Creating a Problem of Perspective
Why do we still buy diamonds for engagement and wedding rings? Because we want to give or receive a symbol of the commitment that we’re making and, of course, “A Diamond Is Forever.” Behind this simple tagline is a powerful Red Thread complete with a Goal, a Problem, an Idea, a Change, and an Action.
In the early 1930s, De Beers had a worldwide monopoly on diamonds, which meant that they could limit the supply and artificially drive up the price. If you study economics though, you know that supply is only half of the equation— De Beers needed to also increase demand. To make that Change, they needed a powerful Red Thread.
The Goal of someone giving an engagement ring is to find a symbol of their commitment. The Problem of perspective De Beers needed to create was that the kind of ring mattered, and to do that they needed to introduce a new Idea: that “a diamond is forever.” Like any good Idea statement, it’s hard to disagree with that, and that makes the Problem of what type of ring to give your partner impossible to ignore. That Red Thread, working at both the individual level and the market level, is why diamonds became the number one engagement ring to give since the campaign launched in 1947.
– How many of you out there are married, have been married, or engaged? And of you, for how many of you was a diamond part of the deal? Have you ever asked yourself, why a diamond? And who told you to buy one? Well, the answer comes to one of the most perfect Red Threads that’s out there. I’m Tamsen Webster of tamsenwebster.com and that’s what we’re talking about this week on Find the Red Thread.
So why did you buy a diamond, or want to receive one? Because you, I’m going to guess, wanted to give or receive a symbol of the commitment you, we’re about to make. And because there was this idea out there that “a diamond is forever.” Suddenly, it meant that not just any ring would do. It had to be a specific kind of ring. And since you wanted the commitment to be forever, you wanted a diamond ring.
So there we go. I have a Goal, a Problem, an Idea, and all of a sudden, without any force from an outside company, except for a little tiny tagline, “a diamond is forever,” I’ve thought, you’ve thought, the world has thought differently about diamonds, and diamond engagement rings ever since. And if you listened carefully there, you would have heard the Red Thread behind it.
So let’s back up a little bit. So in the early 1930s, De Beers, the diamond company, had a worldwide monopoly on diamonds, they still do. And that worldwide monopoly on diamonds meant that they could create a tension around the supply of diamonds. And that meant that that limited supply is one of the ways where they could create value around diamonds. ‘Cause I hate to break it to you but diamonds, in and of themselves, don’t have a lot of intrinsic value.
If you’ve ever tried to resell a diamond, you’ll know what I mean. They don’t want you to resell a diamond, because when you resell a diamond, then you are kind of keeping a diamond in circulation. They don’t want that. So, if they could only limit the value of diamonds so much by supply, well then, being good economists, they realized that they could affect the value of diamonds by affecting demand. So how do they do that? How do they create a permanent shift in thinking or behavior around buying diamond rings, when it wouldn’t be very hard for people to discover that diamonds really aren’t that valuable in and of themselves?
Okay, well this is important for us to know because a lot of times when we’re trying to put an idea out there, we’re not sure that there’s a lot to build it on either right? But we’re still trying to create that permanent change in thinking or behavior. So if we reconstruct a Red Thread behind that change, we can start to see another example out in the wild of how a Red Thread can be used to create that change in thinking and behavior that we’re looking for. So let’s think about that.
Now, what was the Goal of people wanting to get an engagement ring? Well, I think it’s pretty simple. They wanted to give a symbol of their commitment. Now, the ring itself is a powerful symbol. There’s references in the Bible even to why the ring is a beautiful and perfect symbol of the unending quality of somebody’s love for somebody else. But, De Beers wanted to make sure that they weren’t just dealing with any kind of ring. They wanted people to really think about a specific kind of ring.
So, after the Goal is this Problem of Perspective, this perspective they needed to shift, that it wasn’t just the ring that mattered, it was the kind of ring that mattered. So how could they create the tension on that perspective? Well, by introducing an Idea that made it impossible to ignore the kind of ring. And that idea came in the form of that brilliant tagline from 1947, “a diamond is forever.”
Now, the reason why that as a tagline is so brilliant is because they’re not telling anybody to buy diamond rings, they’re introducing an idea that makes it impossible to ignore your previous perspective. Because if you agree that “a diamond is forever,” and like any good Idea Statement, it’s pretty hard to disagree with that on its surface, then it’s going to be really hard for you to ignore that if you’re trying to give a symbol that encapsulates your commitment to somebody else, but say, “no I don’t want the forever one,” right? That’s why it’s so brilliant.
Because that goal, plus that perspective, plus that idea, made it so that people had to think differently about the kind of rings they gave to each other. And that meant that starting in about 1947, diamonds took over as the engagement ring to give.
Now what’s the lesson here for you? Well, the lesson here for you is multi-pronged. First, how powerful it can be to get a market to come to its own conclusion. The second part is understand that getting a market to come to its own conclusion, comes from getting individual people to come to that conclusion. We have to change individual minds. And the third takeaway from this is that those pieces of the Red Thread can work, at both the individual level, and the market level. And De Beers, and “a diamond is forever,” is a perfect example of all of that.
That’s this week’s episode of Find the Red Thread. I’m Tamsen Webster of tamsenwebster.com. If stories like this, and information like this would be helpful to you, your team, or your company, I do a lot of speaking, I also conduct workshops on these. So if you’re interested in that, please give me a ring, or a shout out, or a contact in my contact form. You can find out all about that at tamsenwebster.com/speaking. And contact me at tamsenwebster.com/contact.
When you have a great idea, one that you think will be irresistible to other people, you know you need to spend some time with it, right? You need to focus on it, get some one-on-one attention. But you also want to make sure that you get the opinion of other people, and you want to make sure you actually do the work. Well, that is exactly what the Red Thread Weekend will do for you. What we try to do in the Red Thread Weekend is focus on you and your idea. In a small group setting, never more than eight people, we work with you on your idea, one-on-one, in front of the group. So you get not only that focused attention you want, but the opinion of other people that you need. You’ll walk out not only with a crystal clear understanding of your idea, and just how big it is, but also, all the tools you need to sell it to other people, to talk about it to other people, and even to start outlining the talk itself. I hope I will see you at an upcoming Red Thread Weekend. Just go to redthreadweekend.com.