The Diamond Trading Company (DTC), the Londonbased marketing subsidiary of the international diamond company De Beers SA, had earned a reputation for its success at creating buzz for diamond jewelry and reaching untapped consumer niches to help expand the sale of diamonds. With its promotion of eternity rings, diamond tennis bracelets, and three-stone anniversary jewelry, DTC’s advertising resonated in particular with American consumers. According to the trade organization Jewelers of America, in 2000 retail sales of diamonds in the United States reached record levels, accounting for more that half of the $57.5 billion in retail diamond sales worldwide. Always watching for ways to introduce classic diamond jewelry to new market niches, in 2003 DTC introduced the right-hand ring.
With the support of its longtime advertising agency, New York–based J. Walter Thompson, the right-hand ring was introduced with a multimillion-dollar campaign that sent the message that diamond rings were no longer just for engagements and weddings. Themed ‘‘Raise Your Right Hand,’’ the campaign featured print ads in fashion magazines and targeted baby-boomer women with annual household incomes of $100,000 or more. Ads included photos of fashion models dressed in evening clothes showing off the rings; the copy declared, ‘‘Your left hand says ‘we.’ Your right hand says ‘me.’ ’’ Women were encouraged to change their way of thinking about diamond rings. Not only could women wear them to express their individual style, but they could buy the rings for themselves rather than waiting to get a diamond as a token of a man’s love. The campaign was a success. It was awarded a Gold EFFIE Award in 2005 for, among other things, achieving 39 percent awareness of the right-hand ring in the year following the introduction of the campaign. In addition, the campaign helped boost diamond-ring sales in the nonbridal categories by 15 percent in the year after its launch. In 2005 the ads were revamped to depict ‘‘women next door’’ wearing the rings, and the Diamond Trading Company’s U.S. marketing arm, Diamond Promotion Service, partnered with the Internet retailer Jewelry.com to promote October as ‘‘Right-Hand-Ring Month.’’
Since its beginnings in 1888 as a South African diamondmining operation developed by the Oppenheimer family, De Beers SA had grown to a conglomerate as multifaceted as the gems it mined. To establish a market and build social status for the diamonds it was mining, in the 1930s De Beers turned to Hollywood, draping stars and starlets in diamond jewelry for photo opportunities. Also at that time De Beers created the Diamond Trading Company to serve as its London-based sales and marketing arm. By the 1940s the company was emphasizing the link between diamonds and romance. Its advertisements encouraged men to shower their significant others with diamonds set in rings, necklaces, and other jewelry as a symbol of their undying love. In 1947 De Beers’s ad agency introduced ‘‘A diamond is forever,’’ a slogan that lasted for almost 60 years.
To promote the diamond engagement ring in Brazil, Germany, and Japan, in 1967 De Beers hired New York–based advertising agency J. Walter Thompson to develop an ad campaign. The campaign, which portrayed the diamond ring as a symbol of love, was only moderately successful in Brazil and Germany, but it was a hit in Japan. By 1981 more than 60 percent of the brides in Japan were receiving a diamond ring as a symbol of engagement. The professional relationship between De Beers and the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency was a success, too. The Diamond Trading Company’s U.S. marketing arm, Diamond Promotion Service, was a division of J. Walter Thompson, and its public-relations side, the Diamond Information Center, maintained an office in J. Walter Thompson’s New York offices. De Beers created new outlets for its diamonds and joined the list of diamond retailers in late 2000 when it joined forces with luxury-goods company LVMH Moe¨t Hennessy Louis Vuitton to create a new retail jewelry brand. Women’s Wear Daily reported that the two companies planned to invest $400 million over a five-year period in the venture, with the first store, named De Beers, to open in London. At that time the De Beers name became the sole property of LVMH; all subsequent generic diamond advertising by De Beers would feature the company’s new ‘‘Forever’’ trademark, and marketing would fall under the banner of the Diamond Trading Company.
Since stepping in as the sales and marketing arm of De Beers SA in 2000, the Diamond Trading Company (DTC) had shown a flair for building interest in and driving sales of fine diamond jewelry. In early 2001 the DTC told upscale women that a diamond tennis bracelet, a classic design in which a single line of diamonds encircled the wrist, was the perfect piece of jewelry to complete any fashionable outfit, and women listened. Following the terrorist attacks on September 11 of that year, fashion jewelry such as diamond tennis bracelets fell from favor, but the DTC reintroduced the three-stone diamond anniversary ring in a two-part campaign. The first part targeted men, encouraging them to buy the rings as symbols of the past, present, and future of a relationship. The second, aimed at women, promoted three-stone diamond earrings and necklaces as a way for a woman to celebrate life with her significant other. The challenge of bringing back to the fashion forefront the outdated cocktail rings buried at the bottom of women’s jewelry boxes led to creation of the so-called ‘‘right-hand ring.’’ But the right-hand ring also provided an opportunity to reach a previously untargeted niche of nearly 77 million people: 45- to 65-year-old professional women, both married and single, with household incomes of $100,000 and up. ‘‘This woman knows herself, she’s proud. . . . She reflects her confident style through a luxury purchase,’’ Lynn Diamond told Israel Diamonds magazine. Diamond, the managing director of Diamond Promotion Services, the United States division of the DTC, said that the right-hand ring created a category for, and gave meaning to, diamond rings not classified as engagement, bridal, or anniversary jewelry and encouraged women to buy the rings for themselves as a way to express their personal style.
Although De Beers supplied more than half of the market’s rough diamonds, two other companies vied with De Beers for market share: BHP Billiton, with headquarters in Melbourne, Australia (BHP Billiton Limited), and London (BHP Billiton Plc); and Aber Diamond Corp. of Toronto, Ontario. Both companies produced diamonds in the rough, and both also pursued relationships with highend retailers to create branding, marketing, and consumer sales outlets for their gems.
Aber directly supplied diamonds to high-end jewelry retailer Tiffany & Company Then in a twist, in 1999 Tiffany purchased almost 15 percent of Aber at a cost of $71 million in order to assure a steady supply of quality diamonds for its jewelry. According to Jewelers Circular Keystone, while it was not uncommon for miners like Aber and De Beer to turn retailer, Tiffany’s acquisition of a percentage of Aber was the first time a jewelry retailer had turned miner. In what was considered more the norm, in 2004 Aber acquired 51 percent of jeweler Harry Winston for $85 million. With its purchase of a share of Harry Winston, one of the leading retail jewelers to the rich and famous since 1932, Aber developed a broader presence in the diamond industry, eliminated the middleman for its diamond sales, and gained a foothold in the profitable U.S. market.
BHP Billiton, the largest diversified natural-resources business in the world, reported that diamonds were both its smallest business unit and its fastest-growing one. Following the 2001 merger of Australia-based BHP Limited and London-based Billiton Plc, the company seemed to be on a mission to increase its diamond assets and involvement in the diamond industry. The heart of the company’s diamond business was the Ekati mine in Canada, which accounted for approximately 6 percent of the world’s rough diamond production in 2000. To brand polished diamonds from Ekati, in 2000 the company created Aurius Diamonds, a marketing division based in Australia. By 2001, following the introduction of Aurius, sales had doubled monthly in Australia, producing $393 million in sales. In 2003 BHP Billiton announced plans to offer the Aurius brand in retail stores in the United States, Canada, and Singapore in addition to Australia.
Following the success of its three-stone-jewelry campaign, which promoted rings, earrings, and necklaces as symbols of love and enduring relationships, in 2003 the Diamond Trading Company launched a new campaign to sell not just diamond rings, but an idea. Working with its ad agency, J. Walter Thompson, DTC introduced the right-hand ring and through clever marketing launched a fashion trend. Additionally, the campaign reached a previously unmarketed-to demographic: independent, financially well-off, older women. Unlike previous campaigns that portrayed the diamond ring as a symbol of love, the ‘‘Raise Your Right Hand’’ campaign promoted the diamond ring as a badge of individual style. Claudia Rose, director of marketing strategy at J. Walter Thompson, said that the right-hand ring campaign was different because it linked diamond rings to fashion rather than romance. ‘‘This gives women another message,’’ Rose said. ‘‘Diamonds also can represent a woman’s unique style and be expressive as something like their favorite leather goods.’’
For the multimillion-dollar campaign, J. Walter Thompson developed a series of print ads that ran in fashion magazines, including Elle, Vogue, and In Style. Ads also appeared in publications likely to be read by the target demographic—upper-middle-class women 45 to 65 years old—such as Conde´ Nast Traveler and Town and Country. In developing the ads J. Walter Thompson used fashion models younger than the women being targeted. Explaining the strategy, Diamond Promotion Service, De Beers’s U.S. marketing arm and a division of the J. Walter Thompson agency, said that regardless of their own ages, women identified more readily with younger women in print ads. The ads had edgy, eveningwear-clad fashion models showing off right-hand rings Each ad also featured a significant message to distinguish the right-hand ring from the engagement and wedding ring worn on the left hand. Among the statements were:
‘‘Your left hand says ‘we.’ Your right hand says ‘me,’ ’’ ‘‘Your left hand likes to be held. Your right likes to be held high,’’ ‘‘Your left hand is your heart. Your right hand is your voice,’’ and ‘‘Your left hand lives for love. Your right hand lives for the moment.’’ Each ad included the tagline ‘‘Women of the world, raise your right hand.’’ By the end of the year the print campaign was expanded to include television spots.
Jewelry designers were encouraged to develop rings that matched De Beers’s prototype right-hand rings, which were trendy and fashion-conscious To avoid being confused with traditional diamond engagement and wedding rings or with the popular three-stone anniversary rings, right-hand rings had one diamond of 20 points or larger and as many additional smaller diamonds as desired as long as it was not limited to three. A report in Israel Diamonds noted that more than 300 designs were submitted by manufacturers hoping to be a part of the campaign. From the original submittals, 10 ring designs were selected. An additional 6 ring designs were commissioned by Diamond Promotion Services, resulting in the 16 rings that were featured in the ads.
The ‘‘Raise Your Right Hand’’ campaign was a marketing success for the Diamond Trading Company. Prior to the campaign’s launch, diamond-ring sales were at the low end of the diamond-jewelry market, representing 28 percent of diamond jewelry, or $3.3 billion in sales, in 2003. Following the introduction of ‘‘Raise Your Right Hand,’’ in 2004 nonbridal ring sales increased 15 percent. The campaign also created a cultural phenomenon by convincing single women that they could have a diamond ring without an engagement or in addition to a bridal set. And while the campaign originally targeted women with household incomes of $100,000 or more, right-hand rings soon were available at stores from Costco and Wal-Mart to Tiffany & Company and ranged in price from a couple hundred dollars to several thousand. Besides appearing on the right hands of stars such as Cameron Diaz, Charlize Theron, Halle Berry, and the female cast members of Sex and the City, women in all income brackets were soon sporting the rings. Clothing designers such as Betsey Johnson and Zac Posen, recognizing a growing trend, paired right-hand rings with their 2004 spring ready-to-wear styles. In 2005 the campaign garnered a Gold EFFIE Award from the New York American Marketing Association for ‘‘exceeding its objectives of bringing ring growth into line with total diamond jewelry growth.’’ The campaign was also recognized for pushing single women into the diamond-jewelry-buying market and achieving 39 percent product awareness among consumers in the year following its launch. Also in 2005 the DTC revamped the campaign, introducing new ads that were similar to the original but with a softer and less fashion-forward tone, replacing hard-edged fashion models with women dressed in cardigans. The right-hand ring category was broadened as well to include almost any ring that allowed women to express their individual identities. To further encourage women to raise their suitably adorned right hands, Diamond Promotion Services, the DTC’s U.S. marketing arm, partnered with Jewelry.com, the premiere Internet jewelry site, and named October ‘‘Right-Hand Ring Month.’’