What is the Net Brand Effect?

In a world of competing messages and shortened attention spans, it’s harder than ever for brands to stand out and win a position in the mind’s of their customers. Yet, brands who are able to do this can own their category and charge a premium for their products/services. 

That's why States of Matter developed the Net Brand Effect score. 

To calculate the NBE, we collect information that is widely accessible and run the data through a filter of 19 criteria. The resulting score is a quantifiable metric which takes the broad concept of brand into a number which can be tracked and improved upon over time. 

Read more about our process and methodology behind the Net Brand Effect score...

Industry Overview

When we began our online diamond search to investigate branding strategies, we asked: 

  • What does shopping online get us that going to a jewelry store wouldn’t? 
  • Why should we start my search online instead of going in person to a local expert? 
  • Why would we stay engaged past the point of purchase? 
  • Is there more to this category than simply price, selection and service? 

One company showed us it’s possible to inspire loyalty even in a commodity business. The other two players forgot that marriage is one of life’s most emotional times and too often gave feelings second priority to the practicality and value of the decision.

Brilliant Earth Branding Review

Brilliant Earth 

I love you because you care

The leading supplier of ethically sourced diamonds, Brilliant Earth projects as the company who cares. They teach customers that the traditional definition of conflict-free is not good enough. Instead, they encourage “Beyond Conflict Free.” Recycled gold, donating profits and vintage rings strengthen their higher purpose. Their brand foundation is stable and strong.

James Allen Brand Strategy Review

James Allen 

I love you for your looks

Rave online reviews, beautiful packaging and real HD images of diamonds make James Allen a worthy brand. However, they’ve never been able to recover from plummeting site traffic due to a website redesign and Google penalties back in 2010 and 2013. Their organic site traffic fell from over 600,000 visits a month to just 50,000.

Blue Nile Brand Review

Blue Nile

I love you for your money

When a primary competitive advantage in a category is simply to outspend everyone else, it makes the space ripe for takeover. Blue Nile’s current PPC budget of $394,000 and #1 organic Google placement for top keywords ensures them traffic flow right now, but relying on this too heavily puts them at risk to lose out to the next highest bidder. What’s left if they get outspent?

The Scores

Comparison of Blue Nile, Brilliant Earth and James Allen
Brilliant Earth Brand and Design

Key Findings: Brilliant Earth


  • Created their own level of certification called, “Beyond Conflict Free.” This gives them a unique and defensible position.
  • Highly diversified organic keyword traffic makes them difficult to compete with in search.
  • Strong understanding of their target audience, expressed through evocative photography, messaging and tone of voice.


  • Large site map - 64 pages alone underneath their Our Movement (About Us) umbrella - is tough to maintain and can be overwhelming for visitors to find information quickly. 
  • Much of their blog writing appears to be outsourced to a consultant, hurting their ability to grow internal thought leadership.
  • Their basic display and PPC advertisements didn’t remind us of their higher purpose.  


  • Consider testing a more compelling above the fold message on your homepage. 
  • Update your two-year old videos to better reflect your high quality standards and storytelling abilities.
  • Relink the 75+ broken links we found on your site. 

Want our full recommendations on how Brilliant Earth could improve? Download the 14-page report.

James Allen Brand and Design Review

Key Findings: James Allen


  • James Allen offers customers actual HD images of individual diamonds. This allows shoppers a unique chance to shop online for exactly the right stone.  
  • Flattering online reviews from thought leaders reassure customers they can trust James Allen. This likely contributed to a 50% increase in year-over-year branded search volume.
  • Beautiful packaging in the form of a usable jewelry box, which leads to a memorable unboxing experience. 


  • Unable to recover from a major drop in search volume in 2010 an 2013. 
  • No investment in content leaves them with a sparse blog.
  • Overuse of all capital letters on the website is chaotic and feels like shouting.  


  • Either take down the blog completely or make a commitment to consistent publishing.  
  • Make it a priority to regain lost search traffic. This will likely involve a site redesign, SEO support, influencer outreach and a true content strategy. 
  • Find a higher purpose for the company. Stunning HD images alone won’t cut it with the millennial audience. 

Want our full recommendations on how James Allen could improve? Download the full report.

Blue Nile Brand and Design Review

Key Findings: Blue Nile


  • Significantly larger paid advertising budget than both their competitors.
  • High organic ranking, number one in many cases, for key search terms.
  • A compelling advertising campaign called, “It’s your life. Be engaged,” which showcases how a Blue Nile ring features thoughout a lifetime of memories.  


  • No clear point of difference in the category besides being the largest. 
  • Unclear which gender, age range or income level they were targeting. 
  • Overwhelming web experience with busy pages, no actual photos or videos of the diamonds, distracting cart add-ons and a customer journey funneling us into pages with ALL the diamonds and ALL the rings at once.


  • Begin a dedicated content campaign to own long-tail keywords and diversify search traffic. This will reduce the risk of being overtaken by a competitor in the top organic ranking spot and can reduce PPC spend.
  • Improve the product packaging to create a WOW factor when the ring arrives in the mail. This will help drive user-generated content which is crucial in today’s social media world.  
  • Determine who the primary and secondary audiences are, craft messaging specifically for them, develop educational content around their needs and innovate a new product line specifically for them.  

Want our full recommendations on how Blue Nile could improve? Download the full report.

The full 14-page report includes a breakdown of our entire scoring process and actionable insights for improvement from our design and brand teams.

Interested in having us audit your brand?

Contact us to have your company added to our Net Brand Effect queue. We analyze new categories on a monthly basis. 

Britt Stromberg

Strategy Director

Britt Stromberg is the Co-Founder of States of Matter and our Director of Strategy. When you put your business and brand in her hands, she will think crazy carefully, listen to her gut, sleep on it—then do the research to be certain.

Filed under: Net Brand Effect

Tagged with: Brand, Online Retail