One Ring Per Lifetime
Love is in the air in China this week with the arrival of Chinese Valentine’s Day, Qi Xi. As luxury jewelry brands stepped up their marketing games launching various romance-related campaigns, one brand caught people’s attention by transforming the train cars for Beijing’s Number 10 subway line in Beijing—the train that passes the city’s Marriage Bureau Office—into a “pink paradise,” filling the train walls with heart shaped prints and love letters taken from social media.
The company behind the campaign, a luxury bridal jewelry brand called Darry Ring, has an equally gimmicky mission intended to play on the heart strings of its enthusiasts: it restricts the sales of engagement rings to one ring per person, per lifetime. Through this strategy, the brand encourages the sentiment of so-called “lifetime commitment” among Chinese consumers.
Once a consumer has shown their commitment to their partner by purchasing an engagement ring, the world of the brand’s other products opens up to them. Darry Ring sells other fine jewelry like diamond earrings, necklaces, and bracelets, but they’re only on offer to those clients who first bought an engagement ring from them.
“Since we are a wedding jewelry company, we require our customers to show his/her promise of lifetime commitment by purchasing our one-per-lifetime engagement ring,” said one customer service representative during an online chat session on Darry Ring’s website. “After we recorded and verified the customer’s identification information, he/she can purchase the engagement ring, and can subsequently purchase other wedding jewelry pieces for the bride.”
And it seems to be working in its native China.
Charming or Cheesy?
Just six years after launching, the company made it onto World Brand Lab‘s 2016 list of China’s 500 Most Valuable Brands. Also on the list are powerful Chinese tech giants such as Alibaba and Huawei. Its 29-year-old founder, Lu Yiwen, was featured on Forbes China’s “30 Under 30” list this year.
Contrary to what one might think about Chinese millennials being the generation that are breaking with the traditions of their forebears and are wholeheartedly embracing Western culture, Chinese millennials are buying into Darry Ring’s concept.
“My girlfriend really wanted this particular brand,” Jacky Wang, a millennial from Shenzhen, told Jing Daily. Wang recently purchased a DR engagement ring for his girlfriend before leaving for Leeds University to complete a year-long master’s program. “She loves the idea of exclusivity, and the thought of her as the only person whom I can buy this ring for makes her very very happy.”
Wang said that he first learned about the brand during his senior year of college when a classmate asked him to go ring shopping for his girlfriend. “The one-per-lifetime rule sounded novel and intriguing,” he said. “I knew instantly that girls would love the idea.”
The woman who is now his fiancé received a certification issued by DR, which the brand calls a “Love Agreement.” It says she is the only one to receive this ring no matter what happens. When asked why she didn’t pick out a more classic brand, like Tiffany & Co., which people associate with tradition and ‘standing the test of time,’ Wang’s fiancé said that if Wang is willing to buy her a ring that he can’t buy for anyone else, that says more about his commitment to her than any other ring from another brand could. But this beckons the question, if a customer’s sense of commitment needs to be demonstrated through a brand gimmick, how steadfast could that commitment be?
Some of the brand’s detractors have said it’s “too expensive for us common people” and “not that special.” “I think it’s cheesy,” said one commenter on Tmall, “but my girlfriend wants it, so what can I do?” Another said, “The ring is very pretty but a little overpriced.”
Others have noted a problem with the concept. What if the spouse dies, or leaves or is unfaithful? One writer who did an undercover report on the brand for the local Chinese publication Jiemian posed the question to a customer service representative who told him that if he claimed to have lost the ring, he could repurchase another one as long as the second ring was of a similar size and style as the original one. But therein lies another conundrum.
“Obviously you can buy more than one,” said self-proclaimed independent jewelry designer Zheng Han. “It’s very easy to report the loss of the ring and you do it all online. Just hope your new wife doesn’t see it.”
Joining the ‘DR Community’
All Darry Ring engagement rings are ordered whether they’re purchased online or in-store. Incorporating a business model of online stores combined with physical showrooms that are similar to online engagement giant James Allen, Darry Ring offers engagement rings in precious metals including yellow gold, white gold, and platinum in a variety of styles such as pavé, solitaire, and their signature pink diamond halo. The price of the engagement rings comes in a wide range with the most expensive ones costing over $1 million.
Purchasers of the brand’s engagement ring are called “DRers,” meaning they have become members of the “DR Community.” The company has a designated blogging section on its website for community members to share their love story.
“Darry has created a unique and aggressive marketing pattern,” said Leeann Lu, director of Reuter Communications, a Shanghai-based marketing agency with a focus on luxury brands. “In the field of high-end jewelry, Darry Ring successfully combined a diamond ring with an emotional concept and created an explosive influence on social media.”
Celebrities in China who chose the brand are also automatically KOLs for Darry Ring because their choice for an engagement ring always becomes tabloids fodder. Five-time Olympic gold medalist diver Wu Minxia received an over-one-carat DR ring this May; Chinese actor Wu Jing and Hong Kong singer Eric Suen both proposed with DR rings, and the buzz surrounding them have been generally positive.
“With the rising sophistication and growing complexity in the shopping behavior of Chinese consumers,” said Lu, “luxury brands won’t capture customers by doing more of the same.”
What do you think: is the concept of Darry Ring charming or cheesy? Tell us in the comments section.