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  • Deepanshu

#CampaignBits: The Power of Emotional Appeal - "A Diamond is Forever" Campaign

In the 1940s, De Beers, a diamond company, faced a crisis as nobody wanted to buy their diamonds. The company was founded in 1888 and that it quickly became the world's leading diamond producer.

Contrary to popular belief, diamonds are not as rare as one might think. However, their supply is manipulated to create the perception of rarity. Diamonds are valuable because they are seen as status symbols. Diamonds, in Economics terms, are Veblen Goods: the higher the price, the higher the demand.

Emerging from The Great Depression in the 1940s, De Beers experienced a significant decline in sales. To address this, the company enlisted the services of an American marketing firm called N.W. Ayer & Sons to help boost diamond sales in America. Through extensive market research, they discovered that only the ultra-wealthy were investing in diamonds. For the average middle-class family, there was no practical or emotional incentive to purchase diamonds. They would rather spend their money on a new car or a larger home.

De Beers and N.W. Ayer & Sons had a straightforward goal: to sell more diamonds to more people. Their breakthrough came from the "A Diamond is Forever" campaign in 1948. N.W. Ayer & Sons pioneered a fundamental principle now taught in marketing classes worldwide: people don't just buy products; they buy the emotions and feelings associated with those products. Recognizing that diamonds couldn't be assigned a practical value, the marketing team focused on creating an emotional appeal for the product.

An early De Beers campaign print ad

During this time, engagement rings were not yet a common practice, and most certainly did not include diamonds. The campaign led to a significant increase in the demand for diamonds and a change in the way that diamonds were perceived.

  1. Increase in demand: The campaign linked the product to emotional values such as love and relationships. For men, diamonds became a symbol of their love, while for women, they became a way to showcase their status to others, thus creating a self-sustaining marketing channel.

  2. A change in perception: By imbuing diamonds with emotional value, people were deterred from selling them, leading to increased sales for De Beers.

De Beers essentially created the culture and market for engagement rings worldwide.

De Beers "Two Months' Salary" Campaign for engagement rings

In 1940, only 10% of first-time brides received diamond engagement rings, but by 1990, that number had skyrocketed to 80%. This proved immensely lucrative for De Beers, with their wholesale diamond sales in the United States alone increasing from $23 million to $2.1 billion between 1939 and 1979. Consequently, their advertising budget grew from $200,000 to $10 million per year.

Over 70 years later, the four-word sentiment has become one of the most recognizable brand slogans of all time. According to a 2013 New York Times article, the tagline has appeared in every De Beers engagement ad since 1948 and is still being used by the brand to this day.

Truly remarkable and iconic.

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