diamonds are forever..
March 27, 2006 8:47 PM   Subscribe

Are there any other companies that have fooled as many people as De Beers?

I was fascinated with this article talking about the repulsive history of De Beers and how they have used incredibly clever mass psychology methods, like advertising, to invent the illusion of the scarcity and value of diamonds as well as create the assumption that every woman must have one. My question is what are some other examples of pyschological mass manipulation by industry that have worked this well? Are there other companies that have fooled as many people? Im also curious.. the article hints that De Beer's control over the market may be in danger due to newly discovered mines in Australia and other parts of the world, however the article is from 1982. I'm wondering how that battle played out. Are they still in control of all the mines? And how come the inevitable 'diamond crash' spelled out in the article never happened? Is it simply because most people still dont realize that the resale value of diamonds is a myth?
posted by petsounds to Society & Culture (59 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Good article, but would a better researched version of this made a blue post, as opposed to this AskMe? I wonder mainly because I think it would actually make a really good FPP.
posted by rollbiz at 8:55 PM on March 27, 2006


I think the pharmaceutical industry has done a pretty diabolical job of convincing a great majority of people who are moody that they are clinically depressed. What I can't understand is why doctors just roll over for these creeps. I'll never forget the answer my mother-in-law's doctor gave her when she complained that she didn't like her medication because it made her feel good all the time. The doctor replied: "what's wrong with feeling good all the time". There are way too many doctors in this country that treat the Hippocratic oath like George Bush treats the Constitution.
posted by any major dude at 9:10 PM on March 27, 2006


The analogy isn't perfect, but I'm rather impressed with the effectiveness of the designated driver campaign, invented by a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health in 1988 and foisted on the public by way of some sympathetic network executives.
(Statistics in the link)
posted by Aknaton at 9:39 PM on March 27, 2006


Here's a MeFi post about diamonds (tagged 'diamond,' though the Atlantic article only shows up in the comments).

And, to return to the original question, it seems to me that a major problem with trying to find any definitive answers is that not everyone agrees about whether they're being fooled or not. For example, I don't think DeBeers has fooled anywhere near as many people as the Catholic church has. Others, however, may disagree.
posted by box at 9:40 PM on March 27, 2006


Softdrink companies have managed to convince billions of people that they do not just sell caffeinated sugar-water, but rather young, hip, lifestyle beverages that will make you and all your friends cool by association.
posted by nyterrant at 9:57 PM on March 27, 2006


How about the entire wedding industry? Read "Cinderella Dreams: The Allure of the Lavish Wedding" for more.

Many magazines, especially beauty mags, are selling a false lifestyle, too, in my opinion.
posted by GaelFC at 10:05 PM on March 27, 2006


Cigarette companies?

Here's a product that leads to emphysema, lung cancer, heart disease, mouth cancer, esophageal cancer, contributes to breast cancer, and god knows how many other health problems. It's been proven both clinically and anecdotally. Cigarettes are chock-full of things like tar and assorted carcinogens. They make your teeth and fingers yellow and your breath smell bad. Smoking can make you look older than you are by way of wrinkles. Hurts babies when done while pregnant.

Yet people continue to smoke - knowing all of the above. Because, to steal from nyterrant above, "[Cigarette] companies have managed to convince billions of people that they do not just sell [tobacco rolled up in paper] but rather young, hip, lifestyle [ciggies] that will make you and all your friends cool by association."

This reminds me, I want to go see "Thank You For Smoking."
posted by anjamu at 10:18 PM on March 27, 2006


Not a specific company but the bottled water industry has been extraordinarily successful in convincing consumers of the superiority of water from a bottle. Whereas municipal water is regulated and tested, many bottled waters have no such regulations. Besides the possibility that the $40 bottle of European "glacial" water could be scooped up from a septic tank, the bottles generate a huge amount of plastic waste.
posted by junesix at 10:29 PM on March 27, 2006


My first thought: almost every single consumer industry in existence. You pay a fortune for false scarcity, and marketing-created hype whenever you buy a label.

I haven't the foggiest clue why people get so up in arms about DeBeers, when they've surely owned a hundred other products whose value is chiefly created by a marketing department.

Only explanation I can think of for this disparity is that people like to believe they're better than other people. It's easy to walk down the street, wearing expensive shoes, and expensive jeans, listening to expensive music, or making a call on your expensive cell phone, while carrying your expensive bag, and drinking your expensive drink, all the while your eyes are protected by your expensive sunglasses and your expensive hat, and to think about what a superior person you are, because you didn't fall for the diamond scam.
posted by I Love Tacos at 10:39 PM on March 27, 2006


Nestle, for their ongoing campaigns convincing mothers in poor countries to use formula instead of breastfeeding.

Babies die from the mothers mixing the formula with dirty water, from lack of nutrition because the mothers can't afford enough formula, they miss the protection against disease that breast milk could have given them, and the family budget is diverted from other needs (food for older children, for example).
posted by hazyjane at 10:40 PM on March 27, 2006


anjamu : "Yet people continue to smoke - knowing all of the above."

a)the nicotine addiction might have something to do with it.

b)people continue to smoke since major ill-effects don't generally manifest till after mid-40s

c)the US government has known and warned about smoking dangers since late 60s. Awareness of DeBeers practices isn't advertised on TV or print media. It's hidden, for the most part.

It's been proven both clinically

I think you meant 'epidemiologically'. I don't think anyone's likely to conduct a clinical trial to see if humans get lung cancer after smoking. Robust increase of lung cancer in animals wasn't shown, till recently.
posted by Gyan at 10:45 PM on March 27, 2006


Gyan: er, yeah - right on the epidemiologically thing. Oops.

And where I said "continue to smoke," what I meant is that they start smoking. I'm not with it tonight - no wonder I am avoiding editing my paper.

That said, considering that so many people of my generation know the health risks of smoking and yet take it up anyways, Big Tobacco must be doing something "right."
posted by anjamu at 10:48 PM on March 27, 2006


Seven Jeans have a lot to answer for IMHO. Since when did bootcut jeans cost $200? They lie like dogs on the sizes too- I haven't been a real size 28 in 10 years but I fit nicely into their size 28s.
posted by fshgrl at 10:49 PM on March 27, 2006


I think the pharmaceutical industry...

Yes, but's more than just the unneeded depression treatments. People are being told that every little thing that is in the slightest way imperfect is something that should be treated with medicine. Because, of course, medicine is a highly profitable product.

So, for example, kids are no longer simply energetic, they are hyperactive or they have some damned syndrome. Adults, too, suddenly have syndromes rather than, for example, plain old crappy concentration. You take pills to sleep properly and pills to eat properly and pills to shit properly. And if there is no real medicine to cure the complaint for which they want to sell you a product, they put a label on a bottle of water and vitamins and sell it as "homeopathic" medicine.

Besides birth control (which of course is a different deal), are there any people reading this who are not on some sort of prescription? And are you all medicating yourselves with various over-the-counter "remedies" for self-diagnosed complaints? Popping vitamins and guzzling "energy" drinks?

What I can't understand is why doctors just roll over for these creeps [in the pharmaceutical industry].

Because every prescription sold is a doctor and a pharmacist paid. Every ad says buy our product, you need our product, you must have our product, but... see a doctor just to be sure, then run down to the pharmacy every month to pick up another bottle.

And customers (you) put up with it because people love to feel as if they or their loved ones are victims of an outside force (some evil disease) rather than simply, normally imperfect.

Not a specific company but the bottled water industry...

That's another fine example of selling people a remedy for a largely nonexistent problem. Your tap water is probably just fine, but you are sold bottled water largely on the basis of fear that tap water is bad for you, that "who knows what!" is in the water. Never mind that your parents and grandparents, living in less regulated times, did not die off from poison water. You need bottled water.

Water is sold like medicine. Medicine is sold like water.
posted by pracowity at 11:19 PM on March 27, 2006


I woke up this morning to the sound of my Bose alarm clock . I slid out of our designer bed, enjoying the feel of the 720 thread count linen set across my skin.

I somehow managed to get to the kitchen, where I dropped some Jamaican Blue coffee beans through the burr grinder, and put them into the espresso maker.

I ambled to the newly refurbished shower, and washed myself, using a Restoration Hardware washcloth and a variety of "organic" cleaning products. I toweled off with the matching towels, 802 grams per square meter of drying power, and walked to the sink.

I put a new Mach 3 blade into my nickel and steel shaving set, lathered up with some Eshave citrus shave cream, and I almost felt alive.

Back in the bedroom, I put in my Acuvue disposable lenses, slid on my Hanro underwear, and then went back to the kitchen for my coffee and some fresh fruit from Whole Foods.

Breakfast over, I grabbed the closest suit, a very nice one by Joseph Abboud, a blue Ike Behar shirt, and a simple Ermenegildo Zegna tie. I put on my Hanro underwear, put on the clothing, with some Ferragamo shoes, and a similarly colored belt. I topped it off with a classic Patek Philippe watch.

Ready to take on the world, I gathered up the rest of my neccessities, my Coach wallet was in my back pocket, my Tiffany keychain in the front left, and my Motorola mobile in the front right. I put $100 in cash on the table by the door, for the cleaning lady, grabbed the bag with my month-old laptop in it, and went down to the garage and got into my daily driver, an Infiniti.

I suffered through the morning at work, until lunch came, and I found an excuse to go to a relaxed meal at a high-end, local steakhouse. The meal was accompanied by a lovely bottle of cab, the name of which I'll never remember.

Back to the grind for another six hours, and then off to meet my lady at a very stylish new ethno-fusion restaurant. She looked radiant in a Dolce & Gabbana dress, accented with a few modest pieces of jewelry, one of which included a diamond. Sure, we have a Wolf range, but why cook when somebody can do it for you?


After a long and luxurious dinner, we came home, and opened a package from Amazon, containing fresh DVDs for the collection. We put one into our pioneer elite DVD player, which fed its signal through high-end Monster Cable into a B&K receiver, and then on into a Pioneer HD plasma display. The sound from the reference speakers enveloped us, and we ignored it all, ending up making love on our plush couch instead.

Afterwards, we sat and talked, browsing the web on our respective laptops, sipping wine and eating extremely dark belgian chocolate, before eventually heading to bed... ready to repeat these tasks tomorrow.
posted by I Love Tacos at 11:21 PM on March 27, 2006


Approximate costs:

Bose alarm clock: $350
bedroom set: $25,000
linens: $3,000/set
coffee: $50
burr grinder: $150
espresso maker: $800
shower: $30,000
washcloth: $10
organic cleansing products: $20
towels: $50
Mach 3 blade: $8 for 5 blades
shaving set: $150
shave cream $20
disposable contacts: $150
Hanro underwear: $50
Joseph Abboud suit: $1000
Ike Behar shirt: $150
Zegna tie: $120
Ferragamo shoes: $500
belt: $80
Patek Philippe watch: (unknown... $5k?)
Coach wallet: $150
Tiffany keychain: $100
Motorola mobile (unlocked for global use): $300
laptop: $2500
laptop bag: $250
Infiniti: $40,000
lunch for three: $180 with tip
Dinner for two: $200 with tip
Dolce and Gabbana dress: $1,000
Jewelry: $15,000
Wolf range: $5,000
DVDs: $20 each
DVD Player: $400
Monster Cable: $100 per cable
B&K Receiver: $1200
Pioneer HD Display: $4,000
Speakers: $4,000
wine: $50
chocolate: $10

thinking debeer's is somehow special: priceless.
posted by I Love Tacos at 11:29 PM on March 27, 2006


oh, and while my example is extreme, take note of every single product you use sometime during the day.

Chances are that most of the time there is either a cheaper, or more ethically responsible choice that could have been made.

Entire lifestyles are created by marketing.
posted by I Love Tacos at 11:32 PM on March 27, 2006


I'm afraid this thread will end up quite chatty, if not already.

pracowity : "And customers (you) put up with it because people love to feel as if they or their loved ones are victims of an outside force (some evil disease) rather than simply, normally imperfect."

I think you are ignoring that modern biology and medicine have come into their own in the past few decades. The 'syndromes' have popped up because the various sociobiological sciences have codified aspects of human being into formal schemas and mapped and correlated anomalies in a formal, quantitative manner. Our ancestors tolerated and accepted most of the variance, barring the extreme, because they had no choice; there was no real ability to fine-tune and modulate biology. There's a legitimate debate to be had over what a person should learn to live with and what one might strive change; unfortunately, that debate will always be colored by prejudices of some of its participants: those who have to watch agents & instruments emerge for 'conditions' for which they were forced to be a tolerant 'victim'. The history of acceptance of surgical anaesthesia is instructive reading.

No, I am not on any medications, prescribed or otherwise, and never have been.
posted by Gyan at 11:52 PM on March 27, 2006


The "monster cable" mentioned above is a good one. Hell, the whole audiophile market is essentially all about selling lies. The quintessential example is the $500 wooden volume knob that gives you fuller and richer tones, or whatever bullshit those people come up with. Monster cable is a company that should be put in jail for fraud.
posted by Rhomboid at 11:53 PM on March 27, 2006


I feel like the a lot of the answers so far are just an example of good marketing (ie I don't think there can be any parrallel between DeBeer's success at making diamonds mandatory for every single bride in the western world, and Seven Jeans convincing a subset of mostly urban high inccome fashion-focused women to want their jeans. Even things like laptops and medications don't seem like the same thing, because both those products actually serve a purpose for a lot of the people who use them (whereas diamonds are a completely artificial need for everyone.)

The only thing I can think of that matches both the ubiquity and the uselessness is the greeting card industry.
posted by Kololo at 12:13 AM on March 28, 2006


A huge part of the success of American Idol (19 TV/Fox) is based on the lie that impressively bad contestants end up in front of the three top judges due to some random process, instead of being quite deliberately selected for comedy value. At least this is relatively obvious to anyone who has considered it for a few minutes, there is plenty of less crude manipulation in reality TV.

Also, remember the "massively rigged" quiz show Twenty One?

There is a staggeringly huge industry in the UK devoted to trying to get you to spend a large amount of money on premium rate phone calls in the expectation that you're going to get something worth having. "You have already won!" Somehow it is still legal for them to imply that you have been lucky just by receiving the letter, when it is abundantly clear that everybody wins something, no matter how lacking it value it might turn out to be.

Honestly though, I don't think anyone has come up with anything yet to match DeBeers, with the exception of Nestle. I don't think it's a coincidence that both of these examples involve the merciless exploitation of developing countries, and will not be at all surprised if someone with more knowledge of the area can come up with others.
posted by teleskiving at 12:34 AM on March 28, 2006


The Milk Industry. They've had a huge sustained campaign to make people believe that humans slurping the white liquid produced by the mammary glands of mature Cow after they have given birth is the most natural thing in the world.

They've got the soft drink and bottled water companies beat in that they get lots of help from the government. Subsidized milk given to elementary school kids. One of the four food groups. A good slice of the food pyramid. Before "Got Milk?" their commercials were almost like public service announcements.
posted by nonmyopicdave at 1:19 AM on March 28, 2006


whereas diamonds are a completely artificial need for everyone.

Diamonds are a socially acceptable way to wear your richness. I was going to write "to wear your money," but diamonds are no longer money and they lose too much value if you try to convert them back into money. They are little wearable signs with a compressed message that says "I have money to burn -- and I will burn it rather than do something good with it -- and I have burnt it -- and here are the ashes."

The only thing I can think of that matches both the ubiquity and the uselessness is the greeting card industry.

They are faux emotional expressions for people who do not know how to express themselves and, in any case, have nothing to express. They are the "I wish I'd said that" product for people who have nothing to say.

Such things do have social purposes, but only because society is full of idiots.

that debate will always be colored by prejudices of some of its participants: those who have to watch agents & instruments emerge for 'conditions' for which they were forced to be a tolerant 'victim'.

In most of these cases -- depression, hyperactivity, etc. -- everyone is still a potential patient, not forced to be a tolerant victim, but not everyone reaches for the pill bottle and the pill excuse.

But diamonds are indeed hard to beat: they are the empty product, the purchase that only marks where money has been, where work has been destroyed. Bogus medicines promise something, even if you don't need or can never get what they promise. Greeting cards are a low-level Cyrano device for the emotionally stunted. Bottled water is at least mostly water, and we need water. Even religion promises a reward, though it conveniently postpones the reward until you're no longer within reach of the customer service department. But diamonds are just clear rocks.
posted by pracowity at 1:35 AM on March 28, 2006


are there any people reading this who are not on some sort of prescription?

[raises hand]

Anyway, lots of consumer goods, though to a lesser extent than diamonds, which are just decoration, after all.

Also:
Valentine's Day
Christmas
Professional football (both kinds)
Professional sports in general
American beer
Support the Troops magnetic ribbons
The Iraq War
American politics
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:32 AM on March 28, 2006


Expensive athletic shoes for poor kids. When I was in middle school, there were even a few cases of people being killed for them. Or the whole concept of fashion at all, really.
Also, celebrity. People getting so worked up that some actually scream and point and so on if they recognize someone from the movies, and young women sometimes even pass out at concerts, just because they are in the awesome presence of someone whose work they enjoy.
posted by leapingsheep at 3:55 AM on March 28, 2006


Besides birth control (which of course is a different deal), are there any people reading this who are not on some sort of prescription?

Ooh, ooh, me!

But you're right. And even if we should be able to take any drugs we want to improve our lives, the real problem is the way people think about disease. Disease is a huge part of identity for huge chunks of the population. You have to diagnose yourself with five different things and get some doctor to give you the drugs because otherwise you're not a real person, you're excluded from social circles. And when you make the first fact of your identity "I have this disease" you better bet it's not going away with treatment. A cure would be psychologically devastating.
posted by dagnyscott at 5:16 AM on March 28, 2006


my rule of thumb is to look at advertising. if it needs advertising to sell it, then it's been sold through some kind of construct.

and from that you get to cars.

i don't own one and life is just fine. i looked out my window just now and the street is full of angry people all trying to go in the same direction, stuck in a traffic jam.

ymmv.
posted by andrew cooke at 5:18 AM on March 28, 2006


I'm not on any sort of prescription.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:39 AM on March 28, 2006


I Love Tacos: that was hilarious, but did you mean to put on underwear twice?
posted by casarkos at 5:51 AM on March 28, 2006


I am also prescription free.
posted by rollbiz at 6:01 AM on March 28, 2006


Bottled water, the auto industry destroying mass transit in the L.A. area, and here's a great pbs doc about marketing coolness to teenagers.
posted by psychobum at 6:13 AM on March 28, 2006


The Weightloss Industry. It's a multi-billion dollar industry and with a failure rate 85% (and that's being generous. The only study ever conducted on the matter was in 1959 and generated a 95% failure rate that's still quoted today). But hey, it's your fault if you gain the weight back. Just keep ponying up the cash and they'll offer you the newest diet de jour which is sure to work until it doesn't.
posted by kimdog at 6:43 AM on March 28, 2006


I Love Tacos: that was hilarious, but did you mean to put on underwear twice?
posted by casarkos at 8:51 AM EST on March 28 [!]


What you mean that you haven't heard about the protective qualities of two sets of (designer) underwear?
posted by ob at 6:44 AM on March 28, 2006


Hallmark, man. Greeting cards. I swear they come up with a new holiday every year.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:49 AM on March 28, 2006


pracowity writes "are there any people reading this who are not on some sort of prescription?"

Ou! Me! Me! But that is just genetic luck, lots of people are one a daily regimen because otherwise they'd die. Diabetics, people with high blood pressure, hyperthyroidism, kidney failure, etc. Though, I do put my glasses with delicious ultralight weight Nikon lenses on everyday.

Much worse than diamonds are new cars. I can't believe people buy, or even worse lease, new cars. I'm glad they do because it sure makes a 10 year old car affordable.
posted by Mitheral at 8:16 AM on March 28, 2006


The beauty industry - to be beautiful, you must be skinny/long-legged/fair/have spotless skin/have long straight hair/put tons of makeup on your face yet still look "natural"/go for regular facials/get plastic surgery/etc.

I've always wondered how certain foods became meal staples - cereals for breakfast, a certain brand of chocolate sprinkles on bread for meals in the Netherlands, champange for celebration, so on. Are those the product of advertising too?

Wasn't Scientology supposed to be some sort of a marketing bet?
posted by divabat at 8:39 AM on March 28, 2006


oh yeah, i've been part of the whole rigged gameshow/reality TV thing. I was a contestant on a local game show where they basically gave us a list of answers and told us to just keep shouting random answers from that list. I also auditioned for a TV talent show, and when I got turned down by the judges, I was told by the directors to storm out of the room and act really frustrated. They told me later: "it was a shame we didn't get to film you crying."
posted by divabat at 8:42 AM on March 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


Seven Jeans have a lot to answer for IMHO. Since when did bootcut jeans cost $200?

Not only that, but even though you're paying $200 for them, they're ten feet too long (at least for me- long torso, short legs), so you need to PAY A TAILOR to hem them for you. To HEM your $200 JEANS. That kills me.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:57 AM on March 28, 2006 [1 favorite]


They are little wearable signs with a compressed message that says "I have money to burn -- and I will burn it rather than do something good with it -- and I have burnt it -- and here are the ashes."
There's an excellent business plan - selling artificial diamonds made from the carbon extracted from the ashes of great heaps of hundred-dollar bills.

Feel free to use this idea as long as you give me half of the proceeds. Thanks!
posted by murphy slaw at 9:22 AM on March 28, 2006


You might want to check out the BBC documentary Century of the Self. It was recently discussed in the Blue. The documentary discusses how all sorts of industries have used mass psychology methods to create false demand and desire and encourage political apathy.
posted by lunalaguna at 10:30 AM on March 28, 2006


I feel like the a lot of the answers so far are just an example of good marketing (ie I don't think there can be any parrallel between DeBeer's success at making diamonds mandatory for every single bride in the western world.

Car companies, absolutely. Ford convinced people that a car in every driveway was an American ideal. Eisenhower undertakes the massive task of building a system of interstate highways instead of, say, improving and extending a national rail system. Cities are designed more to get cars around than anything else and, consequently, efficient public transport is nearly an impossibility in some places.
posted by lunalaguna at 10:44 AM on March 28, 2006


I wonder how I Love Tacos feels about Huey Lewis and the News.
OnTopic: Not a single company per se, but the automobile industry has convinced most of the world that they should drive. Of course, they also had a hand in making it necessary to drive here in the U.S., but they've succeeded in equating the automobile with the "mystique" of America.
posted by ooga_booga at 11:26 AM on March 28, 2006


On preview: damn you, lunalaguna.
posted by ooga_booga at 11:26 AM on March 28, 2006


I love that "designated driver" article:

Way back in 1988, drunk driving was a bit of a problem, as it is now. But back then, no one had ever really heard of the concept of a "designated driver." Basically, it didn't exist. A professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, Jay Winsten, came up with the idea and pitched it, with the help of an NBC executive, to over 200 writers and producers at various networks, asking them to include a line or two about it in their shows whenever they dealt with drinking issues.

And it worked! TV shows such as "Cheers" and the "Cosby Show" started talking about "designated drivers" and people took notice. In 1989, Gallup found that 67 percent of all adults had heard about the concept, and in 1991, the Roper Organization found that 37 percent of adults had passed up drinking to act as a designated driver—up from 29 percent two years earlier. Between 1988 and 1992, drunk-driving fatalities declined from 23,626 to 17,858 a year. Obviously a lot of things could explain that decline, but it's not too outlandish to imagine that the "designated driver" campaign had quite the impact. So there. Behold the power of TV sitcoms. And sure, it wasn't just TV sitcoms—there were other government and community groups pushing the concept—but TV surely helped.


that sort of impact makes the fundy complaints about the influence of TeeVee seem slightly less insane.

Now I want to launch a socially benign meme into the the culture, using the awesome power of Mefi.
posted by craniac at 12:18 PM on March 28, 2006


i'm on prescription medication that seems beneficial (after spending years of frustration trying to avoid it)...

...but i refuse to own a car or have a driver's license, so i think that makes up for it a little bit...
posted by troybob at 1:26 PM on March 28, 2006


I was going to mention the beauty industry. I think about this every day as I convince my toddler-aged daughters they don't need the makeup that I have to put on everyday before I feel I can leave the house. Also every time I look at my bleach blond toddler and think how lucky she'll be in the future.
posted by artifarce at 1:32 PM on March 28, 2006


I'm also not taking any presciption medication. I think you may have been indulging in some hyperbole, pracowity.
posted by raedyn at 2:38 PM on March 28, 2006


I Love Tacos: that was hilarious, but did you mean to put on underwear twice?

Second pair is just y'know... in case. (or perhaps the second one should've said "the matching Hanro undershirt"...)
posted by I Love Tacos at 2:59 PM on March 28, 2006


Well the whole concept of advertising shifted decades ago from selling products ("stronger, whiter, brighter, better") to selling feelings (pick any luxury car commerical as an easy example). I saw some documentary about this. Might've been "Affluenza".

But seriously, look at soft drink commercials, noted by somebody upthread. It's sugar water, for crying out loud. But it's CRAAAZEEEE sugar water, baby! It'll make you dance down the sidewalk and have a great time with friends who love you, just like celebrities! Large theme burgers are what cool and fun people eat and laugh over in desirable social situations. Your skinny girlfriend? What she really wants is a burger as large as her head. She'll smile real sexy-like as she tries to unhinge her jaw to fit it around the behemoth. You'll say something witty and she'll laugh. Oh, the two of you. Good times, good times. The car, drink, and burger are incidental. It's the feelings they're selling.

So DeBeers certainly has done some elaborate and effective work at manipulating society, but in principle they are far from alone.
posted by kookoobirdz at 5:36 PM on March 28, 2006


Champagne. The wine companies needed to do something to make the less desirable wines marketable. "Let's add bubbles!"

And you can't have a celebration without it. Brilliant.
posted by kamikazegopher at 7:13 PM on March 28, 2006


I might be wrong, but It seems to me that De Beers also has a few skeletons in its closet regarding how they managed to get the rights to "their" diamonds in the first place.

Anyway... Marketing is ever bent upon convincing people that they need things. Not only that, but most manufacturers make things so that they will break sooner rather than later. So not only do they convince you that you need their products, they make sure that you will be needing a new one relatively soon after buying it in the first place.

This has ever seemed to me akin to the way of the recreational drug dealer. Therefore it should be illegal, but the economies of the world depend upon it for survival.

The only way to combat it is to be a smart consumer.

Do not let yourself be fooled. You need very little to be happy. Make a serious list of the things you really want and live by that. Do not listen to what the adds or your peers tell you you need. You are an idividual.
posted by Arno at 3:25 AM on March 29, 2006


Eisenhower undertakes the massive task of building a system of interstate highways instead of, say, improving and extending a national rail system.

Uh...I apologize for being pedantic...

But they built the highway system as a method of evacuating cities in case of Russian nuclear attack.

Also: The Interstate Highway System was originally conceived as a means to defend the United States. It was designed to allow troops and military equipment to travel rapidly and efficiently across the country. However, the FHWA admits that even this use by today’s military vehicles would be difficult on the interstate highway system. Many modern military vehicles cannot travel under or across overpasses.

(apologies for the derail.)
posted by TeamBilly at 6:51 AM on March 29, 2006


I wonder how I Love Tacos feels about Huey Lewis and the News.
Ooga booga, I love you!

Personally, I wonder what font I Love Tacos uses on his (or her) business card...
posted by Holden at 7:00 AM on March 29, 2006


But they built the highway system as a method of evacuating cities in case of Russian nuclear attack.

I've heard tell it was really built to make it possible to roll in the tanks to quell rebellion by those dirty hippies. No?
posted by Aknaton at 8:10 AM on March 29, 2006


You don't realize until late in this article how old it actually is (assuming you don't look at the little date at the beginning, of course). I'd be interested in the update since 1982? The diamond market seems to be plugging right along here 24 years later. I'd love an update. Has De Beers been pulling more and more rabbits out of its hat since then? What's the landscape like now in that industry?

Anybody seen a more recent overview since this one?
posted by kookoobirdz at 8:52 AM on March 29, 2006


C'mon, Aknaton, you know there weren't any hippies back then. they were worried about the zoot-suiters.

Not an overview, but the largest diamond mine is in either Australia, or Siberia, depending on who you believe. There's a set of huge deposits in Canada. De Beers is still the largest diamond company.

From that last link:
The United States is the biggest consumer of diamonds in the world. It accounts for 35 per cent of diamond sales, Hong Kong 26 per cent, Belgium 15 per cent, Japan six per cent, and Israel four percent.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:36 AM on March 29, 2006


I think perhaps the recycling industry as a whole pulled a pretty big sweater over our eyes. I can't really point to any one company, or cartel, but just the idea in general.

If you can get your hands on Penn & Teller: Bullshit (Season 2, Episode 5) give that a look-see. You'd be amazed.

It turns out that the barge carrying a boatload of garbage behind it (we all remember that from the 80s right? :) was a rather routine thing, but in true elite liberal media fashion (props to Colbert)... The image and surrounding story was blown way out of proportion. Then some guy who was an expert (read professor at Harvard (I think it was Harvard)) made up a bunch of facts (which he essentially admitted to on camera). Thus, the recycling program was born.

[click --> ] Here's one set of search terms I tried in Google.

[click --> ] And here's one more :)
posted by mrzer0 at 11:02 AM on March 29, 2006


More things I've thought of:

Technology - you must have the latest OS/software/hardware/mobile technology/type of blog/etc to be productive and succeed. Heck, I remember when mobile phones were a luxury.

Schools and exams - Being cramped in four walls with a limited set of subjects, boatloads of homework that have no relation to real life, and rote memorization somehow equate success. Being tested in a short amount of time without the use of resources is the best way to measure intelligence. One must have a prestigious degree from a prestigious university to succeed. One must get all As to succeed. Anything else marks you as a failure.

The whole jobs thing could be considered as well - cubicles, the only measure of success being your title and paycheck, having to work everyday 9 to 5 no matter what your job is. That you MUST have a job because it's what everyone does.
posted by divabat at 4:10 PM on March 29, 2006


A Diamond is Forever ranks as one of the top 10 best advertising campaigns ever created. I remember reading a list once. The other 9 should provide you some clues to answer your question. Sorry don't have a link to it though.
posted by GilbertZ at 10:19 PM on December 6, 2006


« Older So...tired...   |   How much power does a cellphone use? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.