How marketers made diamonds and marriage proposals inseparable

Aug 14, 2017

As we enter peak wedding season, we’d like you to imagine creating a stronger relationship with your customers.

Are you tired of one-and-done sales and pick-up lines in cold emails? Want to build something long-term?

It’s worth it. Just look at the unbreakable bond between marriage proposals and diamond rings.


A Braithwaite account executive popping the question this summer.


That connection started in 1938 at former Philadelphia marketing agency N.W. Ayer & Son. A new client came in hoping to reverse slumping sales: De Beers.

This was during the Depression. Diamond engagement rings were uncommon. Women preferred their men spend money on practical luxuries, like new cars or washing machines.

The agency did its research and devised a strategy: create an emotional association with this particular mineral, and justify it as an investment.

With that, copywriter Frances Gerety wrote a tagline that Advertising Age eventually called the slogan of the century: “A Diamond is Forever.”


Classic print ads created by N.W. Ayer & Son for De Beers.


In addition to ads, Gerety wrote monthly letters to newspapers about celebrities wearing diamonds. The agency even lent diamonds for stars to wear.

To make men more confident in buying, they created “The Four Cs” – cut, clarity, color and carat.

To make men spend more, they created the concept of spending two-months’ salary on a ring.


The origin of the two-months salary rule that many men abide by today.


In all of this, there was never even a sales pitch or call to action.

“There was simply an idea – the eternal emotional value surrounding the diamond,” an N.W. Ayer memo stated.

You know the rest. For at least 50 years, 80 percent of brides have received a diamond engagement ring.

Long story short: make a deeper connection. Instead of only focusing on immediate sales, instilling a meaningful association with your products or services can take your customer relationships to the next level.

This article was written by Lee ProcidaIt first appeared in our weekly newsletter, Long Story Short.

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