“A Diamond is Forever” by De Beers

A good marketing campaign should catch a viewer’s attention. A great one is able to elicit an emotional response, and hopefully be remembered. In the case of De Beers’ “A Diamond is Forever” campaign, it can revolutionize an entire industry. This campaign is notable, not because of its massive monetary success, but because of the way it was created. The achievement of this campaign, and subsequently the birth of the modern engagement ring industry, illustrates what can happen when you choose to not market a product, but a feeling.

Hard Times for De Beers

It was the year 1938 and the diamond industry was in decline. The great depression was fresh on the minds of the American family and luxury goods were not something the average citizen would consider setting money aside for. Put simply, there was no reason to do so. Diamonds were thought of as a status symbol only worn by the elite upper class to exclusive parties and galas. The predominant international diamond company De Beers was facing a seemingly impossible marketing challenge: How would they expand their client base to include the average consumer while still maintaining the association of luxury and exclusivity with the product itself?

Brilliant Marketing

In an attempt to turn around a declining industry, De Beers hired the Philadelphia based marketing agency NW Ayer. The advertising industry at the time was very male dominated and a woman named Frances Gerety was hired to market their “women’s products” including the De Beers diamond group. Up against a deadline, Frances scribbled down the four-word tagline late one night before presenting her idea to a boardroom of men the next morning. Because of its unconventional format, the tagline was initially met with hesitancy, but went on to transform the entire diamond industry.

After the “A Diamond is Forever” campaign, the increase in diamond sales resulted in De Beers increasing their advertising budget from $200,000 to $10 million a year.

Inspiring a New Generation to “Put a Ring on it”

The creation of the slogan “A Diamond is Forever” was only a small part of a much larger campaign meant to link the idea of romance and enduring love with the diamond. NW Ayer organized a series of unconventional marketing efforts to make the public think of a diamond as the ultimate symbol of love. They organized a service called “Hollywood Personalities” which provided 125 leading newspapers with information regarding what diamonds the movie stars and socialites of the time were given for proposals. They also paid Hollywood film companies to include storylines in which the leading man proposes with a diamond ring. NW Ayer understood that getting diamonds in the hands of the “influencers” of the day was more effective at inspiring a desire for diamonds than any advertisement alone would have. These efforts to get diamonds into the public eye, along with the messaging of their campaign, inspired a whole new generation of women who dreamt of being given a diamond engagement ring and what it represents. Today, getting engaged and receiving a diamond ring are practically synonymous, greatly due to the coordinated efforts by Frances Gerety and NW Ayer.



The copywriting department of NW Ayer, argued against the slogan due to it not being grammatically correct.

Inspiring a New Generation to “Put a Ring on it”

The De Beers campaign changed public opinion and influenced not only the diamond industry but how we get engaged. Here are three things they did well that made this such a flawless campaign.

1. Understanding the target market and challenges Long before a campaign is created, great marketing requires research and an understanding of a client’s industry in order to be effective. NW Ayer took the time to fully understand the challenges of a declining diamond market and picked a target market that De Beers was not going after: The middle-class consumer.

2. Thinking long term The most unconventional part of NW Ayer’s marketing plan is that the De Beers name wasn’t connected to many of its advertising efforts. They were focused on creating a demand for diamonds, so when they paid for a movie to have the main character propose with a ring, there was no mention of De Beers at all. They were focused on changing public opinion, and by successfully doing so, the sales followed.

3. Marketing a feeling, not a product Rather than running ads talking about the many specifications and qualities that make diamonds so desirable, the “A Diamond is Forever” campaign chose to focus on only one: The fact that it is the hardest stone and will last forever. Their ads focused on a universal emotion with the same quality: Love. By linking romance and diamonds, De Beers’ created a purchase that someone would not only see a need for but feel excited about making.

In 1999, ‘A Diamond is Forever’ was named as ‘The Slogan of the Century’ by Advertising Age.


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