The diamond invention … Part 2

DeBeers’ marketing savvy did not stop there. In response to the influx of smaller Siberian diamonds on to the market in the late 50’s and early 60’s, rather than panic, DeBeers simply thought fast. They secured rights to all Soviet diamonds, moved their strategy from revering the size of diamonds to promoting the importance of quality, cut and colour and repositioned the diamond not only as the sign of burgeoning love in the form of an engagement ring but also as an appropriate gift for those later in life occasions where sentiment is re-expressed, affection is reaffirmed and love is recaptured. And you thought the eternity ring was a historical concept…..You will hardly be surprised to find out that the more recent vogue for solitaire and 3 stone anniversary rings are also the result of marketing strategies by ‘The Syndicates’ marketing arm the CSO.

The millennium however heralded De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd biggest challenge yet and saw them publicly announce their decision to relinquish their 112 year monopoly over the world’s diamond supply. A decision moulded by the collapse of the Soviet Union and DeBeers’ Soviet diamond agreement, the 1996 decision by Australia’s Argyle Diamond mine to terminate their contract with DeBeers, the discovery of diamonds deposits in Canada in the 1990’s, the atrocious events in Angola and Sierra Leone and the introduction of the phrase ‘conflict diamonds’ in to the human lexicon.

From 2001 DeBeers Consolidated Mines Ltd supplanted its monopolistic approach with a strategy known as’ Supplier of Choice’. Instead of trying to control the world’s diamond supply, they are now focusing on developing marketing and branding initiatives aimed at adding value to the diamonds they already own. Having successfully re-branded THE DIAMOND, they must now work to look inwards, re-branding and differentiating their own particular diamonds. This is a wholly new challenge, in a market where branding has of course until recently been unnecessary due to central sourcing. Their branding strategy has been multifaceted. Firstly they have re-branded themselves as The Diamond Trading Co. They also developed the Forevermark — a Hallmark stamped on all DeBeers diamonds guaranteeing their provenance and integrity. They now physically brand their diamonds. This move was consolidated in 2008 by the decision to evolve this from a branding strategy to a brand name, permanently changed their marketing arms name to Fowevermark (their mining and exploration arms remain under different names.) This has left the DeBeers brand name free to be exploited in a new way – namely as retail name for a diamond jewellery brand launched with LVMH in 2001. Furthermore Forevermark are increasingly attempting to manage their network of sightholders, wholesalers and retailers who disseminate the Forevermark diamonds – rewarding the most marketing savvy and creative.

No longer the ‘don’ of the rough diamond market, the coming years will prove an interesting test for DeBeers and Fowevermark. They speak of increasing transparency and opportunity within the diamond market, but with this new marketing and branding strategy could they simply have further increased their leverage over diamonds strongest manufacturers, retailers and wholesalers in a different manner? A discussion for a different day.

The power of marketing… Charlie x


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