Industry has used slogans and taglines as a means to lock their brand into the minds of potential customers.
“Ford, where quality is job one”
This slogan was Ford’s tagline for 17 years, but recently it was dropped and replaced with
“Better ideas. Driven by you”
Ford says that it’s not dropping quality, that this expresses how it is uniquely achieved at Ford.
In 1977 General Motors launched a campaign of certified service called; Mr. Goodwrench.
In 1996 GM dropped the human factor from the service statement, and the service became known as GM Goodwrench Service Plus. In 2011 GM dropped Oldsmobile from its product line, Goodwrench was dropped from the service name and service on the four remaining GM brands is known as GM Certified Service.
Toyota recently changed its slogan from “Moving Forward” to “Let’s Go Places”.
It is interesting that both Ford and Toyota changed their slogans to suggest that the consumer is involved in the process; not just the manufacturer. Five advertising agencies were involved in the Toyota slogan change. Slogans matter, it seems.
Other famous slogans have been:
Volkswagon’s “Think Small”.
California Milk Processors:
“We Try Harder.”
When I was young we heard from DuPont “Better Things for Better Living…Through Chemistry”. However, no one remembers it that way. In the way that everyone thinks Humphrey Bogart said, “Play it again, Sam.” (which isn’t exactly what he said), we remember the DuPont slogan as “Better Living Through Chemistry”. At any rate, the “through chemistry” part was dropped in 1999, and the slogan became “The Miracles of Science”.
I was part of an entire generation of students who thought chemistry would change everything. I had a couple of years of high school chemistry, and my minor subject in college was Chemistry. I intended to get a double major in Biology and Chemistry, but a conversation about problems with phosphate detergents with one of my college professors changed my mind, and this and other factors made me turn to Medicine as a career.
Do you remember phosphate detergents? They were wonderful. We just squirted a little in the bathtub and there was no ring. There was just one problem with them. They never broke down. It wasn’t just sewage ponds that had suds, but ground water, as well. People had suds in their well water.
Despite the disillusionment it seemed that there was a place in medicine for tailor made chemicals that would neutralize all sorts of infectious agents, cure cancer, and save the world. Biochemistry revealed that we are all connected, from the lowliest one celled plant or animal to us. Making a chemical to neutralize a virus or a bacteria would, unfortunately, neutralize us in most cases. Drat!
In the dim reaches of our pre-history our ancestors observed that some plants affected us negatively and positively. Without knowing a thing about chemistry they determined that boiling willow bark and drinking the tea helped get rid of headaches. Some realized that foxglove, Digitalis purpurea, had life-saving effects. Eventually, the active ingredient, in the form of the plant leaf, was rolled into pills, and taken for “dropsy”.
By the 1960s digitalis leaf was no longer being prescribed. It had been replaced by manufactured compounds that had more predictable effects than the plant. Of course, by manufacturing a patentable compound drug companies could reap all of the profit from selling that particular drug. Purified, predictable drugs could come at a price, though. Sometimes, they carried side effects not seen with the native compound.
One of the areas where chemical manufacturers made the most profit was in the manufacture and sale of various agricultural products. Fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides created huge profits and the growth of companies like Monsanto.
Backlash against the profit motivated and, often, unethical behavior of such companies created the “back to nature” movement that created organic farming, organic products, home gardening, heirloom vegetables, and “locovore” cuisine.
Whenever someone says, “I wouldn’t eat that. It’s full of chemicals.”, I cringe. Of course it is. The purest water we drink and the cleanest air we breathe is full of chemicals, because air and water are made up of chemicals. I thank them, though, because I know they mean, “man-made chemicals.”
Chemistry, like all of science, is neither, good nor bad, ethical nor unethical. Science is the knowledge gained through the use of the empirical scientific method. It is the application of that knowledge that has the possibility of creating good or evil.
Today, as I watched our president, Barack Obama, speaking at the dedication of the Smithsonian Black History Museum, I though, not of chemistry, but blacksmithing.
During a summer vacation, as I remember in the 1990s, we were in Charleston, S.C. Lynn and I both love art and history. We were visiting an African American art gallery when we noticed that there was a black history tour called, The Gullah Tour. So, we bought tickets and waited until the tour van showed up, dropped off its previous tourists, showed our tickets and got in.
The tour guide busied himself with some paper work, sat for a few minutes staring out the window, and then turned to ask us, “Why are you here?” We told him that we were lovers of history and knew nothing of the black history in the area. He looked skeptical at first, but then warmed up and told us about Gullah – both a people and a language – and then took us on the tour. We visited a grave yard located in a small space between buildings where slaves had been buried. We drove by the building where slaves were sold at auction. So, far, as expected.
The next phase was not as expected. We drove by numerous examples of iron work – balcony railings, fences, window trim and bars, and earthquake bolts – exhibiting the art and craft of a number of black iron workers over several generations. Our driver had warmed up to us by this point and offered to introduce an elderly man who had done many of the better examples of wrought iron. Our guide went to the door, but the man was ailing and didn’t feel like having visitors.
If you have never been to Charleston you might not know about Earthquake Bolts. On August 31, 1886 a magnitude 7.0 extreme earthquake shook the eastern seaboard and the worst damage was in and around Charleston, South Carolina. None of the construction of buildings at that time was done with tremors in mind. Some buildings fell, but many were cracked but still standing. Steel bolts were placed through the buildings with washers and enormous nuts to secure them. No one knows whether they were a mark of genius that has kept the buildings standing, or the brilliant scheme of an “earthquake bolt salesman”. Whatever the case, the bolts were made by black artisans, and our tour guide claimed that one of them came up with the idea.
I found no information about the inventor on the web. But, this was 1886, in the deep South, and no one would have recorded that even had they known.
When we were taught history in the 1950s talking about Fredrick Douglas was unavoidable. There was mention of George Washington Carver, an African American chemist, but none of Percy Julian, Mae Jemison, Patricia Bath or Betty Harris.
Who were those “unknowns” what did they do, and why didn’t we hear about them?
Before we skip over George Washington Carver here is a thumbnail sketch of his life and work. Carver was born a slave, was a sickly child, was taught to read and write, and was an avid student. He somehow got to Ames, Iowa where he studied Agriculture. He became interested in peanuts, advocated growing them, and eventually developed hundreds of products from peanuts
Tribute to the Boll Weevil, Enterprise, Alabama
In Enterprise, Alabama there is a statue of a boll weevil in the center of town. The boll weevil destroyed the principle crop, cotton, in the area, and in desperation the farmers planted peanuts. They did so well that they erected the statue in honor of the weevil which made their lives better. They owed their success in part, also, to George Washington Carver.
Percy Julian (1899-1975) was born in Alabama to former slaves. He and all of his six brothers and sisters were encouraged to pursue education. Percy Julian made it to DePauw University in Indiana where he studied Chemistry and then went on to Harvard University on scholarship, and then had his teaching assistantship taken away because the University worried about the reaction of white students being taught by a black instructor. Eventually he obtained a PhD at the University of Vienna. Eventually, Julian became a steroid chemist, developing methods for large scale production of steroids like progesterone and testosterone.
Betty Harris (1940- present) was one of 12 children from Louisiana. She obtained her BA and MA in the South and then went to the University of New Mexico where she got her PhD. For the next twenty years whe worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory where she worked in the development of high explosives, hazardous waste disposal, and clean-up of contaminated sites.
The stories of Patricia Bath, physician, ophthalmologist, inventor of the laserphaco probe still in use today, and Mae Jemison, first African American woman in space are equally interesting and inspiring.