March 24, 2008

Creating Desire and Consent


I purchased a bag of coffee this morning which was festooned in seals and declarations of authenticity and assurance. The coffee was apparently pesticide free, organic- fair trade- and another sticker boldly declared the bag was recyclable. Talk about a winner.

All those “third party authorities” had pleaded the cause to buy that bag of coffee. I was convinced and I bought the coffee . Some smart marketer somewhere with a lineage that stretches back to Edward Louis Bernays and ultimately back to Freud was having a chuckle. They had done it again. Bernay’s favorite techniques for manipulating public opinion was the indirect use of “third party authorities” to plead his clients’ causes. “If you can influence the leaders, either with or without their conscious cooperation, you automatically influence the group which they sway,”

As we know marketing and public relations has a lot to thank Benays and Freud for. We work hard to craft desire and engineer consent. As Bernays pointed out “If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, is it not possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing about it? .” Bernays called his scientific technique to which all markets are deeply indebted – the “engineering of consent.”

Here is Bernays on “Propaganda and Public Relations”


Send me an email



  1. I think there’s a subtle difference between propaganda and what’s achieved with certification of foods, coffee or other. Food is something that everyone needs, and we all understand that consumption impacts health in many ways (even if we conciously choose suboptimal options). the problem is that most of us are so far removed from our food supply, and there is so little transparency (note the recent beef recall) that we desire the credibility of a 3rd party who has insight into the production. All the certifiers are selling is credibility of the production.

    Comment by muddydogcoffee — March 24, 2008 @ 9:35 pm

  2. Point well taken. We do desire the credibility of 3rd parties who certify the products. I have worked with a number. More recently Care and Fair and Step label to certify that hand knotted rugs where not produced using child labor. Thanks for the comment

    Comment by trontr — March 26, 2008 @ 9:58 am

  3. And thanks to those 3rd parties I can enjoy my cup of coffee in the morning!

    Comment by Jennifer — March 30, 2008 @ 8:25 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: