COMMUNICATION GENIUS: The story behind ‘A Diamond is Forever’

This Friday, we focus on that one line we’ve all heard, “A Diamond is Forever.” Who wrote these lines, why do they matter today and have diamonds finally outlived this tagline?

Photo by Danielle De Angelis on Pexels.com

Whatever country you may be in and in whatever culture you grew up – diamonds, have always been seen as a mark of love. The diamond-studded engagement ring has always been considered a sign of romance, that will, hopefully last forever.

The powerful (and highly profitable) connection between the two was first written by a lesser known woman – Frances Gerety – who worked for a Philadelphia-based advertising agency N.W. Ayer. She only worked for one client: the diamond behemoth De Beers, a company that had one mission – to sell diamonds to consumers in the US, roughly a decade after the end of the great depression.

A detailed account of how the line was written was published in the Washington Post by Gerety’s biographer, J. Courtney Sullivan. She wrote this line in 1947.

It wasn’t as if diamonds didn’t exist before this – but they were seen as something owned by the super rich. The highly successful campaign by De Beers took the diamond – to the masses (well, those who could afford one, anyway).

The genius of this line is that it is so simple yet so powerful.

Sullivan writes, “When Gerety first suggested the line at a routine morning meeting in 1947, her colleagues in the copy department (all of them men) argued that it didn’t really mean anything. The word “forever” wasn’t even grammatically correct.”

Sullivan observes, that Gerety had been writing on the themes of marrying diamonds to timelessness for a while. He observes in the Washington Post, “A series of honeymoon images said, “May your happiness last as long as your diamond.” Another counselled, “Wear your diamonds as the night wears its stars, ever and always . . . for their beauty is as timeless.” There were ads about couples parted by war, hinting that a diamond might be the key to immortality. And ads that appealed to male ego, likening the purchase of a diamond to the founding of a city.”

Since the time it was published, the tagline, like the stone itself – has stood the test of time. The highly successful tagline made diamonds and engagement rings inseparable and throughout the world have been seen as a symbol of love – a gift for someone special.

A Financial Times report says, “The advertising campaign succeeded: De Beers estimates that more than 70 per cent of US brides wore a diamond ring in 2017, compared with 10 per cent in 1939. About a quarter of Tiffany sales last year — some $1.2bn — were engagement jewellery (14 per cent of American women now buy their own rings and on average spend $1,100 more than male buyers, according to De Beers).”

Diamonds have indeed been forever. Until now.

Changing times

But now, lots of analysts and industry watchers think that a new tagline may be necessary for a market that has steadily lost its sheen.

And this time because of a very different communication message – a movie. Blood Diamond spoke to a generation that has moved away from mined diamonds.

Many are making the choice to move away from diamonds that are produced from under the earth to one that came from a laboratory.

According to a BBC report, “Millennials and now Generation Z – who together are the main purchasers of diamonds for engagement rings – are moving away from conventional diamonds, with nearly 70% of millennials considering buying a lab grown alternative.”

Lab grown diamonds have of course been around for decades, but what has changed apart from consumer preferences? There is a massive cost imperative too. A report by Bain and Company published in 2018, suggests, ” Today, it costs $300 to $500 per carat to produce a CVD lab-grown diamond, compared with $4,000 per carat in 2008.”

The same report estimates, “By 2030, the market could grow to between 10 million and 17 million carats, if the segment can sustain its current growth rate of 15% to 20% annually supported
by consumer demand and attractive economics.”

And companies like De Beers are responding to these changes.

“Having done our research, we see a massive opportunity to enter into the fashion jewelry market now by doing something that consumers tell us that they want but that no one else has done yet: synthetic stones in new and fun colors, with lots of sparkle and at a far more accessible price point than existing lab-grown diamond offerings,” Bruce Cleaver, the chief executive, said during a phone interview to the New York Times.

The article published in 2018, did make clear that synthetic diamonds only accounted for 2 per cent of market share. But analysts agree that that number will rise.

A new tagline would probably be apt. “Diamonds are forever, even those made in a laboratory.”

Send us your thoughts, comments and suggestions: admin@melantra.co.uk

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