Flowers. Chocolates. Heart-shaped boxes. Love letters. Romantic dinners for two.
For many of us, these are the things we most associate Valentine’s Day with—which is all well and fine. If the boys over at De Beers have their way, though, these aren’t the only things we’ll be thinking of.
De Beers is the biggest diamond mining interest in the world. Incorporated in
Yeah, you got that right. They decided to restrict the availability of diamonds—a resource of which they were the sole arbiters—by controlling the public’s access to them and thus artificially inflating their price. Pretty intense, right? But how could they have done this?
One of the first things the newly-formed De Beers Consolidated Mines, Ltd. did was employ the help of
In the agency’s own words, it accomplished this by implanting a simple idea—that of “the eternal emotional value surrounding the diamond”—within a middle class obsessed with symbolic wealth, personal success and “conspicuous consumption.” On one side of the Atlantic,
What interests me most about the De Beers/Ayers campaign is not what it indicates about the diamond industry, but rather its analogy to American electoral politics. Just as N.W. Ayers probed and shaped public opinion to generate brand support within the commercial realm, the persuasive savants of the political realm operate with striking similarity. I think many would agree that it’s via slick marketing and well-crafted messaging—rather than earnest politicking—that various candidates on both sides of the aisle are sold to their publics.
What does everyone think of this? Is the American public merely an assemblage of pliant rubes whose every thought and proclivity can be known, deconstructed, understood, and thus exploited? Or, alternately, is too much stake placed on the capacity of language and persuasive communication as tools of public manipulation? Indeed, is the question even remotely as simple as I’ve posed it here? (I’m confident that it’s not, but have nevertheless posed it in the hope of stoking contemplation.)
These are among the things I want to continue reflecting on this semester. How autonomous are we, really, as a public that’s equally as consumptive of products as it is of ideas?
Epstein, E. J. (1982, February). Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond? The