Clinton Praises Kimberley Progress at Antwerp Diamond Conference

November 7, 2003

Clinton Praises Kimberley Progress at Antwerp Diamond Conference

At the Antwerp Diamond Conference, Bill Clinton praised the achievements of the Kimberley Process, saying it's helping to break the link between diamonds and brutal African wars. Clinton's speech at the opening dinner was the highlight of the first day of the conference, held Nov. 3-4.

While saluting the diamond trade for its efforts, Clinton also thanked human rights groups such as Global Witness for bringing the issues to the public. Clinton referred to a recent Financial Times article focusing on tribulations of the Kimberley Process, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo. "People are going to have to see we are trying," he said, "much as we are fighting weapons of mass destruction and terror and the things that support them."

This was the second conference organized by the Antwerp Diamond High Council (HRD). More than 500 participants from nearly 30 countries attended. Diamond specialist for The Economist, Carl Pearson, moderated the conference.

Despite Clinton's discussion of the Kimberley Process, the conference focused on branding and marketing and away from the conflict diamond crisis that has dominated most diamond gathering in recent years.

Carol Potter of J. Walter Thompson spoke on the mechanics of building a brand, noting the importance of understanding consumer needs while working on brands that deliver emotional benefits.

Gareth Penny, executive director of the Diamond Trading Co. (marketing arm for the De Beers Group) spoke of the 6 Ps that constitute the diamond marketing mix:
• People
• Product
• Place
• Price
• Promotion
• Publicity
Penny explained the importance of how each of these are understood and acted upon when devising a marketing strategy.

Hidetaka Kato, Chairman of Kashikey, Japan, spoke about a specific new diamond niche market his company created, using brown diamonds as a product category. "We wanted to steer consumers away from an old stereotype: that more expensive diamonds are a better symbol of love." His company looked at brown diamonds not only for their natural color but also for their attractive values. A strategy to reposition and revitalize brown diamonds was devised. It included the use of a celebrity to romance the gems, the development of recognizable logo and the joint venture relationship with a supplier of goods to ensure consistency of product and development.

The conference included a point/counterpoint discussion about the merits and pitfalls of diamond branding. Martin Rapaport spoke about the merits of branding, while IDH Diamond Co.'s managing director, Daniel Horowitz, developed a case against branding.

Maurice Tempelsman, of Lazare Kaplan International, New York City, spoke about the changes he has seen in the industry: "What is new, and fundamentally so, is that the risk profile of our industry – the 'beta' of our industry, to borrow a term from the asset managers – that beta has changed. We have left the rising plain and are amidst peaks and precipices." Tempelsman spoke of diamond sourcing and pipeline challenges, rising debt challenges and sinking profit margins along the pipeline, particularly at the retail level. He also noted that the changes in supply, distribution and marketing of diamonds is inevitably pointing to a correction in the diamond market, though he also admitted it is impossible to ascertain when that may happen.

by Robert Weldon, G.G.

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