Edward Bernays Quotes

[The] average citizen is the world’s most efficient censor. His own mind is the greatest barrier between him and the facts.

The individual and the group are swayed by only a very small number of fundamental desires and emotions and instincts. Sex, gregariousness, the desire to lead, the maternal and paternal instincts, all are dominating desires of the group.

Men are rarely aware of the real reasons which motivate their actions.

A man buying a suit of clothes imagines that he is choosing, according to his taste and his personality, the kind of garment which he prefers. In reality, he may be obeying the orders of an anonymous gentleman tailor in London.

A man may believe that he buys a motor car because, after careful study of the technical features of all makes on the market, he has concluded that this is the best. ... [But the real reason he bought it might be] because a friend whose financial acumen he respects bought one last week; or because his neighbors believed he was not able to afford a car of that class; or because its colors are those of his college fraternity.

A thing may be desired not for its intrinsic worth or usefulness, but because he [the buyer] has unconsciously come to see in it a symbol of something else, the desire for which he is ashamed to admit to himself.

Propaganda is of no use to the politician unless he has something to say which the public, consciously or unconsciously, wants to hear.

When the example of the leader is not at hand and the herd must think for itself, it does so by means of cliches, pat words or images which stand for a whole group of ideas or experiences. Not many years ago, it was only necessary to tag a political candidate with the word "interests" to stampede millions of people into voting against him, because anything associated with "the interests" seemed necessary corrupt. Recently the word Bolshevik has performed a similar service for persons who wished to frighten the public away from a line of action. By playing upon a old cliche, or manipulating a new one, the propagandist can sometimes swing a whole mass group emotions.

The voice of the people ...is composed of inherited prejudices and symbols and cliches and verbal formulas supplied to them by the leaders.

It will be objected, of course, that propaganda will tend to defeat itself as its mechanism becomes obvious to the public. My opinion is that it will not. ... No matter how sophisticated, how cynical the public may become about publicity methods, it must respond to the basic appeals, because it will always need food, crave amusement, long for beauty, respond to leadership.

Propaganda is of no use to the politician unless he has something to say which the public, consciously or unconsciously, wants to hear.

The great enemy of any attempt to change men's habits is inertia. Civilization is limited by inertia.

The public must be interested by means of associational values and dramatic incidents.

The public instinctively demands a personality to typify a conspicuous corporation or enterprise.

Another interesting case of focusing public attention on the virtues of a product was shown in the case of gelatine. Its advantages in increasing the digestibility and nutritional value of milk were proven in the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research. The suggestion was made and carried out that to further this knowledge, gelatine be used by certain hospitals and school systems, to be tested out there. The favorable results of such tests were then projected to other leaders in the field with the result that they followed that group leadership and utilized gelatine for the scientific purposes which had been proven to be sound at the research institution. The idea carried momentum.

In Great Britain, during the war, the evacuation hospitals came in for a considerable amount of criticism because of the summary way in which they handled their wounded. It was assumed by the public that a hospital gives prolonged and conscientious attention to its patients. When the name was changed to evacuation posts the critical reaction vanished. No one expected more than an adequate emergency treatment from an institution so named. The cliche hospital was indelibly associated in the public mind with a certain picture. To persuade the public to discriminate between one type of hospital and another, to dissociate the cliche from the picture it evoked, would have been an impossible task. Instead, a new cliche automatically conditioned the public emotion toward these hospitals.

If, for instance, I want to sell pianos, it is not sufficient to blanket the country with a direct appeal, such as:

"YOU buy a Mozart piano now. It is cheap. The best artists use it. It will last for years."

The claims may all be true, but they are in direct conflict with the claims of other piano manufacturers, and in indirect competition with the claims of a radio or a motor car, each competing for the consumer's dollar.

What are the true reasons why the purchaser is planning to spend his money on a new car instead of on a new piano? Because he has decided that he wants the commodity called locomotion more than he wants the commodity called music? Not altogether. He buys a car, because it is at the moment the group custom to buy cars.

The modern propagandist therefore sets to work to create circumstances which will modify that custom. He appeals perhaps to the home instinct which is fundamental. He will endeavor to develop public acceptance of the idea of a music room in the home. This he may do, for example, by organizing an exhibition of period music rooms designed by well known decorators who themselves exert an influence on the buying groups. He enhances the effectiveness and prestige of these rooms by putting in them rare and valuable tapestries. Then, in order to create dramatic interest in the exhibit, he stages an event or ceremony. To this ceremony key people, persons known to influence the buying habits of the public, such as a famous violinist, a popular artist, and a society leader, are invited. These key persons affect other groups, lifting the idea of the music room to a place in the public consciousness which it did not have before. The juxtaposition of these leaders, and the idea which they are dramatizing, are then projected to the wider public through various publicity channels. Meanwhile, influential architects have been persuaded to make the music room an integral architectural part of their plans with perhaps a specially charming niche in one corner for the piano. Less influential architects will as a matter of course imitate what is done by the men whom they consider masters of their profession. They in turn will implant the idea of the music room in the mind of the general public.

The music room will be accepted because it has been made the thing. And the man or woman who has a music room, or has arranged a corner of the parlor as a musical corner, will naturally think of buying a piano. It will come to him as his own idea.

The political leader must be a creator of circumstances, not only a creature of mechanical processes of stereotyping and rubber stamping.

Let us suppose that he is campaigning on a lowtariff platform. He may use the modern mechanism of the radio to spread his views, but he will almost certainly use the psychological method of approach which was old in Andrew Jackson's day, and which business has largely discarded. He will say over the radio: "Vote for me and low tariff, because the high tariff increases the cost of the things you buy." He may, it is true, have the great advantage of being able to speak by radio directly to fifty million listeners. But he is making an old-fashioned approach. He is arguing with them. He is assaulting, single-handed, the resistance of inertia.

If he were a propagandist, on the other hand, although he would still use the radio, he would use it as one instrument of a well-planned strategy. Since he is campaigning on the issue of a low tariff, he not merely would tell people that the high tariff increases the cost of the things they buy, but would create circumstances which would make his contention dramatic and self-evident. He would perhaps stage a low-tariff exhibition simultaneously in twenty cities, with exhibits illustrating the additional cost due to the tariff in force. He would see that these exhibitions were ceremoniously inaugurated by prominent men and women who were interested in a low tariff apart from any interest in his personal political fortunes. He would have groups, whose interests were especially affected by the high cost of living, institute an agitation for lower schedules. He would dramatize the issue, perhaps by having prominent men boycott woolen clothes, and go to important functions in cotton suits, until the wool schedule was reduced. He might get the opinion of social workers as to whether the high cost of wool endangers the health of the poor in winter.

In whatever ways he dramatized the issue, the attention of the public would be attracted to the question before he addressed them personally. Then, when he spoke to his millions of listeners on the radio, he would not be seeking to force an argument down the throats of a public thinking of other things and annoyed by another demand on its attention; on the contrary, he would be answering the spontaneous questions and expressing the emotional demands of a public already keyed to a certain pitch of interest in the subject.