Engineering of Consent

Edward Bernays’ theory was instrumental in shaping how
public relations people influence, affect and shape the public. It’s a
powerful tool that changes people’s behaviours, opinions and
point-of-views. Though we may all agree that the public is not as naive and as
gullible as it was during the days of Phineas Barnum, I believe the “Engineering of
Consent” theory can still strongly persuade today’s “audience” into making
them want things they don’t necessarily need.

For example, some women flock to pricey department stores and high-end boutiques
to buy themselves an outlandishly expensive purses. Some women even walk out
with their accounts in overdraft just to have a piece of pricey cloth or
leather to throw over their shoulder. Why? Because of the art of
. The Super Bowl is also a good example.
A purse is a sign of class and it’s probably one of the first things that people notice on a woman. Just as the Super Bowl is promoted as the “most watched sports event in North America”, the lavish purse is promoted as “the must-have wardrobe piece”.
If you aren’t watching the Super Bowl you are out of the loop and if you don’t have
something from the shelves of Gucci, for example, thrown over your arm you’re also not included in the imaginary circle of acceptance.

These two examples prove Bernays’ theory of “Engineering of Consent” is still highly
effective in making people want what they do not need by linking those products/ideas to their unconscious desires.

Bernays’ theory has actually made me more aware of the choices/purchases/actions I make. I now stop and think if my choice/action/purchase was done or made because I was manipulated into doing so or if it was purely decided on my own.

I’ve also learned that a major part of being successful in the field of PR is knowing how to convey a certain image/message to your target audience without them knowing you are doing it (as bad as that may sound). I don’t think it is the only way of effectively getting your point across but it is an important practice. Instead of worrying about how to influence individuals  I’ve learned that focusing on the majority or the  leaders in the group is an efficient way of influencing the people surrounding them.

One student in class gave the example of how Red Bull uses the visible leader in the group to influence their peers into drinking the beverage. By mentioning he/she had a great
time partying on the weekend while gulping down a couple of Red Bulls the link between a good time and the beverage is embedded in their minds.
Now, when someone in the group is at a club, bar, etc. they’re obviously looking
for a good time and the reference to Red Bull will pop-up.
I am moving into a profession as a PR person and cannot expect to be any good at it if I don’t know anything about the earliest theories surrounding it or the people who started the whole thing! When Bernays set out to make green a fashion statement in order to raise sales of Lucky Strike cigarettes he was extremely successful because he knew how to change his audience’s opinion and how to effectively change their behaviours as
well. The “Lucky Strike” example has taught me that I should always be
thinking of different and unique ways in which I can persuade my audience
to agree to buy a certain product, act a certain way and think a certain


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