Tuesday, December 18, 2007


What Would DeBeers Do?

Bruce Barton, the "Barton" in the New York advertising firm of Batten, Barton, Durstine and Osborne, said in his 1920s bestseller The Man Nobody Knows that Jesus was the greatest salesman and best ad man in history: "He picked up twelve men from the bottom ranks of business and forged them into an organization that conquered the world." (I mentioned Barton in this post.)

But after reading Edward Jay Epstein's "Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond?" (Atlantic Monthly, Feb. 1982), I think DeBeers is giving Jesus a run for the money: "The diamond invention is far more than a monopoly for fixing diamond prices; it is a mechanism for converting tiny crystals of carbon into universally recognized tokens of wealth, power, and romance. To achieve this goal, De Beers had to control demand as well as supply. Both women and men had to be made to perceive diamonds not as marketable precious stones but as an inseparable part of courtship and married life." It's an amazing story, as DeBeers and N. W. Ayer (an advertising agency) came up with the most effective advertising campaign in two millennia.

(I found the Atlantic article by following a link in Pharyngula.)