The World Diamond Mark

Avi Krawitz

The World Diamond Mark (WDM), recently unveiled by the World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB), will hopefully succeed where previous programs have failed.

Primarily, it comes on the heels of the defunct International Diamond Board (IDB), an initiative of the major diamond mining companies to develop a generic marketing strategy for the industry. Historically, it emerges in the shadow of the iconic De Beers generic ?arketing campaigns that propped the industry for so long before the company shifted to its own brand-focused strategy – leaving the rest of the industry reeling from its diminishing luxury market share.

Its provisional slogan therefore appears apt even if it lacks a certain pizzazz: “The World Diamond Mark, it’s the end of something, it’s the beginning of everything…

As if on cue, discussions to raise the industry’s marketing spend have increased the longer the market has been in a state of flux. Similarly, the IDB was born out of the 2008 downturn.

However, WFDB proponents of the new mark are confident that they are taking a more promising consumer-centric approach. “Our conclusion was that IDB failed because it was done moving upstream and they [the mining companies that funded IDB] stopped at who will move first,” explained Alex Popov, president of the Moscow Diamond Bourse, who is part of a four-man team tasked to develop the WDM program. “We have projected it from the downstream up. The power is with the consumer, then the retailer, then with the manufacturer and then with the miner.”

Perhaps it’s part of an overdue realization – or rather, acknowledgement – by the industry that the diamond market is ultimately demand, and not supply, driven. De Beers made similar overtures recently when it announced its corporate restructure and underlying change in how it assesses market conditions.

As such, WDM should not be confused with the WFDB Mark, which is available for use by dealers and manufacturers – and has been somewhat inconspicuous in the past two years. The WDM is strictly a retail program.

And with that focus, the WFDB has made a positive start. The group claims that WDM signals the beginning of the largest accreditation and marketing program in the history of the diamond industry.

The idea is that jewelers will pay a membership fee based on the size of their store to become an Authorized Diamond Dealer – an accreditation that would be checked and renewed every two years. Any jeweler will be able to join the program provided they are recommended by a local diamond bourse or affiliated industry organization.

Therefore, the pilot program, which is being developed over the next nine months, will be financed by the bourses, manufacturers, retailers and the program’s strategic partners. “We don’t want the miners to finance the project before we put our money where our mouth is,” Popov said. “Then they will be invited to join and match the contribution so that the retailers, industry and miners will be equal sponsors.

It’s important to note that the WDM is still in the initial stage. With the IDB experience to draw from, the WFDB is treading carefully. The idea was initiated at the WFDB meeting in Dubai in May 2011, after which planning began in September of that year, until it was presented and adopted last month in Mumbai. So begins the development stage, during which the WDM team will select the final partners and implement the program over the next nine months. WDM is aiming for an initial launch in China and Hong Kong around July 2013 and an official global launch in January 2014.

The World Diamond Mark Foundation has been set up as a nonprofit organization controlled by WFDB to run the project. For now it is being overseen by Popov, Rami Baron, president of the Diamond Dealers Club of Australia, Suresh Hathiramani, president of the Diamond Exchange of Singapore, and Nicholas Chretien, a strategic marketing consultant and industry outsider as they further develop the WDM program. Ultimately, they’re looking for a chief executive officer to build a team and run the foundation from its Hong Kong base.

Moving ahead in a cautious manner is necessary given that organizations focused on generic marketing tend to set lofty, and often unattainable, goals.

The four have outlined six opportunities that the WDM will enable: It will improve the brand image of jewelry retailers through its promise to promote responsible practice, transparency and fair trade. The mark will empower employees by promoting skills development through an online training program. Goal three aims to develop a targeted direct marketing campaign to influence the consumer’s choice when buying diamonds and jewelry. In addition, two generic promotional campaigns a year will support the diamond and jewelry industry and promote the Authorized Diamond Dealer. WDM is also seeking to reduce transaction fees and has partnered with major credit card companies to ensure this. And goal number six states that as the first not-for-profit global industry brand, WDM will bring sustainable returns to move the entire industry in a common direction

Ultimately, WDM has set out to be the new voice of the industry. Its stated aim is to be the primary association in the luxury market when it comes to stories of love and romance, and hopes to achieve that through a simple and generic message to the public. 

Lofty indeed, but maybe that’s inescapable. It does sound familiar but few will argue with its principles. Although, Popov notes that reactions to the project have varied from over-enthusiasm to flat rejection. But, as he adds, it’s still early days.

Skeptics, particularly among the manufacturing sector, who formed the majority of the audience to whom it was presented, may be concerned they don’t get to participate directly in the program but are expected to foot part of the bill. Others may be concerned that the mark might bury their own branding efforts. Maybe there already are too many marks out there! And some, this column among them, may question the need for generic marketing in a brand-centric world and caution against an over dependence on any particular campaign to lift the diamond industry’s profile.

Mining companies will be relieved they’re not being relied on anymore. Hopefully, it represents a general trend away from their influence over the industry in other spheres as well to become a truly demand-driven industry. But significantly, the mining companies seem to have moved on from the generic dream while continuing to lead the industry when it comes to marketing and branding. De Beers and Rio Tinto are two particular examples that have raised the bar in that sphere. It would be exciting to see more companies in other sectors along the diamond pipeline follow this route and improve their own marketing and branding.

Perhaps WDM will contribute in creating that competitive environment. Hopefully it will complement and enhance individual retail branding efforts rather than replace them. The ultimate test will come with consumer reaction and the diamond industry’s market share in the luxury space a few years down the line.

It’s certainly worth a try and with the all-inclusive retail-driven strategy the project could well live up to its potential. The WDM is at least different from IDB and should therefore get off the ground where other initiatives lay buried. Whether it truly marks the beginning of everything, may prove a tougher challenge.

Source Rapaport