Last updated: A diamond is forever: Lessons from traditional marketing in the digital age

A diamond is forever: Lessons from traditional marketing in the digital age


Listen to article

Download audio as MP3

A famous architect once said: “Whatever good things we build end up building us.” Is it not the dream of every business – to create a product so indispensable that it becomes part of everyone’s life? But is it really all about the product?

Surprisingly, looking back at decades of business history, it has been marketing that has played a pivotal role in creating some of the most striking consumer product successes of all time. So successful, in fact, that we ended up forgetting their humble beginnings, and have now embraced them culturally as traditions.

There are some common, illuminating learnings we can extract from those stories, which we can infuse our digital-age marketing strategies with. Let’s travel back in time and find out.

Marketing in the digital age: Make it meaningful

Creating a need: De Beers and the engagement ring

Let’s picture the traditional marriage proposal: him, kneeling in front of her, in his hand a small, velvet-lined case with a diamond ring peeking out. Or, less romantically, picture a group of De Beers directors sitting at a polished board table in 1947, matter-of-factly crafting what would become one of the most successful slogans of all time: “A diamond is forever.”

The engagement ring tradition was born. Baffling, if we consider that before WW II, only 10% of American engagement rings contained a diamond. The slogan was the conclusive point of long years of market research and consumer education about the technical features of diamonds, a way to make the precious stones, once a luxury reserved to elites, look less unattainable in the eye of the average consumer.

It’s a good lesson on how to put the customer first when building a business case.

Understanding your audience: Nutella on bread

What’s a more culturally-rooted habit than breakfast? Nutella has been a pantry staple of most Western-world families for decades. But it has also a secret, past life.

Invented in 1946 in Italy, the product initially experienced modest sales figures due to the reluctant mindset of consumers toward chocolate – an expensive, short-supplied delicacy that most children of the time had not even ever tasted. The turning point came later, during the years of the economic boom, with the launch of an advertisement encouraging consumers to spread Nutella on a slice of bread.

The connection with one of the simplest and most affordable foods made Nutella’s popularity skyrocket overnight. Here, again, it is apparent how the company was able to switch its viewpoint from the product toward the consumer.

Keeping customers engaged: Michelin Guide

Friendly reminder from the author: Michelin is actually a world-class tire manufacturer, first and foremost. With the Michelin Guide, one of the largest content marketing operations of all time, the company has been able to not only sustain its original tire business, but also to invent itself a completely new market, and source of profit, from scratch.

By encouraging consumers to visit restaurants, hotels and touristic locations, which, as if accidentally, travelers would be able to reach by car, Michelin was able to address a much wider audience and boost its brand notoriety to levels that would have been unthinkable for a product as technically-driven as tires – not much more than a costly chore in the eye of consumers. In this example again, the customer-oriented mindset is striking, alongside with the consistency in engaging consumers over time.

Guide the customer journey with a customer story

The common denominator of those (and many other) planetary marketing success stories has been the ability of brands to switch their viewpoint away from the product and focus on the experience of the customer.

It is indicative that across those decades-long stories, the products themselves have basically remained unchanged. The true innovation laid, instead, into building a continuous dialogue with customers, adding precisely the value that went beyond product functionality.

Customers were put at the center of the story. And as is known, stories become traditions, and traditions build trust – the most invaluable asset for brands.

Ready to engage your audience? Learn more here

Share this article


Search by Topic beginning with