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Edward Bernays and Why We Eat Bacon for Breakfast
Believe it or not, people had to be convinced to eat bacon for breakfast.
In the 1920s, the Beech-Nut Packing Company wanted to sell more bacon. So it hired Edward Bernays.
Bernays, dubbed the “father of public relations,” is a fascinating figure. The nephew of Sigmund Freud, Bernays pioneered the use of psychology in a wide variety of marketing efforts, from government propaganda to Lucky Strike cigarettes.
When it came to boosting demand for bacon, Bernays saw opportunity at the breakfast table.
Survey Says: Bacon
At the turn of the 20th century, a light breakfast was the norm in America. Most people had coffee and a roll, maybe some cereal.
So Bernays asked his agency’s doctor (yes, his PR agency had a doctor on staff) if a larger meal in the morning would be better for people’s health. The doctor said yes – more energy at the start of the day is a good thing.
Bernays then had the doctor write to 5,000 of his closest doctor friends asking if they agreed. More than 4,500 wrote back saying they did.
That gave Bernays a story to pitch. “4,500 physicians urge Americans to eat heavy breakfasts to improve their health” the newspaper headlines read. Many of them also referenced bacon and eggs as the perfect hearty breakfast.
Not many PR shops have doctors on staff these days, but Bernays’ survey holds lasting marketing lessons. Rather than trying to sell or advertise his product directly, he turned to experts his customers trusted to tell the story. He highlighted a problem for consumers and let them find their way to his product as a solution.
Today, 70 percent of bacon is eaten at breakfast. Bacon and eggs is an iconic American combo. All thanks to Edward Bernays.