As head of marketing in China for the Diamond Trading Co. (DTC), the sales and marketing arm of the De Beers Group, she’s helping transform weddings from traditional family affairs based on Chinese culture into unions that resemble Western-style romance, individual choice and love.
When DTC began seriously promoting diamonds in China in the early 1990s, “they meant nothing,” said Ms. Cheung, a stylish Hong Kong native in her early forties. Until then, the market “was all about jade and gold, as was customary in traditional Chinese culture."
Wedding jewellery was passed down through families and presented as blessings from parents to their children, not from husband to wife. Fast forward 15 years, and four out of ten brides now sport a diamond on their ring finger, up from essentially zero in 1990.
Last year, the retail market for diamonds grew almost 20%, in part because 2006 was a very auspicious year for weddings according to the Chinese zodiac. Sales are also growing quickly in second-tier cities, where a new crop of middle class Chinese is quickly rising up with incomes that can afford diamonds. While sales are still low compared to the U.S., which accounts for about half of global retail sales of diamonds, DTC has identified China as one of its six core markets, alongside America, Japan, Italy, India and the Middle East.
In the early years, the challenge was linking diamonds with the way Chinese view relationships. DTC achieved that by connecting the eternal image of diamonds with a core value of Chinese relationships, long-lasting commitment and devotion to family, as opposed to the romantic love of newlyweds in Western culture.
“Diamonds have already been established as a cultural imperative, as many brides now associate marriage with diamond rings," said Ms. Cheung. Her challenge today is keeping diamonds trendy in China’s fast-changing culture, and encouraging couples, particularly women, to commemorate their wedding with their own jewellery choices.
"Chinese women are very independent, and they really want men to prove their love and put in the most effort," she said. Inspired by films like "Titanic," they want to feel men will go to impossible lengths to prove their love. "They also know what they want and are very involved in the purchasing process. Diamond rings are not a surprise gift here like they are in the West. In China, women help choose their own diamond ring after becoming engaged."
Like many marketers hoping to attract young, urban adults in China, Ms. Cheung has turned to the internet. To attract young lovers to a microsite, dtclove.com, DTC has created a virtual universe where visitors can express their love to boyfriends and girlfriends away from the prying eyes of parents and grandparents. They can write or draw love messages on a virtual paper boat floating in the Seine river in Paris or on neon lights in Prague, and name planets after each other. The campaign, which includes TV and print ads, will run through the end of this year, with above-the-line activity peaking just before key shopping periods during China's largest public holidays.
Called "Love is all around,” it is one of DTC's most ambitious initiatives to date in China. Since it went live early last month, over two million people have visited the site, said Michiel Hofstee, general manager of JWT, Shanghai. "It's really cool, coming into a virtual universe where people can express their love. But the uniqueness of this campaign is not any single item of the execution. This is a totally integrated campaign running in internet, print, in-store and TV, rather than a single visual slammed on everything. That's unusual in China."
Last year, DTC also created a reality show with Beijing's city channel, which has national syndication, for which men submitted ideas for a wedding proposal. Ten of the ideas were filmed, and each of the ten chosen men were given a $260 budget to make their dream proposal happen. DTC plans to repeat the program this summer with a new set of men hoping to become grooms.
“We wanted to bring our message alive, and to be in better contact with our consumers. Our target is younger in China than in other countries, early 20s, so we wanted to build a culture where they could express love with diamonds. Online is definitely the right opportunity for us," said Ms. Cheung.
Before she joined DTC in July 2004, she was already well versed in its business, as Shanghai-based client service director handling its trade marketing and publicity in China at WPP Group’s JWT, the company’s global creative partner. She also held account service roles for other marketers that work with JWT in China, such as Unilever and Bosch. Before that, she worked at another WPP Group agency, Ogilvy & Mather, in Beijing and Hong Kong, handling accounts like American Express.
Other people news in Greater China
[shanghai] Omnicom Group’s BBDO Worldwide has appointed Glenn Bartlett as Shanghai-based exec creative director, China of its below-the-line marketing arm, Proximity, a new position. Previously, he was integrated creative director, Greater China at M&C Saatchi, Hong Kong.
[hong kong] Sony Pictures Television International has promoted Todd Miller to executive VP and managing director, Asia, based in Hong Kong, including oversight of its recently added mobile and digital content delivery initiatives throughout the region. Previously, he was senior VP and managing director, Asia.