Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Better Things for Better Living...

I did some quick research on DuPont's famous "Better Things for Better Living … Through Chemistry" slogan and found a fascinating history of corporate public relations and advertising.

"DuPont has re-invented itself twice in 200 years, from an explosives maker to a chemical company, then to a science-based 'discovery' business ... Up to the early 20th century, DuPont, like most businesses, regarded its motives to be a private matter. But as the company grew larger after 1900, and its relations with the public more impersonal, older notions of propriety gave way to a new questioning that extended to businesses as well as to individuals ... DuPont would soon learn that the most effective way to address public perceptions was to work with rather than against the public’s desire for information."

DuPont's Advertising Division was established in 1911, and was followed in 1916 by the Publicity Bureau. The former was tasked with communicating information on products - the content of which was completely controlled by the company - while the latter conveyed information on products and events to outside writers and editors who then presented it to their readers. By the mid-30s DuPont suffered a horrible reputation due to its role as munitions supplier during WWI (they were called "merchants of death") and Depression-era sentiments towards big business. The company responded by sponsoring The Cavalcade of America - a radio and later TV drama about American history, and the role of DuPont during peacetime.

In 1938 DuPont reorganized the Publicity Bureau as the Public Relations Department, and in 1946 implemented the "precinct system" in which "business leaders at a local level explained DuPont's broad, societal contributions to employees and to their communities."

By the 1960s public sentiment began to turn against the widespread use of chemicals and in the 1970s greater concern for the environment contributed to DuPont's increasingly negative image. The "through chemistry" tagline was removed from the "Better Living" slogan in the 1980s to reflect diversification into other scientific fields, and in 1999 was replaced by "The miracles of science®." Over the years, it seems that DuPont had learned the importance of branding and trademark protection.

For example:

"when DuPont introduced a new elastomeric fiber called 'Fiber K' in 1958, it received little attention from consumers. Reintroduced two years later as Lycra®, the fiber was an immediate success. By the 1960s, the company was generating so many new products that it needed the help of a computer to create brand names that were memorable and universally appealing. As DuPont expanded across the globe, the company used computer technology to generate potential brand names and then ensure that they were appropriate in every language."

And the histories of Teflon® and Kevlar® required all sorts of advertising and public relations.

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