A three-stone princess-cut ring from
the 2002/2003 DTC Campaign. This advertisement appeared
on bus shelters, buses, billboards, and other prominent
Japanese men were now spending three to four months'
salary on their engagement ring purchases, considerably
more than in the US
||Page 1 2 3 4 5
A new Japanese tradition
In the 1960s, De Beers aimed its marketing prowess at
conquering international markets. Japan, Germany and
Brazil would be first, for which De Beers enlisted the
help of J.Walter Thompson, an advertising agency with
a vast network of international subsidiaries and affiliates.
Japanese parents adhered to a 1500 year old tradition
of arranging marriages for their children through trusted
go-betweens. In 1959, postwar Japan didn't permit the
importation of diamonds, and the carbon-based gemstone
did not yet feature as part of the yuino-hin bundle
of gifts exchanged between the parents of the groom
and the bride's family.
J. Walter Thompson's campaign sought to glamorize western
values in a series of Japanese magazine advertisements
featuring European-styled women wearing diamond rings,
and involved in a variety of outdoor sporting activities.
By 1981, sixty percent of married Japanese women sported
a diamond. It had taken De Beers only fourteen years
to make Japan the second largest engagement ring market
after the United States. Japanese men were now spending
three to four months' salary on their engagement ring
purchases, considerably more than in the US.
Smaller is better
After extensive exploration in the late 50s, the Soviet
Union had discovered several diamond mines in Siberia.
These mines unearthed a plethora of half carat or smaller
diamonds at a frenzied pace. In a private agreement
with the Soviets, De Beers secured rights to this production.
To sell the smaller stones, De Beers informed N.W. Ayer
to focus on a strategy stressing the importance of "quality,
color and cut" over size. Pictures of quarter carat
rings immediately replaced pictures of larger rings.
De Beers developed a new ring, called the "eternity
ring" which would feature as many as twenty-five diamonds.
These rings would be targeted at older women with the
theme of "recaptured love".
By the mid 70s, the smaller-diamonds campaign was becoming
too successful. Research showed that the average size
of diamonds had fallen from one carat in 1930 to .28
carats in 1976. Meanwhile, Soviet diamond output continued
to increase and De Beers sought additional avenues to
market their production. They hoped to garner the same
success they had enjoyed in Japan with the new international
campaigns in Brazil, Germany, Austria and Italy. But
that strategy, and existing sales of eternity rings
would be insufficient to absorb all of the Soviet's
||Bigger is better
N.W. Ayer suggested a bilateral approach for their 1978
campaign - smaller diamonds displayed in photographs,
and an informative and emotive promotion aimed at reorienting
consumer tastes and price preferences towards solitaire
rings and away from multi-stone jewelry. Furthermore,
they would use strategic campaign refinements to restore
the status of bigger diamonds. Wholesale diamond sales
reached $2.1 billion by 1979, a hundred-fold increase
since 1939. In 2002, sales reached $5.15 billion. The
key to this enormous revenue growth was one successful
advertising campaign after another. But the collapse
of the Soviet Union, civil unrest and war in Africa,
and the discovery of new mines over the preceding decade
had taken their toll on De Beers' command of the diamond
trade. By the turn of the millennium, De Beers' market
share had dropped to sixty five percent.
Next: 'Past, Present and Future'