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Rashi Goel

Diffusion of the cure of scurvy and diamond rings

Diffusion of the cure of scurvy and diamond rings
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Newsletter #4 3.11.2020

Writing and Three Ahas

Writing, researching, and re-writing have led me to 3 Ahas.

  1. To Learn better, Write it: I thought I knew marketing. But I was mistaken. The more I wrote, the more I realized I did not understand some concepts I had taken for granted! Writing removed cobwebs that I did not even know were fogging my understanding. For instance, how IS distinctiveness different from differentiation? How indeed? I learned by writing about it. 
  2. To Write Better, Teach It: I wrote for an audience of one. Myself. I was the teacher and the student. I started with first principles – like a detective who collects clues dispassionately and starts piecing the story together. By having a teaching mindset, I found myself writing better.
  3. To Teach Better, Lose the Jargon: I tried to stop hiding behind jargon. Big words camouflage ignorance and comfort egos. By forcing myself to replace big, ‘technical’ words with simple and clear language that a 5th grader could read, I could make the ideas easy to understand. (I have to say, writing jargon-free is something I need to work much harder at!)

Diffusion of Ideas – Diamonds Vs. Scurvy

Innovation and marketing are about spreading ideas far and wide and hoping enough people adopt them.

The spread of new ideas is captured in Diffusion Curves. Which looks like below:-

Diffusion Curve

The irony is that it took just 50 years for diamond rings to be adopted by a majority of the population in the US, while the cure for scurvy took 194 years to become mainstream! 

Diamonds are Forever: In late 1900s, new diamond mines were discovered in Africa. The British owners did not want the price of diamonds to fall on the back of ample supply. They created a cartel called De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd. to control supply. And hired an advertising agency to create demand. The agency – Ayer, marketed the idea that the love and romantic interest a young man felt for a woman, was directly in proportion to the size and price of the diamond ring he gave her.

This was a perfect system delicately balanced on the ideas of scarcity and preciousness
– larger the diamond, more precious the love;
– more precious the love, more men want to gift a diamond;
– more men want to gift diamonds, less the supply;
– less the supply, more the price

% of First-Time Brides Who Got a Diamond Engagement Ring

Adoption of Diamond Engagement Rings

The idea caught on globally. It took 50 years to become mainstream in the US. Only 30 years in Japan and 16 years in China.

 1960 De Beers ad in Reader’s Digest (SensaiAlan/Flickr)

DeBeers Ad in Reader’s Digest

Apparently, Scurvy is Forever too: More soldiers died from scurvy than from war. In 1497, 100 out of a crew of 160 of Vasco da Gama’s crew died of scurvy. Repeated experiments starting 1601 proved that taking citrus ended scurvy. But this idea did not gain acceptance until 1795. – James Lancaster served lemon juice on one ship on a voyage to India and nothing on other three ships. 110 out of 278 soldiers on the three ships died from scurvy. The British Army did not learn from this. – 150 years later, in 1747, James Lind, a British Navy Doctor conducted an experiment in which again soldiers that were fed citrus fruits did not contract scurvy.

– Even with this decisive proof, the British Army adopted citrus as part of crew diets only in 1795. If only there had been a concentrated effort and leadership to share the idea that citrus prevents scurvy, this much needed idea would have spread faster. 

Print Ad I loved

It is relatively easier to communicate a benefit in a 60 second TV ad. 

It is far more difficult to bring it alive in the print medium.

The JBL print campaign hits all the right notes:
– communicates the product benefit of “Noise Cancelling Headphones”
– Uses the negative space to show case the headphones ‘in action’ – front and center and on the ears of the protagonist
– Delivers a campaign across various interests – politics, football, families
– Creates a distinctive brand personality and visual identity which is consistent across creatives, announces it is JBL even if the logo were hidden
– What else does a brand need! No wonder this campaign won multiple awards

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