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February 14, 2010

What Would You Think About Without Marketing?

-- by Dave Johnson

It's Valentines Day. Did you buy a card, candy or flowers?

It's just marketing.

Have you ever wondered what you would think about if your whole life had unfolded with only normal human influences acting on your psyche, and not any modern corporate or political persuasions subtly planted into the process?

How subtle? How pervasive and powerful is marketing? In 1934 Edward Bernays, the father of modern marketing, was tasked by Lucky Strike to come up with a new package design to replace the current green design. "Green was out" and women were wearing other colors; they didn't want to have a green package that didn't match their dresses, so sales were down.

How did he fix this?

When surveys showed that women objected to Luckies because the green package with its red bull's-eye clashed with the colors of their clothes, he swung into action to make green fashionable.

Instead of redesigning the package Bernays organized a "green fashions ball," and
worked with manufacturers of accessories, dresses and textiles, and sent 6,500 letters and kits to department stores, fashion editors and interior decorators, telling them of the green "trend." At his urging, Harper's Bazaar and Vogue featured green on covers on the date of the Green Ball. He also sent press releases with psychologist stories suggesting benefits of the color green, as "color of spring, an emblem of hop, victory (over depression) and plenty." According to the New York Times, "sales figures" proved that the "campaign was a brilliant success."

Lesson: It was cheaper and easier to change the fashion culture of the country than to redesign and reprint a cigarette package.

And that was only 1934. Marketing has gotten much more sophisticated since then.

So do you think your thoughts are your own, uninfluenced? Not a chance. But have you ever wondered what it would be like if they were? If not -- if you don't even know to wonder -- then your thoughts really, really aren't your own.

Happy Valentines Day. By the way, Starbucks will be changing all the interior store colors from pink to St. Patricks Day green overnight.

Posted by Dave Johnson at February 14, 2010 5:46 PM


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