The Millennial Mindset

Millennials like diamonds, research shows that. But the way the industry talks to them about diamonds needs to change to be more relevant to their lifestyle.

That is what the new “Real is Rare” campaign by the Diamond Producers Association (DPA) hopes to achieve. In much the same way DeBeers captured a generation with a “Diamond is Forever” this new generic diamond marketing concept looks to engage millennials in ways that are unique to them.

“The industry needs to speak to millennials on their own terms and understand how they view relationships today,” says Michael Pace, interim managing director of marketing for DPA. “We need to ensure the next generation is as passionate and attached to diamonds as the Baby Boomers before them. The millennial generation has grown up in a technological environment very different from its predecessors. The way millennials relate to each other, their desires and aspirations require a new approach to make diamonds personally relevant.”

The foundation of this campaign is based on research done by The Sound. Among the key insights are:

• Millennials are in search of real moments of connection. In today’s hyper-connected online world, millennials find themselves in a sea of connections, but ones that are more fleeting, less face-to-face, and less meaningful. Moments of real connection are rare and worthy of celebration, and a diamond is the perfect symbol for this. Pace says the industry must help consumers identify these moments and give them permission to celebrate them, not just at the traditional moment of getting engaged, but whenever they occur.

• Millennials have double-edged attitudes toward diamonds. They look at the ritual of giving a diamond as formal and dictated by others’ expectations, while what they want is to celebrate the expression of their relationships on their own terms. At the same time, diamonds are still seen as special because of their rarity, beauty, and value. Pace says the industry needs to reconnect millennials with this specialness at an emotional level. “We can do this by focusing on the authenticity of diamonds as a reflection of authenticity within a relationship.”

• Millennials demand choice, individuality, and personalization. They’re reluctant to accept anything that’s ready made or prescribed and want to understand the story behind the product they buy, and preferably influence it. Increasingly important, says Pace, will be the personalization of designs, co-creation, and finding ways to relate the diamond to a personal reason for gifting rather than a marketed one like Valentine’s Day.

• Millennials are optimistic. They also are adventurous and adaptable, having weathered economic and financial adversities. They strive to improve themselves. What they want to celebrate is not so much formal milestones, but their ability as a couple to move their relationship forward in a meaningful way. Helping them to frame these achievements with concepts that celebrate personal growth and the adventure in front of them will be key.

Jean-Marc Lieberherr, the group’s CEO, believes the campaign will inject energy into the diamond category and create a new cultural movement by shifting perceptions from diamonds commemorating milestones and social rituals to marking genuine moments and connections chosen by the individual.

Crossing the Digital Divide
The biggest component needed for the success of this or any messaging, is to engage millennials where they already are, online and on their digital devices.

“Because their habits are very different, jewelers need to create new user experiences online and in store that are entertaining and interactive,” says Jay Gerber for WR Cobb, East Providence, Rhode Island.

Fortunately, jewelers don’t have to wing it alone, as many vendors offer tools to plug right into. Maren Pfister, merchandise manager, Ostbye, Minneapolis, Minnesota, says her company provides digital assets like images and videos for social media to help jewelers market and sell through their store. She advocates retailers post daily, and engage customers using a call to action and leveraging social reviews. She also suggests emailing and texting coupons. “It works well since millennials are always connected to their phone.”

YouTube is an important platform for storytelling, hails Phyllis Bergman, CEO of Mercury Rings, a division of Interjewel Group, New York, who notes that videos do better than traditional advertising. “Today, it’s all about authenticity and videos relay stories in a way that is real for millennials.”

Bergman suggests jewelers get out of their own environment. “Find out what your customers are looking at. Invite them in for a drink. Have a focus group. Warren Buffet once said, ‘I don’t care about my competitors. I only care about what my customers want.’ You need to understand why customers are coming to you and use that knowledge to increase those reasons.”

One of the biggest problems the diamond industry faces is that many jewelers are selling to the cert. “I recently visited a jeweler in Ohio who teaches his customers how to find their perfect diamond, to access diamonds in a way that is meaningful for them personally,” says Bergman. “The diamond certificate is the last thing discussed. It’s there for validation and reassurance.”

Concurs Rebecca Foerster, executive vice president of strategic planning and marketing, Leo Schachter Diamonds, New York: “Every diamond is unique and people see beauty in different ways. If you sell diamonds as a commodity then you’re trapped in the 4Cs. As an industry, we’ve become transactional and short term in our thinking. There are bigger opportunities in spending time with customers, building relationships.”

Storytelling is the No. 1 thing jewelers can do to connect with consumers, says Foerster, who hails diamond a rich story. Jewelers can tap into the Diamond Empowerment Fund and to help promote this message. “The amount of hands that touch a diamond before it gets to the consumer, and all the good it does along the way, bring it to life as more than an object.”