Two women kiss in front of a big fire. A woman and a man kiss underwater. Giant waving inflatable tubes flail in the middle of a forest. Another woman holds up a live chicken to the sky in what could be rural Nevada. Or Chile. Or maybe upstate New York.
Could this imagery convince millennials to buy diamonds? Maybe so. But either way, the Diamond Producers Association—the organization behind the Real is Rare diamond marketing campaign that hit the scene last year—is not too worried, despite the languid sales reported by jewelry retailers this year. Tiffany & Co. (TIF - Get Report) , for instance, has seen seven straight quarters of declining same-store sales. Signet Jewelers Ltd. (SIG - Get Report) saw its rate rise ever so slightly this summer after four consecutive quarters of decline.
Rings, of course, are the leading product in diamond jewelry. A diamond ring can cost between $200 for a 1/10 carat diamond ring from Zales—owned by Signet—to $26,000 for a five-band ring at Tiffany's, according to their websites. Of course, the price of a diamond ring can go much, much higher.
"Millennials in the U.S. represent 40% of diamond consumption, but only 30% of the population," said Jean-Marc Lieberherr, CEO of the association. "Obviously, they represent a big share of the bridal market now and what we're seeing is that their desire and interest has not come down at all."
In other words, if diamonds have a demand problem, the onus is not just on millennials.
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The experts in the industry agree. Brian Nagel, an analyst for Oppenheimer, told TheStreet Thursday, Sept. 21, that Tiffany in particular would benefit from marketing its own products more effectively, but Millennials as a consumer demographic are not the problem.
"Millennials are just doing things later. They're buying homes later, as far as marriage goes, I haven't seen a shift from the diamond engagement ring," Nagel said.
The narrative of millennials, who are now between the ages 17 and 35, wholly rejecting diamonds is overstated in the media, according to Rachelle Bergstein, the author of Brilliance and Fire: A Biography of Diamonds.
"It's a very tempting hypothesis, to say this generation is waking up and not falling into the trap that the industry has laid out for us," she said, but this isn't true. Citing a recent De Beers report, Bergstein wrote in Forbes this summer that demand for diamonds is actually growing.
So why is it that the Diamond Producers Association—comprising of the world's top seven diamond miners—would spend a multimillion-dollar campaign targeting the proverbial snowflakes?
For starters, the last marketing campaign for diamonds as a product category was De Beers' A Diamond is Forever, which debuted in 1939. The diamond miner retired its campaign in 2008, Leiberherr told TheStreet. Without an international promoter, the diamond industry came together in 2015 to form the DPA.
Real is Rare received $57 million in funding this year, $50 million of which is tied to the U.S. market. Since October 2016, the DPA has released three one-minute ads as well as eight documentary-style videos on YouTube that feature real-life couples.
"It's been almost 10 years since we came to consumers with an overarching message about diamonds," Leiberherr said. "So what's behind the campaign is publishing a new language to talk to millennials and younger generations of what matters to them, and that is sincerity and authenticity."
This language, as spoken, features compelling cinematography, interracial couples, and, of course, dialogue that is undeniably millennial. "I know this may not be perfect, but it's ours. It's messy but it's also meaningful," a 20-something woman in the latest ad narrates, as she feeds her girlfriend a piece of cake.
But there is something ostensibly missing in the ads: the one-knee-on-the-ground, hand-on-gasping-mouth engagement scene. This, nonetheless, is deliberate, Lieberherr explained. As millennials delay marriage or skip the whole thing altogether, it was essential for the DPA to emphasize love over ritual.
"While not moving away from marriage, we're moving toward love," he said. What's important for us is the diamond being the symbol of the authenticity of these relationships. You get married, fine. You don't get married, fine."
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