De Beers Halts Its Successful Ad Campaign to Align With “We” cycle

by Leanne on February 11, 2013

Leanne · Business · February 11, 2013

When the old advertising agency N. W. Ayer & Son came up with the slogan, “A Diamond is Forever,” for jewelry company De Beers in 1947, it probably had no idea the phrase would go on to become one of the most remembered of the 20th century.

This simple, memorable, copywriting ultimately made De Beers one of the most recognizable jewelry brands in the world and managed to convince generations of men and women that the only acceptable symbol of an engagement was a diamond ring. That’s right: diamond rings weren’t always the token of love and eternity that they are today.

“Prior to the “A Diamond is Forever” campaign diamond rings weren’t synonymous with marriage or engagement…Peruse 19th Century literature and there’s nary a mention of diamond engagement rings. But De Beers changed that. Diamonds aren’t particularly rare, but they are the hardest substance on earth – a quality that lends itself to notions of eternity. In pointing that out, and infusing it with notions of romance, De Beers literally changed Western culture.” (via whatsonxiamen)

Now, despite its massive success with this campaign, De Beers decided to take on a new one as the 21st century arrived, one firmly rooted in “Me”-cycle values.

In fact, in 2003, the very year that society transitioned from a “Me” to our current “We” cycle, advertising agency JWT (current advertising agency for De Beers) launched its “Raise Your Right Hand” campaign. The idea was to encourage women to empower themselves by buying diamonds to express their individuality.

de beers raise your right hand

“These rings were to be worn on the right hand, regardless if the woman was married or not. The campaign promoted the new brand with catchy phrases such as “The left hand says ‘we.’ The right hand says ‘me.’” (via Kylie Jacobsen)

The campaign was a massive success, increasing diamond sales by up to 15% and winning the ad industry’s prestigious Gold EFFIE Award.

Yet after two years of running the “Raise Your Right Hand” campaign, De Beers decided to pull the plug on it.

Why might that be? Well, keep in mind two things:

1) The successful two-year campaign came at the tail end of the “Me” cycle and beginning of the “We” cycle, before the previous cycle’s “Me” values had fully phased out.

2) The De Beers marketing team is known for being extremely culturally savvy with its finger on the pulse of what makes people tick.

The official reason for cutting the campaign was a combination of the company’s sensitivity to the discourse surrounding the blood-diamond wars in Africa as well as cultural differences in Asia that didn’t suit its global campaign.

But with both of these issues being prevalent before the campaign launched in 2003, do you really believe these were the real reasons for stopping the advertising campaign?

It’s interesting to note that the campaign was cancelled just two years into the “We” cycle when the new social values were starting to take root.

Could it be a coincidence?

Possibly. But probably not. Our guess is that De Beers knew from its market research that society was shifting its views from “Me” to “We” and that it was time to pull the plug on spending millions of dollars on a message that would soon become ineffective.

What do you reckon?


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