Want To Change Someone’s Favourite Colour? Throw An Influencer Party!

Does the name Edward Bernays stir your thoughts?

To study evolution, start with Darwin. Physics? Einstein. Economics? Adam Smith. To study Public Relations, your starting point is muddied. Who is the Father? Should you bother finding the Father? Or Mother? Maybe enrol in a communications program and review modern campaigns from a PR company you hope to serve. Scour Internet listicles offering 10 ways to promote a brand, or be brave and become the CEO of your own public relations firm: PR PROS. That’s all too much for me, so I browsed Wikipedia. While article skimming I found a man who Maury Povich would agree is the Father of Public Relations, Edward Bernays.

OK, Who is Edward?

Not to stomp your vast knowledge, but you may not know Edward Bernays, and that’s ok, he’d like that. A disputed father of public relations, Bernays treated the profession like a science, which I found interesting. A profession driven by art and creativity on the surface, whose father considers it a science? Sounds like the makings of an Emmy winning drama.

Bernays worked for General Electric and Proctor & Gamble as a public relations specialist and publicist. He hated when his baby got confused with marketing. To Bernays, public relations is about promoting and protecting brands. Not to scribble on about him, but Bernays is the figure behind vintage PR campaigns, none more elaborate than his promotion of cigarettes.

Promotion of Cigarettes? Sounds Like A Great Guy…

If Bernays didn’t give birth to public relations, he would’ve made a fine tobacco lobbyist, (even though he discouraged his wife from puffing away) After persuading women to spark up through a clever campaign featuring a group of suffragette women lighting cigarettes in unison during New York City’s Easter Day Parade, Bernays took his talent to a panicked Lucky Strike Cigarettes. Yes, women were smoking more than ever, but they hated Lucky Strike’s green and red packaging, considering it a fashion faux pas. Cigarettes were fashion statements for women, most kept cartons belted to their thigh, not hidden away in a purse.

Big brain Bernays bashed Lucky Strike owners telling them to simply change their packaging. Fair, but Bernays did not know Lucky Strike spent a considerable amount of money producing green and red packaging. They were not interested in spending more to change it. Bernays said, “Fine, we’ll make green fashionable.”

Make A Colour Fashionable? One Man Can’t Change Something So Personal, Can He?

Bernays dug up his science roots. How do you make a colour fashionable to women? Change what women think about the colour. Who controls what women think is fashionable? Fashion influencers, celebrities, media outlets, and women in power. How do we spread the “Green is in” message. Throw a party of course! Letters were sent to department stores, fashion houses, and interior designers claiming green is gold, and to celebrate there will be a Green Ball with one rule: all the special guests must wear green. Proceeds from the Green Ball went to charity, and Lucky Strike’s name was disassociated from the event. The successful ball changed women’s perception of green and fired up Lucky Strike’s sales.

Yeah, But Something Like That Wouldn’t Work Today. People Would See Through It…Right?

If you think Bernays’ party tactic is a figment from the past, Strategic Objectives, a Toronto PR firm, threw a cocktail party at the Royal Ontario Museum in 2018 to celebrate paint company Benjamin Moore’s colour of the year: Caliente AF-290. The gala had 350 attendees who viewed each museum exhibit bathed in Caliente. Heavy media and influencer attendance lead to blogs and articles about Caliente and Benjamin Moore published in home & lifestyle outlets.

So, what did the first destination on my public relations science journey teach me? Public relations is deeper than I thought. It drives public opinion by connecting with those who influence it. A public relations scientist wields a lot of power and sway over the public if they contact the right people and runa captivating campaign.

See you at the next stop.



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