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Everything you need to know about Propaganda and Consumerism

Edward Bernays (1891-1995) is known as the founder of public relations or as he himself called it “engineering consent,”. Sigmund Freud says Bernays was the first to claim people could be manipulated into desiring things they don’t need (when those were related to general desires like success, money, beauty etc.).

Bernays believed that propaganda is a necessity to both the economy and society, since otherwise people would be overwhelmed with too many choices. He specifically said: “Modern propaganda is a consistent, enduring effort to create or shape events to influence the relations of the public to an enterprise, idea or group”

Advertising is not just an “extension of personal selling techniques to the printed page or the television screen.” In fact it is a specific form of propaganda, designed to hold the allegiance of a mass market. Its aim is to persuade a potential buyer that the advertising product will improve one's life . Advertising must convey its message through the use of symbols which trigger emotions and eventually lead to the improvement of products.

In 1881 when femme fatale Lola Montez was photographed with a ciggarette neither she nor anyone else could foresee the symbolic value of the cigarette; the emancipation of women. Had it not been for the cigarette she was holding, Montez would have passed for a lady. The cigarette was intended to be provocative. In the 1850s Ladies did not smoke and even the idea of it was not discussed. Smoking was associated with loose morals and dubious sexual behaviour. At the same time cigarettes were described as symbols of emancipation and equality with men.

Mr Hill believed that the most efficient way to interest women in cigarettes was to zero in on women's waistlines. As slimness was coming into fashion along with bobbed hair and short skirts it was the ideal time for such an idea. The president of American Tobacco saw selling cigarettes to women as a fat free way to satisfy hunger. The Lucky Strike campaign “Reach for Lucky instead of a sweet” of 1925 was one of the first media campaigns targeted at women. The message was highly effective and increased Lucky Strike's market share by more than 200%. With the help of the father of public relations, Edward Bernays, American Tobacco made Lucky Strike the best selling brand for two years.

10 types of propaganda

1. Testimonial

This form of propaganda uses well-known or credible figures to influence the target audience.

2. Stereotyping

This propaganda method highlights stereotypes and then either reinforces or shatters them with the message in the advertisement.

3. Fear appeals

The agenda behind these types of propaganda ads and messages is to scare people into taking the desired action.

4. Bandwagon

The bandwagon phenomenon creates a sense of isolation and triggers fear of missing out in specific people who long to be part of some desirable group.

5. Transfer propaganda technique

The agenda behind this tactic is to irrationally tie the audience’s positive associations to a completely unrelated concept.

6. Name-calling

Name-calling propaganda is based on putting the other party down. Employing this technique in advertising normally starts brand wars. It can be light-hearted, but sometimes the animosity can get intense.

7. Ad nauseam propaganda

This type of propaganda relies on the power of repetition. Ad nauseam marketing campaigns target audiences at a very high frequency to remain top of mind.

8. Appeal to prejudice propaganda

This tactic exploits prejudices for the propagandists’ benefit. Fairness cream ads fall under this umbrella.

9. Card stacking

Card stacking presents selective information to paint an incomplete and incorrect narrative to influence people.

10. Glittering generalities

Glittering generalities employs loaded words and strong slogans to leave an impact on the audience receiving the message.



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