Sunday, March 24, 2013
10:36 AM George Bouton 7 comments
What does an Austrian psychoanalyst, his nephew and vapers have in common? Not much, I am happy to say.
It is for this reason that vapers have been successful, and continue to be. For the reason behind this, we have to look back to the 1920’s, and a man named Edward Bernays. Mr. Bernays is widely regarded as the “Father of public relations” of course what we know today to be public relations was known by another name, propaganda. Because the word propaganda was being associated with the Germans in World War 2, Bernays decided that the phrase public relations had a friendlier feel for the work he did, which was turning the hearts and minds of the public where he, or shall I say his business partners wished it to go.
How did Bernays achieve this? By studying our psychology, and how we are manipulated by it. He also had a little help from his uncle, Dr. Sigmund Freud.
Back in the 20’s Bernays was employed by the American Tobacco Company ( later to be split to three companies - Lorillard, Leggett & Meyers, and RJ Reynolds). ATC wanted Lucky Strikes to be a more widely sold cigarette, especially to women. The problem you see, was that at the time smoking cigarettes was considered a manly thing done by manly men, and cigarette smoking by women was a social taboo. So Bernays cooked up a plan. During an Easter parade in 1929 Bernays employed some models to walk the parade route and at an assigned moment, light their cigarettes, or “torches of freedom” as they were at that moment titled. Since that moment, the taboo of women’s smoking was shattered, and the American Tobacco Company gained a considerable amount of new female customers.
So tobacco companies then had an interesting tool in their hands. Bernays consulted with his Uncle Freud about how to better reach the psyche of the american consumer. Freud suggested that Bernays “tie in” aspects of people’s basic wants with products being sold - thus we saw various incarnations of cigarette ads such as “More doctors smoke Camels” “The Marlboro Man” “Joe Camel” and various other ads laced with sexuality, masculinity, feminism, and patriotism. The minds of the public fed on their desires to be stronger, sexier, and cooler via these ads, all at the cost of their health.
Tobacco companies rode the gravy train of public manipulation for decades and raked in cash while friends and loved ones died before each other’s eyes.
Then about ten years ago, a remarkable thing happened. Hon Lik patented his piezoelectric e cigarette design, and the lives of smokers changed forever. Gradually what took tobacco companies years to build up - generations of cigarette smokers - began to dwindle away.
Did e cigarettes become popular because they were manly? No, both men and women enjoy Vaping. Did e cigarettes become popular because we were told they were “cool”? Again, no. Although many of them look cool, I doubt any vapers purchased a device out of a desire to be cooler, or sexier, or because four out of five doctors recommend them. This is why I cringe a little inside when I see an e cigarette ad presented in a way that is meant to be sexy, because the paradigms don’t line up.
The reason why electronic cigarettes grew in popularity came from the same principle Hon Lik envisioned - a healthier lifestyle. Electronic cigarettes aren’t a bottle of soda or a pair of jeans. They are popular based on the quality of what they do, not on illusions of grandeur, success or magnetism.
So what we see is essentially the principle of Bernays in reverse. Vapers have a desire to stop smoking cigarettes, and out of that need, find the product that can fulfill that need in the most effective fashion. Because electronic cigarettes have been so effective in this aim, it is then that vapers develop a “bond” with the idea of vaping, and the behavior involved. It is then that they feel the benefits of electronic cigarettes, and physically as well as psychologically we feel better. We are more successful in our efforts, and our friends and loved ones commend us on our healthier decision.
E cigarettes are one of those rare occurrences where conventional marketing strategies are defeated by functionality, and realistic results. Now that is something to feel cool about.