The best behavioural change marketing campaigns: Valentine’s Day, A Diamond is Forever & Kentucky for Christmas


by Shey Dimon



Would you buy your loved one a heart shaped McNugget box?

It’s Valentine’s Day. Aussies will spend around $1 billion on this day, lavishing the loves of their lives with cards, chocolates, flowers, jewellery and restaurant meals, boosting business income across the country.

Businesses that don’t easily fall into these categories are doing their best to get involved, such as Uber offering a flower delivery service, McDonalds offering a heart shaped nugget box and Dominoes with their Love’Roni pizza. Of course, these ideas were designed by clever marketing professionals with big advertising budgets just so they too could buy into the Valentine’s Day action. The investment is worth the return.

Many Aussies have wised up that these are just marketing campaigns, designed to influence our behaviours, but does it matter? If we refused to buy into behavioural change campaigns, are we the ones missing out?

Why a diamond engagement ring? Best marketing campaign of all time?

Romantic married couples: Did you buy a diamond engagement ring? Why? Societal expectation? Diamonds last forever? Didn’t want to look stingy? You loved it?

The De Beers’ ‘A Diamond is Forever’ campaign is in my opinion the cleverest behavioural change marketing campaign of all time.

Starting in the late 1940s, De Beers’ told men what to spend and women what to expect, with their ad campaign ‘A Diamond is Forever’.

This ad campaign changed engagement ring shopping forever. In 1940 only 10% of brides in the United States received diamond engagement rings. By 1990, this figure had increased to a whopping 80% with the sparklers on their fingers.

De Beers trained its sights on the Japanese market in the 1960s with similar success: in 1965, 5% of brides received engagement rings, and by 1995 this figure was 77%. With this huge increase in global demand, De Beers’ wholesale diamond sales increased from $23 million in 1939 to $2.1 billion by 1979.

Their ad budget also increased from $200,000 a year to over $10 million a year. They clearly saw and felt the value of marketing!

Japanese eat KFC on Christmas Day. What the? Why?

I recently learned of now another favourite behavioural change campaign in Japan – eating buckets of KFC on Christmas Day.

This campaign is mind blowing. In the 1950s when Japan’s economy started to take off and there was an interest in Western Culture, KFC saw an opportunity in Japan.

Fried chicken comes in its Japanese form karaage, so KFC was not introducing something completely foreign in taste to residents. Sharing party food also fit into Japanese culture.

While there are less than 1% Christians in Japan, KFC saw this opportunity to create a Christmas tradition in the country with their Kentucky for Christmas campaign. It included Colonel Sanders statues dressed as Santa, luxurious and temptingly delicious ad campaigns and a partnership with Japan Airlines.

This campaign took off in the 1970s and continues today. In 2018, KFC Japan reported earning AUD$88 million just between 20 – 25 December. Well done Colonel Sanders!

So this year as I buy Valentines chocolates for my kids, admire my sparkly engagement ring or spend three hours in a line for KFC on Christmas (maybe better than spending all day cooking), I will spare a thought for the marketing geniuses behind why I do all this.

And yes, a Love’Roni pizza was consumed, all for the purposes of writing this article.

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