Friday, July 30, 2010

History of Public Relations

In 2002, Adam Curtis wrote and directed a four part BBC documentary called The Century of Self in which he examines how marketing changed by the influence of the Freud family. Sigmund Freud's nephew, Edward Bernays, applied his knowledge of crowd psychology with his uncle's new techniques of psychoanalysis to transform marketing from a "needs" basis to creating an emotional response to a product and creating a "desires" basis. He was originally hired to create propaganda by the United States government and wanted to apply his knowledge to corporations in time of peace, so he coined the term "public relations" and set up shop in New York City. As Paul Mazer from Lehman Brothers in the 1930s described it, "People must be trained to want new things even before the old has been entirely consumed. We must shape a new mentality that American man's desires must overshadow his needs." His techniques were cunning and manipulative, swaying women to start smoking because he made it seem to represent equality and he even started a war in Guatemala so an American banana plantation would eliminate an interfering local government. All of this was done in the name of free enterprise to benefit his client's interest.

It is important to examine the founder of modern public relations and know his techniques. Apple recently came out with a commercial for their new phone that plays heavily to your emotions by showing a man experiencing the birth of his child over the phone's camera feature. The would be a classic Bernays technique. I recommend you watch the series at the great website

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