago, the romantic comedy movie What Women Want with Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt. The plot was simple. The main character, played by Gibson, is an alpha male advertising executive who fancies his selling skills. He is actually very successful at selling — but to men. He prides himself on his feminine conquests but doesn’t realise what women really think of him.
The movie uses the improbable plot mechanism of an electric shock enabling Gibson to understand women’s thoughts and then goes through a series of hilarious twists and turns, the primary outcome of which is a progressive learning by Gibson about how women think and what they really want. And this gift helped him to strategise marketing of cosmetics to women leading to his career growth.
The jewellery industry does employ a great many women, most of them are usually at the sales counter. In traditional markets like India, even the counter staff are predominantly men. The product that is viewed and discussed on the counter top has usually not had its genesis in a female mind, and its positioning in the market has usually also come out of a male view of the world.
In traditional markets like India, jewellery has an overwhelmingly dominant occasion-based sales driver. Weddings are by far the largest purchase-drivers and women — starting with the young bride, her mother, her grandmother and mother-in-law — are decision makers. Wedding jewellery is all about the family’s statement to society on the occasion and the transmitting of wealth to a woman as she leaves the parental home.
Socio-religious festivals like the festival of Diwali are the other big occasions. Again, more often than not, women drive the social gifting agenda including the spend.
But let me ask again, does the industry really know what women want?
As a woman, let me tell you what I think of jewellery. To me, jewellery is a personal statement. Something that validates my sense of being. That defines me and my choices. My jewellery will tell you a lot about me.
Of course price points matter. I have a specific budget that absolutely won’t exceed when I’m out buying jewellery. Of course I look at a piece of jewellery and make a judgement on whether or not it delivers value for money. But the value I’m factoring in isn’t about the price of gold or diamonds or gemstones.
Everyone is talking about the millennial woman today. The question is however, is she really a factor in today’s major demographic segment for marketeers? Her choices, concerns and what she thinks, are probably lot different from men on a whole range of issues. Do jewellers understand her?
Gifting and romance no doubt constitute an important market segment. But society is changing. Even the engagement ring or Indian mangalsutra is today not entirely for the man to choose. The woman wants her say in choosing that traditional symbol as well.
Also if we want to get out of the rut of seasonal surges followed by intervening troughs, we need to start understanding women better and develop products that they’ll want to buy all the year round.
In India, December is a wedding month and as always, I enjoyed several marriage celebrations of diamantaires’ sons and daughters. I noticed a significant shift in jewellery worn by female guests. The use of coloured gemstones — both the precious and semi-precious varieties — along with pearls and diamonds is increasing. Given that these were diamond industry weddings, I’m pretty certain that these style changes in the jewellery weren’t driven by the perceptions of the men in these families!
We need more women in the industry where it matters — in product design and development and in strategic decision-making positions when it comes to manufacturing and marketing.
A woman knows what women want.
Gentlemen are you listening?