Marketing Lessons from Frances Gerety & De Beers Diamonds

October 23, 2013
Marketing lessons from Frances Gerety and De Beers

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “A Diamond is Forever,” the famous tagline for diamond provider De Beers. The tagline and campaigns built around it revolutionized the jewelry industry — and bring up some important lessons for marketers.

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend?

When copywriter Frances Gerety was hired at Philadelphia advertising agency N.W. Ayer & Son in 1943, diamond engagement rings were the furthest things from most women’s minds. They were seen as a waste of money in the post-Great Depression era.

It was Gerety’s job to “create a situation where almost every person pledging marriage [felt] compelled to acquire a diamond engagement ring.”

Having them was never a tradition — Gerety’s campaigns made it one. Like Apple’s customers decades later, Gerety’s audience didn’t know what they wanted until Gerety showed it to them.

Gerety wrote campaigns for De Beers for 25 years, and today 75% of US brides wear diamond engagement rings. This isn’t a coincidence — it’s a result of great marketing.

Campaigns should tell a story

De Beers ads were not the splashy, sexy things we see in magazines today. They were beautiful and eye-catching of course, but what mattered most was the copy, the story of the ad.  

Okay, so the ads are more than a little saccharine, but no one can argue that they didn’t work. They hinted at lives filled with love and happiness, and who doesn’t want that?

Know your audience

Telling a story is important, but so is telling the right story; you have to know your audience if you hope to engage them (no pun intended).

Gerety knew De Beers’ audience well. She tapped into their fears and desires, smoothed away their hesitations, and wasn’t afraid of introducing a little guilt when necessary.

Content marketing at its finest

De Beers ran into a bit of a problem in the 1960s. After years of promoting the “bigger is better” approach to diamonds, the company found itself with a surplus of smaller gems in which consumers had no interest.

How did they meet the challenge? With helpful content, of course!

Onto all of their ads they added a box titled “How to Buy a Diamond” that educated buyers about the the “4 Cs” (color, clarity, cutting, and carats) of diamonds and how to choose one that — although it might be small — would always be a source of pride for the owner.

Happily ever after

“A Diamond is Forever” has appeared in every De Beers engagement ad since 1948, and De Beers continues to be the biggest provider of diamonds to jewelers across the world. Their ads (now televised as well as in print) tell the same stories Frances Gerety spun decades ago. What else will marketers learn from them next?

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[Image: Kim Alaniz]

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