Branding strategy for local black pearl producers

A FAMILY business in Shark Bay, 750 kilometres north of Perth, is taking on the big players in the pearl industry with a marketing strategy to sell Australia’s first black pearls.

Cape Inscription Pearls director Peter McGowan is well aware of the competition and the marketing might of producers such as the Paspaley Pearls and the Kailis Group’s Broome Pearls.

The exceptionally high quality white pearls produced in the State’s north have been taken to the world market through a cooperative marketing push.

The Maxima group, taken from the name of the wild oyster, Pinctada maxima, markets the highly prized white pearls worldwide, where they are in great demand for their exceptional quality.

It’s an innovative marketing model, but Mr McGowan believes an industry-wide approach to marketing WA produced black pearls is essential.

“We are working with a commercial industry group to

come up with a name,”he said.

“We are just reading and studying. It’s trial and error and we are following some of the examples left by the Maxima Group, the Broome Pearls.”

Tahitian producers currently dominate the local market for black pearls and, although they have a far stronger profile, Mr McGowan believes local consumers want to buy Australian products.

Thousands of Tahitian pearls are sold in Australia every year, suggesting there’s a strong market for the pearls sold both direct to retailers and as pieces of jewellery.

The marketing strategy is about creating the right profile for Australian black pearls so they’re thought of in the same sense as Broome Pearls and Argyle Diamonds.

“All the pearls we’re producing will be sold in Australia because of their size and the price range and the numbers we’ve got,” Mr McGowan said.

“There’s a phenomenal amount of Tahitian pearls sold in Australia.

“Our angle is Australian produced, all under the WA name.

“This opens up people’s minds that there are WA black pearls available and there’ll be more and more coming onto the market.”

Ideally, a strong brand developed in conjunction with the black pearl producers in WA would sit above the individual producer profiles and brand WA black pearls.

It’s a marketing idea that’s been successfully used in wine regions throughout Australia, including the Margaret River wine region.

While Margaret River is a strong brand in its own right, underneath that sits the wineries, each with its own unique identity and position in the market.

Cape Inscription Pearls is only one of a number of emerging black pearl producers in WA.

A strong regional brand will allow WA farms to compete with the growing number of black pearl producers taking pearls to the market during the next few years.

The market for pearls is volatile and subject to the whims of fashion, much like the precious gemstone market.

“The market fluctuates,” Mr McGowan said.

“At the moment with the war on, prices have dropped, but it’s the same with any commodity, we’re trying to keep geared down.”

This is only Cape Inscription Pearls’ first commercial harvest, with the operation maintaining a low profile until now.

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