De Beers Branding and the Bench

March 1999


De Beers Branding and the Bench

Our cover story on the jeweler's bench and its renewed strength in the retail store is the perfect antidote to the diamond-supply industry's hand-wringing over De Beers' branding project. Whatever the ultimate effect if De Beers should create its own brand and advertise it directly to consumers (which it has not yet said it will do), even a $200 million ad campaign can't overcome consumers' need for talented and competent local jewelers who can create custom designs and repair jewelry.

With a fabulous bench, local jewelers will weather whatever De Beers has in store. My wish for you is not to worry too much about De Beers' branding as long as you aggressively promote the very quality that makes you a jeweler instead of just a retailer who sells finished goods.

Still the branding initiatives are worrisome, and you should examine how it could affect you. Strangely, most commentators have addressed the potential deleterious effect of De Beers' branding on polished diamond suppliers and dealers rather than on retailers. (De Beers really has two branding programs: a generic De Beers mark on high-quality diamonds, which is being test-marketed in England, and a De Beers millennium hallmark on a limited edition of 1-2-ct. diamonds to be sold through the millennium by selected sightholders, including several in the U.S.).

Though De Beers continues to try to influence public opinion about benefits for retailers (several stories have "leaked out" quoting the English retailers gushing how the De Beers brand has been fabulousfor them), the real effect remains to be seen. I have several concerns but freely admit I need your input to decide if this is a good or bad thing for retailers. Here are my questions – I invite you to respond by e-mail, telephone, letter or on-line (go to and click on Brainstorm):

  • Will the De Beers brand help you make more money? Does it add anything (beyond a higher price) to the package of goods and services that excellent jewelers already offer?
  • Will the De Beers brand further erode the individual jewelry store brand's prominence in consumers' minds as the expert on diamonds?
  • What about all the diamonds De Beers declines to brand because they aren't "top drawer." Will De Beers' quality mark make all lower-quality diamonds seem like chopped liver, even though jewelers now have many customers who are happy with them?

My concern is that diamonds are already pretty pricey from the consumer's point of view. No matter how much value you add to a diamond by guaranteeing its quality through a brand, diamonds are different from Hermès scarves. They cost a whole, whole lot more to begin with. At what point does the consumer say "this price is ridiculous, what can you show me in a comparable-quality diamond that's not branded?" Playing your cards right means making sure you're supremely educated about diamonds and have conveyed that to consumers. Then, even if some "sheep" will buy only a brand they've seen advertised, at least you'll still have other diamond sales.

– by Peggy Jo Donahue

Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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