Knowledge can be the one true enemy of traditional marketing.
I think that's the basic theme, or the one I came away with, at least, after watching part 1 of the brilliant BBC documentary, The Century of Self. It focuses on the father of both the profession and terminology of public relations, and nephew of Freud, Edward Bernays, and examines the tie between the rise of consumerism in America with the use of psychoanalysis in marketing. The focus is on the consumer in a more passive form, being led by desire rather than rationality.
It's a bit of a frightening look at the tools that were and are used to get us where we are today, both in business and politics. But these traditional constructs are beginning to break down as consumers become more empowered. Irrationality and emotion play a major role, that's for sure, but they seem to be grounded by more reasoned decision-making with so much easily-accessible and readily-available information. Organic has a nice little summary of each part.
Episode 1: Happiness Machines
The story and relationship between Sigmund Freud - the father of psychoanalysis, and his American nephew Edward Bernays – one of the architects of modern ‘public relations’ in the 1920s. Bernays’ techniques of mass-consumer persuasion were deeply influenced by Freud’s work and applied successfully by many companies to systematically link mass-produced goods to the unconscious desires of the population at large.
Episode 2: The Engineering of Consent
This episode explores how those in power in post-war America used Freud's ideas about the unconscious mind to suppress the savage potential lurking within each individual. If left to its own devices – the population would revert to the irrational instincts that resulted in the previous decade of war in Europe.
Episode 3: The Policeman Inside All Our Heads: He Must Be Destroyed
In the 1960s, radical psychotherapists like Wilhelm Reich, a pupil of Freud’s, challenged influence of Freud’s ideas in America. Rather than pursuing repression and control of the unconscious, this alternate school of thought encouraged self-expression. This resulted in the atomization of the traditional ‘self’ in popular culture and gave rise to the Me Generation. Businesses soon adapted to this change but still used psychoanalytic techniques and researcg methodologies proposed by groups like Stamford Research Institute’s VALs system (Values and Lifestyles) to read the inner desires of the New Self.
Episode 4: Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering
This final episode reveals how politics has applied the same principles explored in the first 3 episodes to understand and read the desires of the emergent self.