Updated: Dec 4, 2018
It started with my husband's question at breakfast this week. When did eating bacon and eggs become a staple of the American breakfast diet? Ask such a question of an author of historical fiction and odds are they'll immediately Google it. Which, of course, I did.
It seems Americans didn't buy into the idea of a hearty breakfast until the mid-1920s when Edward Bernays convinced the public to shift from their usual diet of porridge, toast and coffee to bacon and eggs. Bernays became a public relations expert employed by Beechnut Packing Company to help them persuade more people to buy their product - bacon.
Americans have been under the influence of a crafty PR campaign since the 1920s.
Bernays held to the philosophy that people were driven by repressed needs, such as self-preservation and if you wanted to get someone to do something you must understand what they really wanted. So, Bernays began creating a campaign that would address the public's sense of well-being. He did that by sending a letter to physicians, asking this question. Do you support a hearty breakfast or a light one?
As one might guess, the answer was overwhelmingly in favor of a hearty breakfast. But this is the lesson I take from all of this. Who defined hearty? Indeed, in this case, it was Bernays and the public was led down the advertising road to view bacon and eggs as the breakfast best suited to meet its physical needs.
So, why blame Sigmund Freud? Edward Bernays was the nephew of the famous psychologist and had spent his summers walking through the Austrian countryside with his uncle listening to his ideas about human behavior. Such an education would have looked good on a resume for a PR guy, I think.
Who knew? Well, as Paul Harvey, bless him, used to say, "And now you know the rest of the story."
I personally like my definition of hearty which includes a pastry or two.
NPR wrote this account of Edward Bernays PR influence on American thinking. You can follow the link here to read it for yourself.
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