I love bacon.
There, I said it.
I feel sorry for all of my vegetarian friends, who will never be able to enjoy the warmth of bacon in their mouths, the crispy crunchiness of bacon strips fried just right, the smell of that bacon sizzling in the pan, and that amazing flavor when mixed with that other breakfast food of champions, eggs.
How can you not get hungry just thinking about it?
But I digress.
Bacon presents the perfect case of a product being made popular through the intelligent use of psychology.
Edward Bernays, expert opinion, and crunchy bacon
You see, at the turn of the century, there was hardly anyone who ate bacon, let alone devoured it by the plate. Surprisingly , most breakfasts in America were largely meatless.
This all changed thanks to a man considered to be one of the first gurus of PR and marketing, Edward Bernays.
Being the nephew of noted psychologist Sigmund Freud, even from a young age Bernays understood the ability of psychology to influence, which included getting people to buy tangible products as well as ideas. Using the ideas of noted psychologists Gustave le Bon and William Trotter, and marrying it with the psychoanalytic branch of Freudian psychology, Bernays was able to create powerful techniques that could be used to persuade audiences.
Considered as one of the leading marketers of his time, Bernays was hired for several prominent social marketing campaigns which were designed to change consumer behavior. For example, he was hired by the Aluminum Company of America to convince a skeptical American public that water treated with fluoride was safe to drink.
However, I like to think that his masterstroke was bacon.
In the 1920’s, the Beech Nut packaging company decided that they wanted to promote one of their products – bacon. So they approached Bernays in order to increase consumer demand for it. Relying on one of the most important methods of persuasion, Bernays decided to use the tactic of promoting third party expert opinions in order to encourage potential consumers to buy more bacon. He reached out to over 5,000 doctors, asking them to confirm whether or not eating a “heavy” breakfast was good for your health. After receiving confirmation, he then published these results, and promoted “eggs and bacon” as a “heavy” breakfast that was good for one’s health.
After receiving this ringing endorsement from health experts, bacon began flying off the shelves.
Using expert opinion to sell a product was not a one-time thing for Bernays. He used the same method to prop up the American silk market by getting French silk experts to talk about quality American silk products, and even got it displayed at the Louvre.
Expert Opinion Works
In general, people are far keener to comply or follow advice given by experts in a certain area – such as following the advice by doctors to eat “heavy” breakfasts of bacon, or any of a range of different behaviours. When we consider others to know more about a certain subject area, then we are simply far more likely to believe what they tell us, and far more likely to comply. In general, the greater the level of authority, the more likely one is to believe and comply with that authority.
This works even for the “appearance” of authority – for instance by wearing certain clothes or having certain titles can also lend the appearance of authority. One great example is an experiment run by the psychologist Bickman, in 1974, to test compliance from orders from an authority figure. In one group, the subjects were asked to give a stranger some money for a parking meter by a person wearing a security guard uniform, while the other group was asked to do so by a person in regular clothes.
When asked by the person in regular clothes, 42% complied.
When asked by the person in security guard uniform, a staggering 92% of people agreed to do so.
How can I use expert opinion?
Even though YOU may not be an authority, it is easy to use the specter of authority in order to influence people to buy into your product or idea. Simply using an authority to tout a product or service and publicizing this information can do wonders for sales. Of course, this shouldn’t be done in an unethical or untruthful way – the results may be disastrous! Instead, ensure that the authority endorsements are both genuine and truthful, and this will go a long way in ensuring that people are far more likely to buy!
That being said, it’s time for some bacon.
If you liked what you read, or got hungry at the thought of bacon, comment below, or share this with your friends or other bacon lovers.