...area. Nobody wins if the market doesn't grow.”
From Tiffany paying pop singer Lady Gaga, to actresses strutting round Paris in Cartier tiaras, jewellers currently spend around $1bn on adverts each year, according to pricing group Rapaport. But by pushing adverts with overlapping messages and a short-term focus on Christmas, the impact is often short-lived. Acting as a collective, the DPA can go deeper.
Its first ads aired six months ago. They were two online videos, pushed via social media in an 8-week campaign. They have a hint of the home movie about them. A young woman is sitting in a wooden boat on a tree-lined lake. She has minimal makeup, bare shoulders and is wearing a dress that was probably bought on the high street, but is made with a hippie-ish print. “Maybe we won’t ever get married,” she says, “and maybe we will, but I will spend my future with you.”
It is a huge break from everything De Beers has said since at least 1940. In an attempt to remain relevant, is De Beers giving up the high ground of marriage?
De Beers isn't stepping back from weddings, but the DPA is operating on a five-year plan, Lussier indicates. Rather than frighten off young consumers with promises of marriage, it needs to boost the idea of diamonds as a symbol, so that when young couples are “ready to get married, they think, ahh, you know, I buy into that concept.”
In previous interviews, Lussier has used the word “promise” dozens of times. Now the message has been tweaked. In three minutes he says “commitment” sixteen times, filling it with emotional emphasis. “We know that if they get married they spend more money, so we're pretty keen that carries on. But as long as they make a commitment, we want to be part of that.”
Just as the DPA launched its first campaign, another video about diamonds popped up
online. It was implausibly wobbly and badly filmed, showing dudes trying to crush a diamond with a hydraulic press. The video was brainless, destructive and proudly moronic. It was also a huge success, garnering more than 14 million views. 17,000 banter-ish comments below begin with “mate”, “bud”, or “potato salad”. “Diamonds will always win,” one says. “Press your parents.”
The video focused heavily on a gold-embossed certificate, guaranteeing the
diamond's authenticity. Its title, Diamond vs Hydraulic Press, was in the style of other well-known internet sensations, like Lion vs Gorilla, Scooter vs Truck, Panda vs Snowman and Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus. But the video's sub-heading, “Real is Rare”, was the same slogan currently being used by the DPA.
When De Beers was banging out brash, sexualised adverts in the 80s and 90s, it was clearly revelling in the fantasies of its consumers, and in the brand it had created. Now, millennials want “a little bit more individuality,” Lussier says, sounding faintly detached, “probably
conditioned by the world of digital, where you can get everything customised. They don't want to just buy bog-standard, they want their unique, thing.”
Lussier also does a good job of being able to read anyone across the table. “Millennials are more income stressed than the generation which preceded them,” he says with a mischievous smile. “First they're paid less, on average, they've got university costs, which are pretty difficult, and good luck buying a house, huh? And it's not only in the UK.”
But young consumers are far from a lost cause, he maintains. They earn less, so are deferring weddings and gifts. Women's wages are also higher, making marriage less of an economic necessity. “But when you peel that away, the desire to have precious things that express love and emotion is still there. The need has not gone away. It's not like the millennials say, oh I don't need any symbols of love and commitment. They do.”
“We tinker with our marketing, we evolve it and make sure it's appropriate for the time, but the fundamental promise is largely constant, because the need is largely constant.”
“The only thing I ever really worry about is that a consumer will say, 'Oh, I don't want to get a diamond engagement ring, because that's just some tradition my mother does... We had to buy the diamond, I didn't really want to, but I had to because you know, that's what everybody does.' In the end, you're gonna lose. What you want is people to say, 'I was really happy getting that and giving that, because it meant a lot to me.' Then we win.”
De Beers' spokesman (recently engaged) draws the interview to a close, having written down every word that Lussier has said. Lussier's off to the Galapagos Islands. “I'm going to see the iguanas.”