"The Equation for Growing Tiffany Diamonds in a Lab, For Profit" in Humanizing Technology
I. Tiffany & Co: The Brand
Tiffany & Co is one of the most iconic and long-standing luxury brands in the world. Whether you’re thinking of fashion, jewelry or simply businesses that have withstood the test of time, Charles Tiffany is among rarefied entrepreneurial air, along with Coco Chanel and Louis Vuitton.
Tiffany & Co’s brand is so good, in fact, that it has it’s own color trademark, and even a Pantone number for the year it was founded, 1837 (that’s #81D8D0 if you’re designing for the web). And in true consumer consciousness fashion, it comes standard with a movie, inspiring halloween costumes for decades by the audacious Audrey Hepburn.
Of course, there’s also one that came later with a more modern Audrey, Reese Witherspoon.
Wait, is that McDreamy who’s proposing?
The point is, when you think of getting engaged, and you think of diamonds, and you think of proposing, you think of the hold-in-your-hand, but doesn’t melt-in-your-mouth Tiffany blue box.
Tiffany & Co has a brand so powerful that it occupies a space in your mind for one of the most hopeful, celebratory (and expensive) moments in your life. It’s incredible.
But how did diamonds get assigned the job of love? To answer that, read on my weary internet travelers.
II. De Beers: The Economic Wizards
De Beers has been at the center of the world’s diamond trade for over a century, controlling the marketing, supply, and demand of diamonds in order to establish a brand value and more importantly, price, to a commodity that should economically be worth around $100 per carat.
But, you only get to that price if DeBeers releases it’s pent up supply and people stop believing that a “used” diamond is essentially worthless (so you can’t sell it). Here’s a chart from the Wall Street Journal of this commodity’s going rate:
You may not know how we came to value diamonds as the physical object most related to love. But there is an in-depth article in The Atlantic from 1982 that explains everything in detail. I won’t recite the nuggets here, lest I give away the ending, but suffice to say that what they accomplished was nothing short of magic.
They took a sparkling stone in the ground, and all others they could find, put them all in a big castle, only doled out a few at a time citing their “rarity” (but holding the rest behind a big curtain), and pushing advertising to sell you something. One perfect, single diamond for Solitaire Engagement rings or a bunch of smaller diamonds for sparkly bands, and then tell you that you can’t ever resell it “because love” and because they don’t hold any value once they’re “used”.
The real Wizard of Oz doesn’t live in an Emerald City. Nay. This De Beers is made from diamonds.
And its wand is made of awe-inspiring marketing and advertising campaigns. So that’s how we’ve all come to believe in something bigger than ourselves, but is in fact manufactured by a few men a century ago sitting around a wooden table.
You know they’re good at what they do when they sell you a dirty rock for far more money than a pristine diamond. Of course, I’m talking about yellow diamonds. Rappers everywhere are rejoicing. Someone call Kanye and tell him to tweet it in ALL CAPITALS. Kanye loves diamonds (they’re forever) like Kanye loves Kanye.
But is there any hope for us everyday folk who still want our loved ones to feel our love, without us mortgaging our futures to show it (and without going to our cheapskate friend, Jared)?
III. Technology: The Great Emancipator
Diamonds can be grown in a lab. And they’re better and cheaper than the real thing found in nature. It requires no blood to get these diamonds. No conflict. Just some science and some microwaves.
But chemistry and equations are not synonymous with love. Because they’ve had a bad PR agent for as long as people have been going to “Haaaavard baaars, with equations on the wall n shit” (Though he did apparently get her number, and the apples, yay).
You probably know diamonds are the hardest thing we know of and are the only thing that can cut through themselves (Mario versus Mario, anyone?). But did you also know that they’re one of the greatest heat conductors? Imagine that for the transfer of energy. How could Tesla Motors and SpaceX use that on the way to Mars?
So who or what will be the next Wizard of Oz? Who will make us feel something more human about the way we show our love? When a 1-carat diamond really does cost only $100 does it still hold as much love?
You might be surprised to learn that Ev Williams, the founder of Medium, is an investor in one such company. So are many other Silicon Valley-ers from Facebook, Twitter, eBay, Zynga, and even Hollywood has gotten into the mix, including the Inceptionist, Leonardo DiCaprio.
So will they accomplish the goal? I’m not so sure. They’re missing the most critical piece of all.
IV. Brand + Economics + Technology = A New Age
I want you to do a thought experiment for me.
First, imagine you can bottle up the power of Tiffany & Co’s brand, their dedication to customer service, the magic afforded by a single Pantone color repeated over a century, all sealed with a kiss in an exquisitely bowed box.
Now, take the extreme precision of puppeteering an entire global market’s supply and demand for a single commodity, the novel marketing tools utilized as the finely tuned radio control to get a wide swath of the human population to believe something is an ancient tradition when it’s only of recent manufacture, and then tie it as the one physical object synonymous with the most pure and powerful emotion that humankind can aspire to: love.
That’s what I would call mastery over the soft art of business. A subtle tool that, over the decades, creates a collective consiousness of expectation by its captors. For a quote said to girlfriend about getting engaged:
The bigger the ring, the more he loves me.
Or, said differently, by De Beers itself:
And finally, add in the technology of a flawless, lab-grown diamond that costs 50% less than the kind found in nature that comes with none of the heartache of Sierra Leone (shout out to Jay and Ye).
What do you get when you add all of these things together?
Tiffany Brand + De Beer Advertising/Marketing + Scientific Growth + Cheap Price + Better Humanitarianism
So far, all the growers have been able to do is the last part. They’re not as adept as the Tiffany & Co brand experience or the De Beer advertising and economics machine. So you have an opportunity.
To really sweeten the deal for consumers, you do something more novel and apply a software-based SAAS subscription model to it. Where you essentially just pay $35/month and get a new diamond when the new version comes out next year.
So then you get to decide for yourself once per year. Do you get the new iPhone or the new diamond?
As one of my favorite actors from Austin said, maybe you’ll see WWDC 2017 be titled, “Frost yourself”.
The Equation for Growing Tiffany Diamonds in a Lab, For Profit was originally published in Humanizing Technology on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
from Sean Everett on Medium http://ift.tt/1Um5d0Q