By Michelle Graff
This 18-karat rose gold Lovemonster ring is available in two sizes: a 1.30-carat total weight version including a 0.90- to 0.99-carat center stone ($6,850 retail), and a 2-carat total weight version with a 1.20- to 1.30-carat center stone ($9,950 retail). The diamonds are all man-made diamonds from Altr, H-I VS quality, and are graded by GCAL.

Last year, the Riam Group, a company that has been in the mined diamond business for nearly eight decades, brought a new product to market--a line of lab-grown diamonds called Altr.

At JCK Las Vegas this year, the company added another layer to the venture with the launch of “Lovemonster,” a line of jewelry set with Altr stones and marketed toward modern couples with the idea today that love is an intense-yet-messy affair that might not necessarily be forever.

Amish Shah, who is president of Altr Created Diamonds and the Riam Group, spoke with National Jeweler both during and after JCK Las Vegas about the genesis of Lovemonster and what he thinks the industry is doing wrong when it comes to talking with consumers about man-made diamonds.

It’s worth mentioning here that I also talked with Shah about a topic that comes up frequently when we write about man-made diamonds: What will these stones be worth in 20 years? But that will the subject of a future blog.

In the below interview, which has been edited for length and clarity, we focus on the current marketing for lab-grown diamonds.
20170620 Amish ShahAmish Shah

NJ: Tell me about the thought process behind “Lovemonster,” which you see as a campaign that will appeal to the “modern couple.”

AS: During the period when Altr was being developed, we started researching by traveling to stores that were selling lab-grown diamonds and stores not selling them.

What came out of this study during the travel was very interesting. There were three things that were most commonly used when any salesman in any store tried to pitch me or one of the team members on the lab-grown diamond--it’s identical to mined diamonds; it’s a better value or a cheaper price; and it’s eco-friendly. This was almost consistently being used as an argument.

From a marketing perspective, your entire product, which is the lab-grown diamond, was being sold on the basis of the earth-mined diamond and did not have its own basis on which to connect with the consumer.

This led us to research other industries, like electric cars.

Tesla and Prius are both electric cars; they were both born in almost the same decade and brought to the marketplace.

The Prius was marketed purely focused on 55 miles a gallon, a specific price ticket and as an eco-friendly car. There was no concept or rational pitching about its performance; the performance was its functionality. However, when you go to a Tesla showroom (the pitch) was purely based on an experience--they talked about how the car felt, handled, the display, steering, the car talking to you. And it happened to be an electric car.

The science behind both the products was the same. However, one was being pitched with seduction, an experience in the stores and a desirable product while one was purely being pitched as a function-- instead of buying the cars with gas you can buy this with electric and you can save money.

NJ: And you found the marketing of the Tesla to be more appealing and more along the lines of what you want to do with your diamond brand, rather than go the Prius route?

AS: Yes. What we did is when we evaluated, when we looked at the lab-grown as an industry-- it’s still in its infancy--is that everybody is going the route of the Prius and we decided to go the route of Tesla.

We wanted to create a desire for the product rather than go on a pitch, which was completely that “buy this because it’s this.” This became the first important point (from our research).

The second important point was that every woman desires a bigger diamond; almost everyone ends up getting something smaller than they would have ideally liked. This one could very comfortably be answered by the created diamond because you can get a bigger diamond for the same value.

This one became our product proposition, that in the Altr signature brand, which is Lovemonster, the idea is to offer the consumer a bigger diamond.

Then we went forward trying to understand the marketing, which is very crucial when we look at ourselves as an industry today.

The marketing that used to happen 10 years prior, whereby the mining companies consistently pumped money trying to create desire for diamonds in the consumer marketplace, has died down over a period of years.

That impact we all are seeing today; we (the diamond industry) disconnected from our consumer.

When we looked at different industries, what we as a team … understood is that the consumer drives the product today. Companies don’t drive the product today. Things have changed.

Everything is becoming about experience today. This become another basis for Lovemonster; Lovemonster is a conceptual experience brand. It’s a brand that connects with today’s culture.

NJ: What makes Lovemonster a “conceptual experience brand?”

AS: All these years (in all the diamond industry marketing), love is about longevity. We always talk about: "made for each other," commitment, perfection, the chemistry of two people. Every type of marketing talks about how love is reflected by the longevity of the relationship.

This is something that, we believe, is a little bit from the past.

Today’s love is not defined by longevity but by the intensity of a relationship. It’s all about passion, energy, how it consumes each other, and intimacy.

The definition of today’s couple is not about how long they have been together, not about how long they are going to be with each other, but how they feel about each other today.

Lovemonster will celebrate the intensity of relationships … connecting with today’s culture.

If you saw the photography (used in the Lovemonster campaign), these are real-life couples. Every single element has to be about the experience when this product is sold, when this brand sends its message to the consumer, creating an experience of purchase as well as ownership. That’s why I call it a conceptual experience brand.

20170620 Love Monster necklaceThis 18-karat white gold necklace from the Lovemonster collection is set with 176 man-made diamonds from Altr. The D-F, VVS2-VS2 diamonds total 19 carats ($90,000 retail).

NJ: So right now, Altr is in a number of stores, including Borsheims. Do you have Lovemonster at the stores where Altr diamonds are being sold?

AS: The doors that have been carrying Altr will now actually be offered Lovemonster and will be sold starting in the fall as Lovemonster. We expect to roll out in the stores in late September.

NJ: What if the retailers say, “We don’t do well with branded diamonds. We’d rather just use Altr diamonds in our own jewelry, custom pieces.” Do stores have to sell Lovemonster?

AS: No, we are not forcing them. We are giving retailers an option of bringing in a packaged brand. One of the things about Lovemonster is that the product proposition is about created diamonds because you are giving a bigger value. However, the entire branding, the messaging, is not purely about lab-grown diamonds. It’s all about the celebration of the intensity of love.

However, if a store says we would rather have it under our white label, their own store brand, we are very comfortably offering the retailer an option of saying, it’s X collection, powered by Altr and that’s also at their discretion if they would like to state that their supply is coming from Altr.

NJ: Where do you see the Lovemonster brand expanding in the future? Do you have a target number of stores you’d like to be in?

AS: In the first year, we expect to be in between about 50 and 75 stores. More important than the number of stores, though, is that we want to go into stores that are able to execute the idea, the entire concept.

It shouldn’t end up being about, "Here I’ll show you something, this is just another brand." (We need) a store that is able to deliver the story, as well as deliver the message.

NJ: Do you think that’s something a lot of stores do well today, tell the stories behind the products?

AS: No.

Somebody asked me a very interesting question at the (JCK) show--what type of doors do you want, do you want branded doors, are you looking for boutique stores or mall stores?

For me, the stores that are going to carry this don’t need to have 30 other brands, they don’t necessarily need to be the biggest store in town.

It needs to be a store that understands and their people can connect; their entire ideology at the store is getting an experience to the consumer. And that has people whom we have the ability to train and get it out there.

This is not just about the diamond.

One customer asked (at the show), how much money will you put in marketing? I said, that’s the shift.

Just by putting two big pages of a ring in a magazine is not selling the ring. We as an industry need to start talking with our consumers, create desire, not by consistently just showing them product (but by) talking to them, that we as a brand understand you and your relationship, and our products will represent your relationship.

Editor's note: This story was updated post-publication to reflect the correct name of Altr's diamond brand. It is Lovemonster, not Love Monster as originally reported.

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