Supplier of Choice, RIP

Rob Bates

You may remember Supplier of Choice. It was the De Beers policy designed to set the industry up for the post-cartel world. It billed itself as transparent, open, and objective. No longer would the Diamond Trading Company (DTC) be a closed club, it proclaimed; under the new policy, any company could apply to become a sightholder. (Executives even held webinars about how to apply.)

Not that landing on De Beers’ magic list was easy. All prospective and current clients had to fill out an extensive and often intrusive questionnaire, which at one point included essays. (I would often hear ex–De Beers people—and SoC resulted in a lot of ex–De Beers people—who landed at sightholders shake their heads they “had no idea” what was involved in the process until they switched sides.) The applications were then judged on certain “objective” criteria, with marketing spend and skill given particular weight. If picked, clients would stay on the list for the contracted period, and then the whole cycle would begin again.

A decade later, just about all of that is either dead or on its way out. Company sources say it’s not even clear whether the SoC name will be used anymore. (DTC has already been jettisoned.)

Here are some details on the new sightholder selection process — and for those keeping score, this is at least the third revamp post-2000:

– SoC was (in)famous for judging potential and current clients on how much they invested in marketing—in part to fill the void left by De Beers forsaking generic advertising. This led to a parade of sightholder-spawned brands, most of which no longer exist. Under the new setup, marketing will not be part of the criteria at all — although if a company has proven particularly adept at downstream or midstream activities, that might be recognized, under the rubric of strategic sightholder.

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Source JCK Online