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Diamond Geezers

Why is a diamond ring from Cartier more precious than one from Wal-Mart? Can you invent a prestige brand, or must it grow organically?

By Melvin Prince . 01 March 2005

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We understand prestige brands intuitively – they are premium priced, high quality, available from prestigious vendors, and have a premium in the eyes of consumers that set them high above their rivals. But why do they generate such esteem in the minds of customers? To create a model for understanding prestige brands, we will look at one product that creates desire beyond reason in the eye of the beholder – diamond engagement rings.


The desirability of a diamond ring is inextricably linked to the gender roles assumed when a couple gets engaged. Not just part of the ritual of marriage, rings excite the emotions and stoke the dream fantasies of the engaged couple. The male buyer is excited by the aura surrounding the purchase, and the female recipient experiences pleasure with a product that can be conspicuously displayed. Both partners appreciate the symbolism of joint commitment to marry and the love that is being expressed. And whereas neither partner would admit it, the subconscious consumer mind is also at work. The larger and finer the diamond, the greater the value of the relationship appears to be.


Prestige diamond brands are respected and trusted for their craftsmanship. The brand name gives confidence that all of the branded products will consistently meet the highest of standards and value. Its features, such as carat weight, colour, clarity and cut, provide ample reasons for assurance of the diamond’s quality. Among these are the diamond’s brilliance, sparkle, fire, elegance and beauty.


The prestige brand diamond is also noted for its rarity. It may take some time before it can be acquired – some prestige brands would say the longer the better, to whet the appetite. The uncut diamond is of extremely high quality and the final product is uniquely finished. The prestige of the name also extends to jewellery collections to which the diamond ring may belong.


And the product will be independently certified for authenticity and quality by an organisation with expertise in the field, such as the Gemological Institute of America. The buyer of a prestige brand diamond ring will not be content with nearperfection. They want the best.


Some are more equal than others


In fact, there are several levels of prestige brands. Among these, the spectrum of a brand’s prestige ranges from high to low for upmarket, premium and luxury brands. All prestige brands, however, have a common 3R definition:


  • Recognised for their high status compared with the competition
  • Represent the ultimate in quality and value
  • Restricted to a price-insensitive target market segment that is eager to acquire the brand and will pay an expensive premium.

Why do prestige brand consumers behave as they do? There are four factors that link prestige brands to their consumer markets and outcomes.


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