The man often credited with being the father or modern advertising was a Texan named Albert Lasker. Lasker worked for the Chicago firm Lord & Thomas since turning 18, first as an office boy and later as a salesman. When he turned 32, he purchased the company. Lasker was one of the first ad men to use copy to persuade people to purchase a product rather than simply describing what it did. Lasker was one of the men who inspired the creation of Don Draper. (In the first episode of the series, Draper tells Lucky Strike to describe their cigarettes as “toasted.” In reality, this was Lasker’s idea. Lasker also sold cigarettes to women by marketing them as weight-loss aids.) Among his other sins, he is even credited with the creation of the soap opera.
In 1907, the California Fruit Growers Exchange (CFGE) was producing a surplus of oranges. Americans at the time didn’t know much about citrus fruit. Demand was low. Few, if any, orange producers were able to turn a profit. They hired Lasker in the hopes of convincing more Americans to buy oranges. His solution was simple albeit, at the time, revolutionary. To sell more oranges, Albert Lasker created orange juice.
I have been thinking lately about the various ways we market ourselves. When we apply for jobs. When we meet new people. In dating. When angling for promotions or power or any number of other things. Sometimes we can’t make a sale because we don’t believe in our product; sometimes we can’t make a sale because we don’t know how to communicate its value. But sometimes we are sitting on the raw materials for a product that doesn’t yet exist but people soon won’t be able to live without. Lobster used to be fed to prisoners because ordinary well-to-do folk refused to eat them. That’s the lesson of Albert Lasker. Sometimes what we perceive as valueless could, with a little creativity and the right pitch, be a source of great wealth.