The Diderot Effect – making the social phenomenon work for you!

What’s the Diderot Effect, and what impact could it have to a 21st Century business? It’s all in this week’s video!

Denis Diderot was an 18th Century philosopher, but his experiences are still relevant to our own lives, and to those of our customers and clients today.

It’s our job to take the Diderot Effect and apply it to our businesses, through informing and educating our customers on the different ways we can help them….


Hi, and welcome to another episode of Baranov V designed to demystify the world of accounts and tax, and to help your business grow.

In this week’s episode, I wanted to talk to you about a social phenomenon that was first raised in the 18th century by a French philosopher by the name of Denis Diderot.

This has come to be known as the Diderot effect, and it’s based on two ideas.

The first one is that the goods that we buy will relate to our sense of identity, and to the goods that we already own, so they’ll be on a type of a level.

The second idea is that if we add a new possession that differs markedly from the level of our existing possessions, then the chances are that it will prompt a spiral of consumerism. So we’ll go out and we’ll buy lots and lots of stuff all related to this new possession, and we’ll actually increase the level of our possessions.

The effect was first reported by Diderot back in the 18th century in response to a gift that he was given, which was evidently a scarlet dressing gown. This scarlet dressing gown, according to an essay that he wrote at the time, highlighted that his other possessions were all a bit tatty and needed replacing. So he went through a whole process of upgrading all of his possessions and ended up in significant debt.

In 1988, a guy called Grant McCracken found this essay by Diderot, and actually equated the process and the phenomenon to global consumerism, negative environmental outcomes, and psychological and social impacts of increasing consumerism, which we’re all very aware of.

However, it serves as a reminder to all of us as business owners, that we are actually leaning against an open door, to a great extent, with our customers, if we can show them that we have a service or a product that elevates them and is outside of their current level.

Because if you can encourage them to make that purchase and you can educate them and inform them of the other complimentary purchases and products and services that you might be able to offer them, then if they purchase the first upgrade item, the chances are that they will want to purchase others.

Now, it sounds a little cynical, but all you are trying to do is help, educate and inform.

I mean, we’ve all done it. I know I have. I’ve gone out and I’ve bought a top and then I’ve gone, “Oh, actually those trousers would go. Those shoes would go. That handbag would go.”

We’ve done it! I’m sure everybody, if they think honestly, we’ve all done it in terms of household stuff potentially too.

What we’re trying to do is educate and inform and at the same time, protect our own businesses and make some sales too.

The thing to do is think about what services and products you can offer to your customers that would be aspirational to them and in their perspective.

It’s not about what you think about your products and services, but it’s about what they think. And you’re looking for that scarlet dressing gown that will prompt them to make other purchases, associated purchases from you too.

So we all need to take advantage of the Diderot effect!

It’s not often that I talk about 18th century philosophers in BaranovTV, but hopefully that’s been helpful and of interest too, because I thought it was something very different. So I’ll leave you with Denis Diderot, and I’ll see you all very soon.

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