Copywriter Frances Gerety, from the Philadelphia advertising agency N.W. Ayer & Son, probably didn’t know that she was about to change the world. But change it she did, when in one fateful night in 1947, Gerety came up with a slogan that almost single-handedly save the global diamond industry. “A Diamond is Forever” was born that year, shaping De Beers’ marketing strategy for the next 25 years. In 1999, two weeks before Gerety passed away at the age of 83, Advertising Age named “A Diamond is Forever” as the slogan of the century.
According to an excellent piece on the story by the New York Times, Gerety was heading to bed when the line came to her. In an interview, she explained that she had just finished a series of ads when she realized that she had forgotten to create a signature line for her main account – the world’s leading miner De Beers. She mumbled “Dear God, send me a line,” and scribbled something. The next morning, she presented the idea at a meeting and according to her, “Nobody jumped.”
When Gerety got the De Beers account in 1943, diamond engagement rings were far from the mind of the average American consumer. Most Americans, according to extensive surveys of consumer attitudes that N.W. Ayer conducted, thought diamonds were a luxury for the ultra-rich. The agency’s goal was an ambitious one: to create a situation where almost every person pledging marriage feels compelled to acquire a diamond engagement ring.
By 1951, after using a myriad of marketing strategies, including what is considered as routine today but was pretty revolutionary at the time – sending PR statements describing the diamond jewelry worn by Hollywood actresses – the sale of diamonds in the United States increased by 55%. The agency also added a box labeled “How to Buy a Diamond” to every ad, promoting ideas like the Four C’s.
And while De Beers changed their strategies from time to time, promoting different sized diamonds at times, and different products, one thing remained constant: the line “A Diamond Is Forever” has appeared in every De Beers engagement ad since 1948. Gerety and her peers have managed to do what no one else could until that point: creating a sense of emotional attachment to the diamond engagement ring.