For many businesses and products, ads are the first place the wider public is engaged. It puts your best foot forward to really entice potential customers and clients. In some cases, it works so well that it changes the shape of reality around it, like Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet. Ready to get your mind blown? Then read on because we have a bunch of traditions, rules of thumb, and concepts that all originate in some company’s marketing department!
Let’s work our way up from least surprising to most world-shaking!
This is fairly widely known at this point, but some are still surprised to find out that the relationship between diamonds, engagement rings, and how expensive they should be all come down from the De Beers marketing department! De Beers is a fascinating example of one business controlling the supply of a product first, then creating the demand for them to meet! Usually, the market works in reverse, there’s a demand, and then someone steps in to fill it.
De Beers decided to flex.
De Beers wanted to begin marketing more heavily in countries that could buy diamonds in mass amounts. The problem? It was 1938, America was just about out of the Great Depression, the economy was just barely beginning to grow, and people didn’t propose with diamonds. In fact, most considered them a luxury — certainly not a must-have for marriage. This is a pretty wild state for a market to be in when you decide you want to tap it.
Then N. W. Ayer came along.
N.W. Ayer, a Philadelphia advertising agency, thought to promote diamonds by drawing parallels to their sturdiness and the hope for everlasting love and romance. In 1947, this solidified when Frances Gerety wrote, ”A diamond is forever.”
The rest is history!
Diamond engagement rings became the de facto style for proposals for the century since. The next big question “How much should a diamond cost?” De Beers was there too, marketing the two months’ salary benchmark in the ’80s.
Find out more about how this ad campaign created the diamond engagement right with this piece in The Atlantic.
The concept of a winter holiday gift-giver Santa Claus has a long history, but he wasn’t the man we think of today before the 1930s! Back then he had a number of different looks and appearances, most frequently tied to the Christian Saint Nicholas. But then soda kings Coca-Cola got involved. Their Christmas time ads featured the rotund, jolly older gentleman in his Coca-Cola colored suit! The artist of these ads took inspiration from the depiction of Santa Claus in the poem “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” by Clement Clarke Moore.
“His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf…”
While Coca-Cola’s marketing department can’t claim credit for his look completely, the pervasiveness of their ads, and the addition of the Coke red-black, have made sure that this Santa Claus is the one every little boy and girl is thinking of come December 24th!
There are two key pieces to this one:
How does a business stand out and get themselves a slice of this huge industry? You create a tag that becomes an axiom, an axiom that becomes a goal, and create a product that meets that goal. Bing, bang, boom. So it was that the Yamasa Toki company in Japan introduced their pedometer called the Manpo-Kei, or the ‘10,000 Steps Meter.’ Pair this with the often heard stat about the increased life expectancy of Japanese people compared to the U.S. and it all starts to fall into place. Nowadays fitness communities and tools like the Fitbit have cropped up all built around getting users to hit their 10,000 steps.
Don’t get us wrong, any extra steps in a day are good steps, but don’t feel like you need to push yourself to 10k every day. That’s just good advertising.
This next one might be the biggest bombshell yet so find a chair and continue on, it might just shake you to your core.
It goes like this. Plastic can be recycled, broken down into a base form, and then reused in creating new things. Buying plastic means buying reusable materials and that means less impact on the environment… right?
Unfortunately, that’s not quite the case. Plastic can be turned into new things, but there’s a few problems making it prohibitive. It takes sorting and melting down 9whi, both of which are expensive. Also every time plastic gets reused it degrades in quality, meaning that really it can only be used once or twice before truly becoming waste.
Here’s the big issue: new plastic is cheap. Oil and gas businesses that make up the plastics industry are able to manufacture new plastics at a huge fraction of the cost of recycled plastic. When it comes to business it comes down to the bottom line and here it’s clear. Buying new plastics to use for products saves businesses money.
This isn’t a new thing either, this problem has been around for decades. Less than 10 percent of plastics have been recycled, but most folks don’t know this because the plastic industry has some serious marketing power. Find out more from this recent NPR piece.
That’s just how powerful a good marketing department and advertising can be! It can guide the conversation, leading clients to goods and services and in turn changing the way we interact with the world in a huge way. What makes for a great tag for selling pedometers can saturate the culture and become a rule of thumb for all health nuts. With the right tools on your side, you can make huge changes.