Millennials: the new marketing challenge

Abraham Dayan

A global marketing campaign launched by Hearts On Fire which targets the so-called Millennials, people born between 1980 and the early 2000s, has put the spotlight on to the issue of how to market diamond jewelry to this category of potential buyers. The Millennials have already started to, or are about to, enter the marrying age, but, as marketers have discovered, this group’s buying patterns are different from those of their parents and are extremely varied, thus making marketing to them a complex affair.

Hearts On Fire’s Ignite Something campaign starts in September, featuring in fashion and bridal magazines as well as on television, digital outlets and social media channels, according to the firm. TV and video components of the campaign were expected to launch on Hearts On Fire’s Facebook and Instagram accounts in late August.

Hearts On Fire says it is aiming to redefine the experience of owning a diamond for the millennial generation. With a deeper understanding of how this age-group is transforming the luxury space, Hearts On Fire is seeking to build a platform that will enable younger consumers to create their own form of luxury.

Today’s young couples are part of a generation that has a different relationship with tradition – they are doing things the way that they want to,” said Kristin Suppelsa, vice president of marketing a Hearts On Fire. “As a brand, Hearts On Fire is well-known for its passion and creativity, and this new platform further increases our ability to speak directly to all generations, and welcome the new traditions that they are forging for themselves.

Established in the United States in 1996, Hearts On Fire was acquired last year by the retail jewelry giant Chow Tai Fook which is based in Hong Kong. Following the acquisition, the brand has begun a series of initiatives to increase consumer awareness of its products around the globe. While De Beers’ A Diamonds Is Forever tagline worked well for the generations born during and after World War II, marketers realize that this needs adapting for the new generation of Millennials.

Bridging the generation gap

This is not the first time that Hearts On Fire has found a new way to make shopping for jewelry cool, and a way to bridge the generation gap. The company, in the past, designed a whole new jewelry buying experience in a store that evokes some of the subtle design aesthetics and high-tech vibe one finds in an Apple store. Today there are two Hearts On Fire stores in Las Vegas and King of Prussia, PA, with more to come.

[two_third]Explaining the new ideas around displaying and selling diamond jewelry, the firm said, “With all of the technology and digital innovation in our lives today, consumer expectations have changed when it comes to how they want to shop.  Especially when it comes to highly considered purchases, such as diamond jewelry, consumers no longer want a traditional feel and are searching for a more unique, personal experience. That is why we are excited to continue to refine and expand our retail concept – breaking conventional shopping barriers and making the diamond jewelry retail experience enjoyable and interactive fun again.[/two_third][one_third_last]

“[To break] conventional shopping barriers and [to make] the diamond jewelry retail experience enjoyable and interactive fun again.”


Everything about the Hearts On Fire store says this is not your ordinary, everyday jewelry store.  The different jewelry store experience starts with the sheer curtains that hang on the inside windows and the studied use of shade and lighting to create a mood inside the store.  There are no overhead florescent lights inside, but area lighting that the store’s staff can control depending upon the lighting needs and feelings they want to create.  The store features several full length mirrors that catch light and give customers the chance to experience the jewelry they try from head-to-toe.”

Looking for a different path

Where previous generations took the traditional rites of passage into adulthood, Millennials want to follow a different path.  They are delaying marriage, or simply not getting married.  For those who choose to marry, they are dispensing with many of the wedding traditions marketers depend upon, like registering for fine china, silverware and crystal or investing three month’s salary on a diamond after being confused and befuddled researching the 4Cs.

The problem for jewelry marketers isn’t that Millennials are rejecting diamond engagement rings, but marketers need to talk with the next generation in a way that is meaningful and relevant to their lifestyles,” says Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing and author of a new study, Marketing Jewelry to Millennials: How to sell luxury jewelry to the next generation of affluents. “The ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ tagline has lost meaning for a generation that has heard the widely-quoted ’50 percent of all marriages end in divorce’ statistics and often times has experienced it in their families growing up,” she said.

Millennials, it seems, get a greater thrill from buying technology than they do jewelry. It’s not just the need to mark an engagement with the purchase of a diamond ring that Millennials are questioning.  A recent survey among 1,335 affluents, 18 percent of whom are Millennials, discovered that affluent Millennials (aged 24-34 years and incomes $100k and above) derive far more pleasure from their technology purchases than they do from buying fine jewelry.


For example, some 46 percent of Millennials said buying technology is a category that gives them great pleasure, as compared with 25 percent who felt the same about jewelry.  This finding is particularly relevant to jewelers since the commitment to pre-purchase research and spending levels are very similar for technology and jewelry.

Danziger says, “These Millennials would much rather drop $700 on the latest phone or tablet computer, than on a new pair of earrings or cuff links.  Marketers and retailers need to discover how to change the conversation, so that buying jewelry is as fresh and exciting as the latest iPhone. The problem facing jewelers is how to communicate with Millennials to reassure them they already have the skills needed to buy fine jewelry and that doing so is just as cool as buying the latest techno-gadget.


“Some 46 percent of Millennials said buying technology is a category that gives them great pleasure, as compared with 25 percent who felt the same about jewelry.”


Jewelers need to learn a whole new language to connect with the next generation of jewelry customers – the Millennials.  That language has to communicate not just in words and pictures, but in emotion and experience.  It has to have the cool sophistication of high tech, but also the back-to-basics values of fine design and quality,” Danziger says.

Millennials to drive the economy in coming decades

Marketers, manufacturers and retailers are recognizing the Millennials’ potential as being important to their bottom line: the consumers who will drive the economy in the decades ahead.


Since the 1960s, the baby boom generation, born between 1946 and 1964, has dominated corporate strategies behind selling nearly everything. Still constituting one-quarter of the nation’s population, baby boomers created an economy fueled by credit cards and trips to shopping malls as they came of age in a time of relative affluence. For all the rebelliousness of the 1960s and early 1970s, most ended up buying houses in the suburbs, eating at fast-food restaurants, and acquiring spacious minivans and S.U.V.s despite having relatively small families. But now young adults in their 20s are moving to surpass baby boomers as the largest age group, changing the way everything is sold, even breakfast drinks and mattresses.

Perhaps the biggest change is that today’s young adults — in part because they came of age in a harsher economic climate, in part because they have many more choices — are putting off major life decisions as well as the big purchases that typically go with them. As a result, their consumer behavior is unpredictable.They’ve learned to live life in a different way,” says one expert.


“That language has to communicate not just in words and pictures, but in emotion and experience. It has to have the cool sophistication of high tech, but also the back-to-basics values of fine design and quality.”


There are more 23-year-olds — 4.7 million of them — than any other age, according to census data from June 2014. The second most populous age group was 24, and the third was 22. There is no official age range for Millennials but the generation generally is defined as being born between the early 1980s and early 2000s. By 2020, they will account for one-third of the adult population.

At the same time, Millennials are the most educated generation in American history. Far more members of this generation are going to college than of past generations. The largest slice is now graduating and emerging in a post-recession landscape where the job market is still troubled but starting to show signs of improving. Many of the new college graduates have student debt to pay off. And wage growth for younger college graduates has risen slowly since the recession, lagging that of all full-time workers and making expensive purchases more difficult.

But they also have significant earning potential in the years to come and, because of the sheer size of the group, have the ability to reshape the economy in ways that haven’t happened since the huge baby boom generation was hitting the job market and moving into first homes.

Mortgage lenders and automobile manufacturers, who deal with the largest purchases most people make, have yet to figure out how to successfully tap this group of consumers.

What worked with marketing to Millennials five years ago doesn’t work now in terms of marketing and selling and advertising. Adapting to this new group of consumers should be worth it. While baby boomers, not surprisingly, outspend Millennials by a wide margin, Millennials already represent close to $1.5 trillion in consumer spending in the United States out of total spending of nearly $11 trillion.

By 2020 Millennials are projected to be 50 percent of the workforce and by 2025  this number is expected to reach 75 percent. This is a group of people that grew up as digital natives meaning they had access to social networks, smart phones, tablets, and pretty much all of the other pieces of technology that we use today and the new behaviors that go along with them. This is a generation that doesn’t know what it’s like to get 200 emails a day, sit in cubicles, or use many of the legacy technology platforms that most organizations use today. In additional, Millennials are also bringing new attitudes, values, and approaches to getting work done. It’s no wonder why organizations around the world are so concerned with this new generation of worker – and how to market to them.

Source Rough & Polished

Picture from Hearts on Fire Ignite Something campaign.