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Appeal to emotion


In the 1920s, it was considered a societal taboo for women to smoke in public.


Women that did were alienated from society, so most of them did it in secrecy to avoid public disdain.


Inevitably, this discouraged a lot of women from smoking altogether.


George Hill, the president of the American Tobacco company, saw this as a big opportunity.


He realised that if he could convince women to take up smoking, he could increase his market share.


So he hired a man called Edward Bernays.


At the time, Bernays was widely acknowledged as the 'father of public relations'.


As the nephew of Sigmund Freud, Bernays had developed a strong understanding of behavioural psychology.


He wanted to apply this knowledge to help change perceptions about women smoking.


And what he did was nothing short of evil genius.


Every year, New York held an Easter day parade.


In 1929, Bernays planned to covertly hijack the parade by staging an event.


He paid a bunch of debutantes to hide cigarettes under their clothes, join the parade and light up simultaneously.


Bernays knew that this would cause public outcry, and that the press would be there to capture the moment.


And he would be standing by ready with the message.


He called it 'torches of freedom'.


It was seen as a symbolic act of rebellion, emancipation and liberation.


His plan came to fruition, and the stunt gained nationwide media coverage.


Suddenly, it became OK for women to smoke in public.


And in the years that followed, the American Tobacco company tripled their market share.


Not because Bernays appealed to facts. Not because he appealed to logic.


But because he appealed to emotion.