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#68: Launch Notes from the 20th Century

Lessons from my favorite pre-Internet product launch

In partnership with

Studying product launches has taken over my life.

What started as a fun hobby has turned into an obsession, and I think I’m OK with it. From tech products to everyday essentials, I’m interested in them all.

In fact, I’m learning the most from the unconventional launches.

That’s why, when Jason and Andy suggested we do a podcast episode on the best pre-Internet product launches, I was thrilled.

Turns out, many of the strategies and tactics we use today in tech were stolen from relevant in campaigns decades old. After digging deep into the archives, I felt fairly confident I had found the best product launch of the 20th century…and it might surprise you.

The diamond engagement ring 💍

In today’s edition, I’m going to break down this legendary product launch campaign and share the lessons we can borrow for our own launches.

Let’s get into it.

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A Diamond is Forever

75% of brides in America wear a diamond engagement ring. Today, marriage and diamond rings are synonymous.

But, this wasn’t always the case. In the mid 1900s, less than 10% of engagement rings contained a diamond.

Enter De Beers, the diamond mining company that held a monopoly on the global diamond supply. Recognizing the untapped market potential (and in need of a way to sell more of their product), De Beers embarked on a mission to reshape societal attitudes towards diamonds and, in turn, revolutionize the engagement ring market.

So, how did they do it?

The Strategic Shift

Partnering with an ad agency, De Beers completed an in-depth market analysis to understand the current barriers to diamond sales (yay for customer research!).

Their research showed that consumers felt diamonds were a luxury reserved for the ultra wealthy. Women would prefer their husbands spent money on a new washing machine rather than a diamond ring. This needed to change.

De Beers had one mission: re-launch the diamond engagement ring with a campaign that would shift these deep societal norms. Their goal was to create a new category — and to do this, they needed to build demand.

“A diamond is forever” campaigns over the years

The Campaign Blueprint

The cornerstone of their 1948 launch campaign was the iconic slogan, "a diamond is forever."

This timeless phrase not only emphasized the enduring nature of diamonds but also cemented the idea that true love deserved nothing less.

To keep diamonds top of mind with buyers, De Beers hired a publicist to spotlight celebrity engagement rings in newspapers and magazines. They also created non-branded content (like inbound marketing content today) featuring loved up couples to demonstrate the role of the ring in a happy marriage. They focused on selling the feeling a diamond gave, rather than the product itself.

To make buying a diamond simpler, they heavily promoted the 4Cs (clarity, cut, color and carat). This also helped to drive attention away from size alone and make diamonds more accessible to a broader audience.

Finally, they kept the drumbeat of the launch campaign going with a few fast follows. They’re the masterminds behind Marilyn Monroe singing the song “Diamonds Are a Girls Best Friend” in the movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and the first company to start dressing movie stars in jewels for celebrity events like the Academy Awards and the Kentucky Derby.

Overnight, it felt like diamonds were everywhere.

The Results

The results were staggering. Within two years, diamond sales surged by a remarkable 55%, soaring from $23 million in 1939 to a staggering $2.1 billion by the end of the century.

De Beers had orchestrated a marketing masterpiece that reshaped cultural norms and forever intertwined diamonds with everlasting love.

The campaign’s slogan “a diamond is forever” remains a part of De Beers' marketing to this day and was awarded the title of “slogan of the century” in 1999 by Advertising Age.

Talk about building a legacy — and a category.

Want to hear the 7-minute analysis of this product launch campaign? Check out episode 4 of Ready for Launch (my section kicks in around the 24 minute mark if you want to skip forward).


📚 Reading List: Olivine Marketing dropped their 30-60-90 Day PMM Cookbook this week, and it’s a must-read for any PMM heading into a new role.

🎧 Playlist: What’s the best product launch of the 20th century? Listen to Andy, Jason and I debate our top three choices in episode 4 of Ready for Launch. Available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and The Compete Network, powered by Klue.

I’m headed to Texas this week for the Spryng conference, hosted by Wynter. Will you be there too? Hit reply and shoot me a “Yeehaw” so I know who to look for 🤠

Can’t wait to hang IRL.

Tamara Grominsky

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