20th Century Ads Making Diamonds an Engagement Requirement

An effective marketing campaign does not just lead to increased sales. It can change the world. Given, the goal of every business is, of course, to earn money. However, during that process, the company has to convince customers that the products and services they offer are necessary for their lives.

A whole series of advertisements that you will see on billboards, posters, pamphlets, and television and radio commercials will make you want to spend your precious dollars. Sometimes, even sponsored social media posts and online banners will have the same impact on you.

Most of the time, once the campaign is over, the advertisement will disappear. A new series of ads will be released and plastered everywhere. Those that come before it will be largely forgotten.

However, sometimes, an ad sticks around and changes the game forever.

What Effective Marketing Looks Like

You likely have seen effective marketing campaigns before. Nike’s “Just Do It” was only introduced in the late ‘80s, back when it was only known for creating shoes for marathon runners. When the campaign that used the slogan “Just Do It” happened, it was such a massive hit that it surpassed its main competitor (Reebok) and became one of the biggest sportswear brands in the world.

There is also “Got Milk?,” a campaign by the California Processor Board that ran in the ‘90s. It was so powerful that, a year after it appeared on print, the sales of milk across the state of California increased by 7 percent. To this day, you probably will hear about it from countless parodies it inspired.

One campaign that you might not remember but still has an impact on your life is an ad that was planned and executed by N.W. Ayer for De Beers in the early 1900s.

Diamonds are Forever

Diamonds have not always been popular. Before the mid-20th century, it was going out of trend. The gem needed rebranding ASAP.

That was what N.W. Ayer did. Over the next several decades, the ad agency turned diamonds into the ultimate symbol of love and marriage. The size of the stone on the ring band represents the strength of a man’s love for their partner. Men needed it during courtship to prove their affection and devotion. Women believed that it was a necessary part of a relationship.


Here is how they did it: they made it seem that diamonds were everywhere. Publicists of celebrities talked about wedding proposals and heavily featured the type, size, and worth of diamond engagement rings. Designers were asked to discuss the latest trends on diamonds. Famous faces of the time were seen with diamond rings on their fingers.

Then, in 1948, De Beers used the now iconic slogan “A Diamond is Forever.” These four words have appeared in every ad from the jewelry company ever since. In 1999, AdAge named it the #1 slogan of the 20th century.

It is so popular because it captured what the brand wanted to convey without outright saying it. The message was, like diamonds, your love is eternal. It also discouraged people from reselling their rings.

It did not stop there. In the late 1930s, De Beers suggested that the cost of an engagement ring that lasts forever was one month’s salary. By the 1980s, it increased to two months’ salary — a figure still cited today.

Lasting Impact

Today, people still think of diamonds as a symbol of elegance and lasting love. It is a requirement for couples who wish to tie the knot. Even in the face of a global health and economic crisis, people continued to invest their money in diamond jewelry. As soon as restrictions were lifted, the sales of diamond engagement ring experienced a surge.

The marketing for diamonds has not changed much, either. Jewelers still hire a jewelry retouching service to make the gem shine on ads and commercials, giving it the look of luxury. Marketers still focus on appealing to the rich, fashionable, and in love. People continue to hold the belief that diamonds were romantic, valuable, and, as the ads said, forever.

In partnership with an ad agency, De Beer changed the public’s perception of diamonds and how they will be marketed forever.

How people see a brand and its products is partly due to its marketing campaign. Nike transitioned from supplying shoes to marathon runners into the brand that countless people around the world know and love today. Similarly, the advertising campaigns that De Beers released throughout the 20th century influenced how the public perceives diamond jewelry today and, likely, in the decades to come.

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