Christmas is now pasted all over, the internet, magazines and billboards, one would think that it is the most successful marketing ploy ever. Not so. Yes, it generates more sales than any other marketing done, but is not client specific, anyone can jump on the band wagon.
I believe the best marketing ploy ever, was done by some people in my own country, Harry of De Beers. With clever use of an ancient tradition and a bit of deceit; they sold diamonds, So well indeed, that even the Great Depression did not affect their sales at all.
Here is the story:
Anthropologists have us believe this tradition originated from a Roman custom in which wives wore rings attached to small keys, indicating their husbands’ ownership.
In 1477, Archduke Maximillian of Austria commissioned the very first diamond engagement ring on record for his wife-to-be, Mary of Burgundy. This sparked a trend for diamond rings among European aristocracy and nobility.
The discovery of massive diamond mines in South Africa in the late 19th century, for the first time flooded world markets with diamonds. The British businessmen operating the South African mines recognized that only by maintaining the fiction that diamonds were scarce and inherently valuable could they protect their investments and buoy diamond prices. They did so by launching a South Africa–based cartel, De Beers Consolidated Mines, Ltd. in in 1888. This was only the first step.
In 1938, with the Depression and the rumblings of war, Harry Oppenheimer, the De Beers founder’s son, recruited the New York–based ad agency N.W. Ayer to market his diamonds in the USA, already the practice of giving diamond engagement rings had been gaining traction for years, but where the diamonds sold were increasingly small and low-quality. Not like old Harry’s. You may have heard the expression “Blood Diamonds” more recently, and the thought that goes behind that expression? It is quite laughable really. A very large reason for the Anglo Boer War revolved around the findings of a massive stone and then a large deposit of diamonds at Kimberly, South Africa. Diamonds were bloody almost from the start.
Ayer set out to persuade young men that diamonds (and only diamonds) were synonymous with romance, and that the measure of a man’s love (plus his personal and professional success) was directly proportional to the size and quality of the diamond he purchased. Young women, in turn, had to be convinced that courtship concluded, invariably, in a diamond.
Enter Hollywood. Movie idols, the very paragons of romance … to the unwashed masses ….would give, on screen, diamonds to show their undying and indestructible love. Still photographs of glamorous movie stars swathed in diamonds were everywhere. By now we are in 1947, and Ayer launched the slogan, “A Diamond is Forever.” Not only that, they actually arranged lectures at High Schools all around America, to convince both the girls and the boys, that the only way to proclaim undying love was with a diamond. The bigger the better no doubt, cunning b#^*ds!
The rest as they say is history.
But the biggest con? As a lot of my friends that have been in Namibia and Angola know, diamonds, even high quality diamonds, are not rare at all.
I did not mention, back in 1888, De Beers Consolidated Mines, Ltd. (now De Beers), meticulously extending the company’s control over all facets of the diamond trade in the ensuing decades. That included how many would be released at any given time. Clever chap old Harry.
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