Cracking the US market
In the early 1990s, Argyle launched a World Jewellery Design Competition, with a prize pot of US$250,000 to lure designers around the world to use the diamonds as a central element of their work. The competition generated worldwide interest and effectively created a large pool of designers who appreciated the beauty and design potential of the Argyle diamonds.
With extensive market research in the world’s largest retail diamond jewellery market – the United States – revealing that US consumers did in fact find coloured diamonds attractive and “equivalent in value to white”, Argyle set about convincing the sceptical US trade market of the sales potential of its gems. Its cross-country road show of public relations and training activities (“The brilliant light of Australia has arrived . . .”), soon had major jewellery retailers sitting up and taking notice, and it was not long before the small champagne diamonds gained serious sales traction.
As Modern Jeweler observed at the time: “Argyle is attempting one of the boldest marketing feats in diamond history: to re-stitch the mystique of diamonds to include, instead of exclude, coloured stones.”
Recalls Jean-Marc, “We ran sophisticated full-page ads featuring not models but ‘real women’ – attractive and diverse in their appearance and professional backgrounds. This resonated with the target group identified in our market research: mature women who regarded champagne diamonds as a fashion accessory they could buy for themselves, not a ‘rite of passage’ gift bestowed by somebody else. This approach hadn’t been tried before. Suddenly, the small affordable diamonds were appearing in shopping malls throughout the country, snapped up by millions of Americans.”
Rio Tinto’s bold strategy to differentiate its diamonds based on affordability, remains a central element of its marketing activities, and its “let’s do things differently” approach has started to resonate in countries where rapid social and economic change is occurring. The Nazraana campaign, launched in India in 2011, tapped into the strong gift-giving traditions surrounding Indian wedding celebrations. In China, Argyle set up a partnership with leading diamond jewellery manufacturer and retailer, Chow Tai Fook. And Rio Tinto remains very active in the established US market, introducing its grey-toned “Silvermist” collection there in 2008 and its “Shades of Wonder” collection more recently.
While Argyle’s mine production has slowed in recent years, a shift from open pit to underground mining will soon see a return to volume of its small, affordable diamonds. Jean-Marc says the issue of affordability will remain central to its marketing strategies in both new and existing markets.
“Diamonds are no longer just for the rich or the elite,” he says. “The availability of small and affordable diamonds is making it possible for women to buy and wear these gems as an expression of their own personality, rather than as a statement of affluence or ‘achievement’. We like to think we have played, and continue to play, an important role in democratising diamonds.”