Is Emerson right? | Questions for Henri.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803 –1882, is attributed with saying, “If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon, or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor, though he builds his house in the woods the world will make a beaten path to his door.” Discuss.


Emerson was championing what has become known as the American dream, nothing more than a myth of meritocracy.

Emerson himself was lucky. He was lucky not to die as a child like three of his siblings, lucky to be taken into Harvard as a teenager and lucky to be writing in 1850s America rather than the war torn Crimean Peninsula.

In fact, everyone that has ever has a metaphorical ‘beaten path’ to their door has suffered a collision of preparation and opportunity, which is unavoidably – in part – lucky and by no means the sure thing Emerson makes it sound like.

Marketing has developed because it is a means by which those with something to offer other, can increase their chances in this preparation plus opportunity car crash.

In it most fundamental state, marketing exists to get the best books, sermons and mousetraps out of the woods and to into the hands of the people that can benefit from them.

It is the communication of a personal or corporate message that marries the two players needed for the fruits of human creation to be valued – if a tree falls over and no one is there to hear it, it does make a noise – a totally pointless noise.

Laura Ingalls Wilder, the celebrated author, actually did live in the woods when she wrote her books. However, no one really read them until she got out of the woods and through the marketing mix of a well known publisher.