Saturday, April 14, 2012

Diamond in the Untapped Market

Love and money go hand in hand. With romance comes finance.

I don't know how you want to say it, but I've seen one too many celebrity wedding press conferences (since when did weddings need press conferences, really?) to know that a wedding is a marketer's dream come true.

This weekend, South Korean actress Jeon Ji-Hyun (also referred to as Gianna Jun) got married at the place to host your wedding in Korea: The Shilla Seoul. For the press conference, she wore a beautifully beaded and demure Jenny Packham gown - only to change into a more delicate and revealing Reem Acra number for the actual ceremony. Although too early to tell, it doesn't seem like her celebrity guests were styled by a specific brand (like French label Céline once did, although never officially publicized by the brand, for a different wedding last year).

Jeon Ji-Hyun at the press conference held before her wedding ceremony

the one photo released from her ceremony
Jeon didn't have an engagement ring - or any rings for that matter - at the press conference. Diamond engagement rings have not always been a part of traditional East Asian culture where modesty is a reverenced virtue. Only recently have retailers really started to target the Asian market with their multi-carat jewels. As a result of globalization, the surge of disposable income and the Asian consumer's willingness to adopt certain Western customs, retailers from all industries are vying for their portion of market share. Specifically in the fine jewelry sphere, marketers are romanticizing and reminding women that a proposal should most definitely mean diamonds are involved.

February 2012 issue of Korean Cosmopolitan with a 7-page Cartier feature.
You will find Asian women in their 40s, like my dear mother, who sometimes choose not to wear even their wedding bands. Comments that they are "cumbersome", "a nuisance", "too heavy" or "too flashy" are also very common. Oh and those looks at church - who would ever want that? *gasp*

But these retailers are not targeting my Korean-American mom, or me for that matter. No, they want the full undivided attention of the Asians in Asia. Because that, my friends, is precisely where the growing opportunities lie.

Some of my older friends who reside in Asia are getting engaged - and like my friends in the US, a small box is almost always involved. While my friends in Asia may not be posting photos of the their left hand immediately after their Facebook relationship status is updated to "engaged" like my American friends so often do, the fact that a diamond has become so ubiquitous in a marriage proposal in a culture where modesty has traditionally taken prominence is very intriguing.