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The Right Campaign for the Right Hand

The Right Campaign for the Right Hand

           Only two things in life are forever, according to the internationally known diamond company De Beers, and those are love and diamonds. Under the direction of the ad agency, J. Walter Thompson (JWT), De Beers launched its remarkable slogan and subsequent ingenious ad campaigns to sell diamond engagement rings to men and women for over 60 years. By the use of the persuasion premise known as the positioning model, De Beers was able to initiate a social movement by marketing a niche of consumers in an ad campaign known as Raise your Right Hand.

          Until the mid to late 1800s, diamonds were mined in only two known countries, India and Brazil, so the high prices were maintainable due to the 

scarcity of the stones.  De Beers, the most dominant diamond cartel known internationally, got its start in the diamond business in 1870 when Cecil Rhodes 

secured enough claims on mining land in Africa after diamonds were found on the continent in 1867. Each digger was allowed one, possibly two, claims on the 

land to avoid disputes and latecomer settlers in the limited land space. Rhodes’ was the first company to rent out digging equipment and eventually controlled 

enough of the diamond claims by 1880 to become his own company that would manage all other diamond-mining companies. The company became known as 

De Beers Diamond Mining Company. Seven years later, De Beers was the sole owner of South African diamond mines (Kretschmer 2-4).

        Soon, other diamond companies wanted in on the profitability of the industry. To maintain control over the diamond industry, De Beers formed the Central Selling Organization (CSO) as a marketing arm. Through the CSO, about 80 percent of all diamond prices and amounts of diamonds sold to other diamond companies was established and any company invited to the share distribution in London by De Beers was considered elite (Krestchmer 6-9). Eventually some companies thought they were charged too large of handling fees or not given enough share of the industry and the De Beers monopoly was threatened. Other world events threatened the success of the cartel such as discovering diamonds in other countries (Australia, Siberia, Angola, Canada) as well as the Israeli Rebellion. In the 1970s, Israel faced high inflation and since diamonds were the only source of consistent value, merchants began hoarding the diamonds for sale at a later date. This hurt De Beers because they were unable to predict how many diamonds were in the market and if large numbers were suddenly released, the price of diamonds would drop significantly (Kretschmer 12-13).

            To secure the monopoly De Beers held, the company had to cut back the number of diamonds it distributed and had to buy up the smaller, excess diamonds sold by mining companies from other countries (McAdams and Reavis 7). Also, De Beers knew that it would have to start selling diamonds through another form of desire. The actual product of a diamond would never change – a diamond is a diamond. While size and clarity affects the purchase point of the diamond, De Beers set out to create another channel of distribution of diamonds. At the same time, a civil war in Angola broke out and exposed the blood diamonds being sold from De Beers. To protect its reputation in the business world, the company decided to brand their diamonds, change their relationship with suppliers by not buying excess diamonds and to offer better price and package incentives. De Beers named itself the Supplier of Choice, and changed the name of its marketing arm from the Central Selling Organization to the Diamond Trading Company (DTC) (McAdams and Reavis 9).

            In 1997, a De Beers wholesaler from Boston began to sell a stone called Hearts on Fire, a stone cut in Belgium that had hearts and arrows delicately chiseled into it. The brand reaped $40 million each year after its introduction into the market (McAdams and Reavis 9-10). In 1999, De Beers took the idea of branding diamonds and created the Millennium Diamond campaign, a campaign for 2000 that limited its sales to only sell 20,000 stones with the De Beers logo and a slogan saying “Show her you’ll love her for the next thousand years.” The brand was a success and to widen it’s customer base, De Beers campaigned towards other styles of rings other than engagement rings. The Celebrate Her Campaign followed and encouraged men to purchase three stone diamond rings for their wife or girlfriend. Finally, De Beers turned its attention to an unoccupied niche that had not been previously present in the company’s marketing mix: older women, married or not. Thus, the highly successful Raise your Right Hand Campaign took off in 2003 (Raise your Right Hand Campaign).  The campaign won 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 non-bridal categories by 15 percent in the year after its launch” (Raise your Right Hand Campaign).

Be the First

De Beers was able to gain a natural advantage in the market by being the first to encourage women to buy their own diamond ring. Previous to this, only women who were engaged or already married were given diamond rings. However, the Raise your Right Hand Campaign marketed women by encouraging them to buy diamonds that expressed who they are. These rings were to be worn on the right hand, regardless if the woman was married or not. The campaign promoted the new brand with catchy phrases such as “The left hand says ‘we.’ The right hand says ‘me.’”

            In addition to being the first promoter of right-handed rings, De Beers was also targeting a different consumer niche than any other company. The rings were “aimed at 30- to 54-year-old women with household incomes of $100,000-plus” (Yee 1). This market was composed of nearly 77 million people (Raise Your Right Hand Campaign). Now, the successful, career-oriented women of the 21st century was socially allowed to wear a diamond ring that not only expressed her grandeur lifestyle, but also her own personality. To accompany this thought, De Beers’ ad agency, JWT used other catchy and empowering phrases such as “ …Your left hand loves candlelight.  Your right hand loves the spotlight.  Your left hand rocks the cradle.  Your right hand rules the world.  Women of the world, raise your right hand.”

            Furthermore, the company was the first to use the large number of smaller stones that were plentiful in the stock rooms in jewelry stores. Previously bought to reduce the number of diamonds in the market so De Beers could continue with its monopoly, these diamonds were now essential parts of the right hand ring. “Right-hand rings in the ads have multiple small diamonds distinguishing them from engagement solitaires. And they have what jewelers call a vertical orientation, unlike wedding bands, and a centered stone of 1/5 carat” (Yee 2).  The small stones allowed women to get a “big look” out of their ring even if they couldn’t afford a more expensive setting (Yee 2). Currently, De Beers “estimates that the current market for non-engagement or anniversary diamond rings is $3 billion, compared with $4.3 billion for diamond engagement rings” (Yee 3).

Be The Best

In order to create a relationship between sightholders and De Beers, the company reduced the amount of sightholders from 120 to 80 (McAdams and Reavis 9) and created a special business relationship that no longer required the sightholder to purchase the diamond package they were offered. Instead they were able to request a certain package based on their marketing mix. This program was called “Supplier of Choice,” in hopes that De Beers would be the ideal first-choice supplier. The sightholders were also then allowed to use De Beers’ Forevermark logo that was “etched into natural diamonds which guaranteed the polished diamonds were natural, ethically traded and non-treated” (McAdams and Reavis 9). This ensured the customer that the diamonds were conflict free in light of the blood diamond accusations made earlier.

            Additionally, the De Beers diamonds was seen as having the best diamonds to buy because the company refused to trade synthetic diamonds. Instead of quickly harvesting diamonds, De Beers desired to sell only “real” diamonds mined from the ancient earth. De Beers spent $17 million in synthetic vs. natural diamond material detection capabilities (McAdams and Reavis 9). The company provided free gem labs to jewelry companies that would allow stores to detect man-made stones from real ones (McAdams and Reavis 9). Also, the company began to promote the benefits of using African workers in diamond mines such as “employment opportunities, schools for its children, and access to anti-HIV drugs for its mine workers” (McAdams and Reavis 9) since synthetic stones were marketed as going to reduce the amount of African miner mistreatment that produced blood diamonds.

            Finally, the campaign insinuated that women who had excess income to purchase the rings were the crème of the crop because they did not need a man to purchase their diamonds. These women were independent and extravagant. The persuasion technique that plays to the Need for a Sense of Power and Strength as one of Packard’s “Compelling Needs.”  This needs based process premise states that a person, specifically a US citizen, has “the need for a personal extension of one’s perceived power or strength” (Larson 179). He goes on to say that “The bigger the car or outboard motor, the better” (Larson 179).   The theory is in line with women wanting big, showy diamonds that express who they are by placing them on the right hand – the powerful hand that says “me.”

Be the Least Expensive

            Although the price point of the diamond ring set forth by De Beers was meant to be high in order to protect the value and rarity demeanor of a diamond, right hand rings were made with the intention of having a range of prices. This was accomplished by requesting ring designs for the ads from multiple jewelry manufacturers. Of the 300 designs submitted, 10 were copyrighted and six remained in the public domain. Jewelry makers were able to adapt those six designs for their individual customer base (Yee 4). Consequently, jewelers could set a ring with stones of varying sizes while using many stones to get the big look women are looking for in a ring. According to Yee, a 14-stone ring featured in the campaign could range from $895 to $4,995, depending on the size of the stone (5). Hence, “the variable designs help make the ring-hand rings affordable – critical for a product intended largely for purchase by women (Yee 6).   Furthermore, the campaign was tweaked in 2005 to target “women next door” instead of the luxurious and elegantly dressed women depicted in the 2003 ads (Raise your Right Hand Campaign).

            As the fashion trend of the right hand ring expanded, retailers began to sell the style so women of all incomes could purchase the rings. Soon right hand rings could be found in stores like Wal-Mart and Costco (Raise Your Right Hand Campaign).

Be the Most Expensive

            The Raise your Right Hand Campaign was designed to reach a currently unoccupied niche in the marketing mix. This market was directed toward older, wealthy, independent and stylish women, married or not. The intended market was expected to have an income of  $100,000 or more, making the purchase of one of the diamond rings a luxury buy that emphasized the woman’s establishment of an independent and wealthy woman. Additionally, the demeanor of the ads used in the 2003 campaign was simply that of luxury. Each ad featured a sophisticated and stylish model perched on a bench or in the foreground of a dark, velvety background. With the air of dignity and poise, each model wears a wedding ring on the left hand, but conceals it in her flowing gown, while she proudly holds her right hand, heavy with sparkling diamonds, at the focal point of her pose.

            In contrast to the sale of right hand rings in stores such as Wal-Mart and Costco, the rings were initially sold in high-end retailers such as Tiffany and Company before the fashion trend had trickled down the scale of variable incomes. The ability to purchase a big, stylish ring from a notable and elite jeweler may fill the “I’m better than you” hot button, another need based process premise presented by Feig. The hot button is defined as “the need for ego gratification. [as a way for] consumers [to] display the possessions that build their egos and meet this need. Persuaders often target groups whose members feel that they have been put down for some time…” (Larsen 177).  Women are therefore the ideal targets for marketing these rings as the most expensive since women have historically made less than men in the workplace. According to an article at CNNMoney.com, women made 77 cents to the dollar that a man made in 2010 (Censky 3).

Tell What You’re Not

The Right Hand Ring Campaign blatantly made the statement that this ring was not a romantic ring. The company made many attempts to design the ring’s setting so that it did not resemble an engagement solitaire, or a three-ring setting that resembled an anniversary ring. The campaign specifically integrated a new fashion trend into society so that diamond sales would extend beyond the matrimonial market. Women were encouraged to buy their own rings and to express who they were as a person and the individualistic-support from the jewelry companies for not needing a man to buy her the diamond was all the modern woman needed to be persuaded to buy one.

Furthermore, the new face of the Diamond Trading Company gave jewelers permission to use the Forevermark on their stones (McAdams and Reavis 9). This mark promises the consumer that the stone was natural, non-treated and was not taken by forced African diamond slavery, but was traded fairly and ethically. The consumer would then be able to purchase her diamond guilt-free knowing that it was not a synthetic diamond, it was not treated before purchase and it was not a blood diamond.

            Overall, the Raise your Right Hand Campaign was a highly successful campaign that brought light to a new market and promoted the sale of diamonds to a staggering number. The multimillion-dollar campaign boasted a 2.75 percent increase in the first half of 2003 regardless of the Iraq war and the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (Yee 6). Even more so, the campaign increased diamond ring sales in the jewelry industry 15 percent from the original 28 percent coverage (Raise Your Right Hand Campaign). Additionally, the campaign won a Gold EFFIE in 2005 from the New York American Marketing Association for “exceeding its objectives of bringing ring growth into line with total diamond jewelry growth” (Raise Your Right Hand Campaign). Furthermore, the campaign gained 39 percent product awareness among consumers, specifically single women (Raise Your Right Hand Campaign).

            Despite the large success of the campaign, several events or cultural practices may have hindered the overall acceptance of the right hand ring. Two notable events from each category are the civil wars in Africa that highlighted the trade of blood diamonds into the market and the engagement ring practices of culturally diverse brides. First, the civil wars in Sierra Leone, Sierra Liberia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Angola, which began in the 1990s and lasted until 2002, utilized the unethical trade of diamonds to support its rebel militaries (McAdams and Reavis 8). It is well known that Africans were forcibly used to mine for diamonds to enter this trade. To prevent the Africans from stealing the diamonds in hopes of supporting themselves financially if they managed to escape, rebel leaders chopped off the hands, often the entire arm, of the slaves. Hence, the campaign slogan that said “Women of the world, raise your right hand” could have been insulting towards the cross-continental slaves who no longer had right hands, and could have appeared distasteful to the groups who supported an end to the cruel treatment of the slaves.

            Furthermore, many cultures do not practice the exchange of diamond rings as a symbol of engagement, so the fashion trend did little to encourage “women of the world” other than American women. But even more so, in many cultures such as “Jews, Muslims, and Orthodox Christians wear wedding bands on the right hand, as do citizens of India, Spain, Venezuela, Germany, Russia, and most of Eastern Europe” (Sexism in Advertising). Because many women of the world already say “we” on the right hand, this campaign does little to include all women of the world when it promotes the right hand ring as the ring that establishes women as independent and stylish.

            In conclusion, the revolutionary fashion trend of the Right Hand Ring Campaign was highly successful in increasing diamond ring sales in the jewelry market and for reaching a previously unoccupied niche within the diamond market. Through the Positioning Model, the Diamond Trading Company, the marketing subsidiary of the De Beers Diamond Company, was able to prove their right hand ring was the first, the best, the least expensive, the most expensive and what the right hand ring was not; it is not a romantic ring. Despite multiple events and cultural practices that may have put the Right Hand Ring Campaign in poor light, the campaign did much to garner an increase in 15 percent diamond ring sales and it even won a Gold EFFIE in 2005 from the New York American Marketing Association. In reflection of the success of the campaign, it was indeed the right campaign for the right hand.

 

Works Cited

 

Censky, Annalyn. "Women in Top-paying Jobs Still Make Less than Men - Apr. 20, 2010."

CNNMoney.com. Cable Network News, 20 Apr. 2010. Web. 04 June 2011.

 

Kretschmer, Tobias. "DeBeers and Beyond." Danforth Diamonds. Research Fund from London

Business School, 1998. Web. 2 June 2011.

 

Larson, Charles U. Persuasion: Reception and Responsibility. 12th ed. Boston: Wadsworth,

Cengage Learning, 2010. 325. Print.

 

McAdams, David, and Cate Reavis. DeBeers’s Diamond Dilemma. Cambridge: MIT Sloan

School of Management, 2008. MSTIR: Teaching Innovations. MIT Sloan Management,

01 Jan. 2008. Web. 31 May 2011.

 

“Raise Your Right Hand Campaign.” 2008. Marketing Campaign Case Studies. 31 July 2008.

Web. 31 May 2011.

 

"Sexism in Advertising." Sexual Assault and Prevention Awareness Center. SAPAC, 2007. Web.

04 June 2011.

 

Yee, Blythe. "Ads Remind Women they have Two Hands." Wall Street Journal: B.1. ProQuest Newsstand. Aug 14 2003. Web. 31 May 2011.

 

 

Works Referenced

 

Some of the Right Hand Ring Campaign advertisements can be found at: http://static.lookbooks.com/campaigns/view/jewelry/de-beers-diamonds-are-forever-right-hand-ring , http://grahamaustin.pbworks.com/f/1203584737/a%20diamond%20is%20forever%201.jpg, http://lh5.ggpht.com/_n7wvHC-Fuk8/SvOQ9qQXQuI/AAAAAAAABTU/GWeoVnTNIqA/right-hand.jpg, http://www.cassandrastoklosa.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/debeer_right_hand_ring.jpg, http://www.umich.edu/~sapac/sia/2007/a%20diamond%20is%20forever%203.jpg 

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Kylie Jacobsen,
Dec 3, 2011, 3:05 PM