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Forever Diamonds

A powerful company, a catchy slogan, and how they forever changed the way we value diamonds.
By Barry B. Kaplan

A 1955 De Beers magazine
advertisement. Observe the
"A Diamond is Forever" slogan
at the bottom left of the image.

The slogan that would become
the most resilient in history
would be created in the
office of N.W. Ayer in 1947.

A necessary luxury

Ayer's marketing plan included public relations, advertising, product placement in films and on television, radio programs publicizing diamond trends, portraits of betrothed socialites, stories and photographs of celebrities for inclusion in magazines and newspapers - all targeted at a specific goal - the idea that diamonds were eternal, forever linked with romance, emotionally valued, and a necessary luxury.

One strategically successful and aesthetically creative magazine campaign - The Great Artists - featured the paintings of Picasso, Derain, Dali and Dufy, accompanied with poetic copy and prominently featuring four diamonds ranging from a half to three carats. The idea was to associate diamonds with the sophisticated subtext of art. These advertisements appeared in Fortune, Vogue, Time, The New Yorker and other publications, circulated mainly to middle and upper class readers.

Ayer engaged jewelers to give talks, lectures, classes and informal meetings to thousands of young women. Ayer also arranged for movie stars to appear at social events adorned with diamonds. The agency used its influence to modify film scripts and movie titles to feature diamonds more prominently. One example is the 1941 film, Skylark, which has the female character shopping for diamonds.

By 1941, the downward trend in retail sales had been reversed and in just three years, sales of diamonds in the United States had risen 55%. Ayer's success inspired the agency to pursue a new goal - to reinforce the "psychological necessity" of diamonds. An estimated 70 million people over the age of fifteen would be targeted with future marketing campaigns.

A Diamond Is Forever

The slogan that would become the most resilient in history would be created in the office of N.W. Ayer in 1947. After a confounding series of unsuccessful attempts to produce a slogan for a new De Beers advertising campaign, Frances Gerety, a copywriter at the advertising agency, prayed for some divine assistance. Before heading home, she scrawled "a diamond is forever" on the bottom of a picture of two honeymooning lovers. It may have had humble beginnings, but according to Advertising Age, it is the most recognized slogan of the 20th century, and some ninety percent of all Americans know it. In less than a year, "A Diamond is Forever" became the official slogan of De Beers.

Hollywood's association with the alluring gem would continue into the fifties with "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes", a box offices sensation starring screen icons Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell and featuring the sensuous song "Diamonds are a girl's best friend". Monroe's feminine sensuality helped secure the appeal of diamonds for women. By the end of the 1950s, N.W. Ayer was pleased to announce to De Beers that its twenty-year marketing campaign had successfully influenced the American public to consider a diamond engagement ring a necessity to the engagement ritual.
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