The Intelligent Man’s Guide to: Consumerism (Part 1: PR and Advertising)

The Intelligent Man's Guide to: Consumerism (PR, Advertising, Culture)Alternative title:

How Culture Got Hijacked to Sell You a Bunch of Stuff You Don’t Need

Breakfast was invented to sell bacon.

The catchphrase used–and regurgitated by all the confused consumers–was the necessity of getting a “full and hearty breakfast” each morning.

This happened in the 1920s.

Later breakfast was reinvented to sell cereal.

The catchphrase used to do it this time was that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”.

Both of these slogans STILL live on today–and lots of people are still regurgitating them, with zealous conviction.

Pasteurized milk was thought to be extremely healthy, and good for maintaining a healthy bone structure.

Now we know that most people should not drink milk regularly, because they are lactose sensitive and struggle with digesting the milk properly.

PR bread intelligent man's guide to consumerism

Bread was considered an essential part of each meal for the purpose of getting some “much-needed fiber”.

Now we know that most bread–while tasting good– is just empty calories. Plus the gluten it contains is unhealthy.

Do you know what these things I just told you about are exemplary of?

–No, it’s not the food industry I’m talking about.

It’s the history of CONSUMERISM that I am talking about.

These acts–and many more, as you will find out in this article series–were committed by different culprits. But their motive was the same: Profit.

And thus we enter into the history of consumerism; how society and culture has been manipulated to increase consumption of goods.

At periods this has been accomplished through organized effort of government and big business working together. But mostly, it has happened incrementally, by scattered efforts–through PR and advertising.

Probably the most shining example of consumerism is none other than. . .

. . . Christmas.

Christmas celebration, as we know of it today, was made popular by the Victorians during 1840-1900 to increase public spending (Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol contributed greatly towards this effort).

How many people know these things?

Not too many, I bet you.

Most people just kind of. . . live.

They live in ignorance of how and why the conditions they live IN first came to be.

Anyone who’s not completely stupid knows that PR and advertising impact not only on their own life, but also society as a whole.

In 1998, the average consumer saw 3,000 marketing messages per day. In 2007 this number was estimated to be 5,000. Will this number rise further?


Does this affect you?


It is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between what IS advertising, PR, and sales messages and what is NOT. Even to someone with a keen eye.

If you’ve watched TV in the U.S you may have heard some variation of the following phrases: “We’ll return after these messages…”  or “…and now back to our programming”.

Do you know why they say that?

Because they’re forced to.

The FCC (which regulates communication channels like TV and radio) created a law requiring it, so that people–children in particular–wouldn’t confuse advertising for programs and. . .

But wait.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let’s start from the beginning. . .

WW1, Improved Technology, Mass Production and Henry Ford

The Intelligent Man's Guide to: Consumerism (PR, Advertising, Culture)

Consumerism “started” with Henry Ford and James Couzens when they decided to set the pace of industry by instituting the 40-hour work week.

(5 days a week 8 hours per day)

In popular culture, the 40-hour work week has become a much-touted symbolic act of human progression, selflessness, fairer work conditions, and democracy.

Though its original motives were likely more practical than noble:

Business is the exchange of goods. Goods are bought only as they meet needs. Needs are filled only as they are felt. They make themselves felt largely in leisure hours. The man who worked 15 and 16 hours a day desired only a corner to lie in and a hunk of food. He had no time to cultivate new needs. No industry could ever be built up by filling his needs, because he had none but the most primitive. Think how restricted business is in those lands where both men and women still work all day long! They have no time to let the needs of their lives be felt. They have no leisure to buy. They do not expand.

–Henry Ford

The idea was to create a win-win-win situation where workers would:

a) Have more recreational time which would

b) Make them want to buy more things, which would

c) Motivate them to work harder and be more productive. . .

. . . so that they could buy even MORE stuff!

A positive feedback loop for the economy, if you will.

This HAD to be done; not the implementation of the 40-hour work week per se, but finding some way of incentivizing the American people to spend more money and. . .  INCREASE CONSUMPTION.

Because the U.S economy depended on it.

You see, in the years before and during WW1 (ca 1900-1914), business and manufacturing in the U.S had improved, DRAMATICALLY.

Technology had evolved, electric wire had been installed in cities and inventions like the assembly line had made mass production of goods like cars and candy (chocolate, mostly) possible .

Increasingly large and efficient factories and production facilities were built. Many sprung up during WW1, when the nation directed most of its work capacity on production of war materiel.

After the war was over industry was left with all these HUGE factories, and many had to be re-equipped for production of non-war goods.

This was extremely expensive.

Ford astonished the world in 1914 by offering a $5 per day wage ($120 today), which more than double the rate of most of his workers Ford astonished the world in 1914 by offering a $5 per day wage ($120 today), which was more than DOUBLE the rate of the average industry wage!

The U.S was in deep (financial) trouble for two reasons:

1) Government had borrowed enormous sums of money from J.P Morgan JR. to fund the war. To repay him Congress amended the income tax.

2) Large corporations were left with their expensive factories capable of OUTPRODUCING (supplying) the national demand for many products.

To deal with this the U.S economy needed to boost its national consumption, or face terrible consequences.

[Translation: People had to stop being so damn frugal–the nation called for confused consumers to buy more stuff and keep the economy going!]

The solution to this nation-wide economic problem would come from. . .

Madison Avenue (and the 100 Year Growth Spurt of Marketing, Advertising, And PR)

In 1900 and before that, the marketing industry was small and insignificant compared to what it is today; and the advertising and PR industries were non-existent.

No one talked about Madison Avenue before 1920. Today everyone associates its name with the U.S advertising industry.

Advertising in various (haphazard) forms has been traced back as far in history as 3000 BC, but it did not exist in any coherent form until after it was instituted as an academic discipline in 1900 at Northwestern University.

The PR industry first came into popular use after 1900. The first known instance of the term “public relations” was found in the 1887 Yearbook of Railway Literature. The two most influential and innovative PR pioneers were Ivy Lee and Edward Bernays (whom I will tell you more about in a minute).

Ivy Lee is also famous for making $25,000 ($295,920 today) in just 25 minutes. He did this by teaching Charles Schwab, Andrew Carnegie's right hand man (and CEO of Betlehem Steel) the habit of using  a daily to-do list with the 6 most important items ordered in priority.

Ivy Lee is also famous for making $25,000 ($295,920 today) in just 25 minutes. He did this by teaching Charles Schwab, Andrew Carnegie’s right hand man (and CEO of Bethlehem Steel), the habit of using a daily to-do list with the 6 most important items ordered in priority.

Ivy Lee handled the PR matters for many businessmen and industrialists, notably the Rockefeller family. Lee advised Rockefeller Senior to start handing out money to strangers in public to become better liked. He also recommended they create the Rockefeller Foundation.

The advertising industry took off during the 1930s because. . .

. . .in an effort to encourage innovation and increase consumption, President Roosevelt and his lieutenants of The New Deal decided that advertising was to be classified and accounted for as an R&D expense.

This meant that advertising became a tax-deductible activity, which incentivized big business to spend lavish sums of money on advertising.

And so, Madison Avenue was built.

It is true that Roosevelt, considered a socialist by many, was “at war” with many of the big corporations and industrialists, however, at the same time he acknowledged their necessity to the U.S economy.

If I were starting life over again, I am inclined to think that I would go into the advertising business in preference to almost any other. The general raising of standards of modern civilization among all groups of people during the past half-century would have been impossible without that spreading of the knowledge of higher standards by means of advertising.

–Franklin D. Roosevelt

Let’s take a look at what made it possible for the “spreading of the knowledge of higher standards”, shall we?

Edward Bernays, The Birth of PR, and Creating Consumer Demand out of Thin Air

The Intelligent Man's Guide to: Consumerism (PR, Advertising, Culture)

Edward Bernays was the nephew of Sigmund Freud and he was the first person to combine:

  • Freud’s psychological theories about the subconscious;
  • Tactics for propaganda and advertising.

This synthesis became known as public relations (PR).

Edward Bernays was quick to realize the dilemma of OVERproduction:

A single factory, potentially capable of supplying a whole continent with its particular product, cannot afford to wait until the public asks for its product; it must maintain constant touch, through advertising and propaganda, with the vast public in order to assure itself the continuous demand which alone will make its costly plant profitable. This entails a vastly more complex system of distribution than formerly. To make customers is the new problem.

–Edward Bernays, Propaganda

Bernays was a member of the Committee of Public Information of the U.S. during WW1. He was a key figure in spreading the propaganda that the United States’ war efforts were driven by the honorable motive of “bringing democracy to all of Europe”.

After the war was over, Bernays, who was now well-versed in the use of propaganda, wondered if its power could be used for other–more productive–ways than war.

He thought it could.

So he started up a “public relations agency” (the world’s first) with his wife.

The word “propaganda” has had negative connotations for a long time, and it did back in those days too.

Therefore Bernays decided to call what he was doing “public relations”, and not propaganda.

What was so special about Edward Bernays?

Bernays was the mastermind who came up with the clever idea that “a full and hearty breakfast” would sell bacon–and it did.

Because it created the NEED for bacon out of thin air.

Bernays was also the mastermind behind popularizing toothpaste, putting fluoride in drinking water, spreading the use of hairnets among industrial workers, introducing Russian ballet and silk in America, making it socially accepted for American women to smoke in public, and more astounding feats. . .

. . . Like the overthrowing of the Guatemalan Government.

Bernays was like a ONE MAN ARMY!

Though Bernays was not directly involved in WW2, many of his methods and techniques were. Joseph Goebbels read his books, studied his campaigns, and drew on inspiration from his ideas when crafting the German propaganda.

Bernays has had a HUGE impact on the PR industry and on consumer society.

For example how “news” are manufactured in modern society.

Most people–confused consumers–mistake cleverly crafted advertising, propaganda, and PR material by big corporations or hidden interests for. . .

Genuine news and accurate information on which to make their decisions.

Yet another reason to throw out your TV and avoid the mainstream media.

It is the epitome of success in the world of PR, marketing, and advertising to create language, a trend, or even better, to create CULTURE–in the form of tradition (Christmas, breakfast, Black Friday).

And Bernays did this better than anyone else–in history.

Once an idea–however unintelligent–has taken root in the minds of the masses (and it becomes propagated by habit or culture) it will take a VERY long time to get rid of.

(This is why obsolete ideas like “right-brain vs left brain”, “Cartesian duality” (mind and body), fasting is dangerous“, live on DESPITE having been disproven YEARS ago. The learning curve of popular culture is very slow. The surest path to ignorance is to be immersed in popular culture.)

Bernays distinguished between two types of salesmanship:

1) Old salesmanship: What most people believe advertising is: “buy this product because it will make you better at [insert thing you care about].”

2) New salesmanship: Create habits, traditions and culture.

“Old salesmanship” is a no-brainer, just spam advertising.

But how does one make use of “new salesmanship”?

With great difficulty (which is why Bernays was so well-paid).

Create the habit of smoking, then teach the women how to do it "properly", as if there was an art to smoking.

Create the habit of smoking among women, then create the ILLUSION that there is a “proper” way of smoking (as if it were an exact science) so that the women feel more comfortable and confident doing it.

Excerpt from that image:

“…women’s bad smoking habits have furnished the anti-women-smoking campaigners with their best ammunition. Therefore, in her lectures, Miss Linden smartly stresses all the things not to do with a cigaret. Men’s pet peeves against women smokers are 1) messy ways of opening packages; 2) affected mannerisms; 3) puffing like a steam engine; 4) lipstick smears…”

A good example of “new salesmanship” is. . .

How Bernays Made Pianos Popular (and created culture)

Bernays was once hired by a piano company to sell pianos.

What should he do to boost sales?

Old salesmanship would dictate that he create advertising to tell people about the superior quality of the piano. Perhaps how it incorporated a new material that made its music sound better.

New salesmanship would dictate that he CREATE the demand for a piano.

Bernays went with #2.

The modern propagandist [using new salesmanship] therefore sets to work to create circumstances which will modify that custom.

As he puts it in his book Propaganda, the first thing he did was to “develop public acceptance of the idea of a music room in the home“.

Here’s the gist of how Bernays did it:

  1. He organized an exhibition of music rooms decorated by well-known decorators, who used expensive tapestry to make it look elegant.
  1. These decorators were influential and looked up to within their own niche, thereby attracting attention from their sympathizers.
  1. He dramatized the exhibition by creating a flashy ceremony.
  1. He invited important people–“influencers”–to the ceremony, such as a famous violinist, a popular artist and a society leader. This created awareness of the exhibition for their respective sympathizers.
  1. He made sure the exhibition got publicity in relevant newspapers BEFORE it happened as well as AFTER it had gone down. Since the public is interested in celebrity names this was no challenge.
  1. He persuaded influential architects to build music rooms. Beginner architects, who looked up to the influential architects, imitated them by also building music rooms in hopes of achieving success.
  1.  And then the company that hired him profited by selling the mandatory pianos to go along with the “piano room”.

This example is characteristic of how Bernays worked. He specialized in influencing the public by creating a “critical mass” through the combination of relevant interests groups.

Bernays’s genius lay in his ability to persuade or convince each of these groups to support his work.

Steps #1-5 put the idea of a music room into the mind of the public and created the opportunity for a trend to be created.

Steps #6-7 gave the trend a chance to become established and kept alive through a sustained feedback loop.

Bernays had at that point CREATED the NEED for pianos by establishing the idea of a music room.

Pretty clever, right?

The music room will be accepted because it has been made the [popular] thing. And the man or woman who has a music room, or has arranged a corner of the parlor as a musical corner, will naturally think of buying a piano. It will come to him as his own idea.

This Makes You Wonder. . .

How many other “popular ideas” like this exist in modern consumer society.

What if some of the most fundamental ideas, habits, and cultural traditions that you base your life on were created to sell you something, without you being aware of it?


Click here to read part 2.

Click here to read part 3.

Click here to read part 4.


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Photo credits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


  1. Ludvig, this article was amazing!

    Looking forward to your future posts.


  2. Ooh man, is this deep. I love this subject, Ludvig. And there’s some real interesting stuff out there right now on it, about how when western governments (the US in particular) realised they were producing more resources than were needed in the middle to late 19th century, they were faced with a choice about whether to lessen production or encourage citizens to become more acquisitive and spend more to grow the economy. You already know which decision was taken. And behold, consumer culture was born. And like you say, once an idea takes hold in the collective cultural mindset, it takes a long time for it to be dislodged again, if it ever is. In this case we’re talking over 150 years and counting. It emphasises the importance of individual responsibility and a willingness to resist the group-think of the world around you. Sometimes it’s good to go with the flow, other times it isn’t. Learning to differentiate between the two is, I guess, kind of what this post is about. Great stuff!

  3. Miscellaneous observations:

    1. While the meal we call “breakfast” is of modern origin, the English word is not. The etymology is obvious – a fast is broken. Refraining from eating while asleep hardly qualifies as a fast; breakfast was not typically eaten immediately on arising, but hours later, possibly as late as what we call lunchtime. The modern breakfast was not even possible until fairly modern times, because it took time to build a fire, boil water, and cook the whole grains that were the staple food of the masses; this work would not begin until daylight because candles and lamp oil were costly.

    2. Marketing was not invented in the twentieth century, nor was its importance unrecognized until then. Marketing evolved slowly from ancient times, but commercial marketing really took off in the U.S. after the Civil War. The major form was printed advertisements (driven by the rotary press and improved mail distribution), but door-to-door sales also originated during this period. About 1896, William Cowper Brann wrote an essay praising the “drummer” (the traveling salesman who “drummed up” business) and recognizing his contribution to the economy (decades before Keynes and the New Deal).

    3. Although business, collectively, has benefited from increased consumption caused by shorter work hours, businesses were (and are) largely uninterested in such long-term abstractions and unable to cooperate on the necessary scale. The progressive reduction of the work week to sixty hours, then to forty-eight, forty-four, and ultimately (after WWII) to forty, was driven largely by labor unions and Socialism. The gradual increase in the work week over the last forty years has been driven by business.

    4. The dependence of developed economies on the consumption of luxuries has long been recognized as a problem. J. K. Galbraith offered a very astute analysis (and solution) in 1958 (“The Affluent Society”). Although Galbraith underestimated the ability of Madison Avenue to persuade Americans to spend ever larger amounts of money on superfluous rubbish, the essential problem remains. A hint of it was seen in 2008, when a deliberately induced panic caused a momentary reduction in the public’s willingness to buy crap on credit.

    5. Retooling munitions factories to produce consumer goods is not all that expensive, and the U.S. wartime industrial output was readily switched to civilian use after both world wars. Primary industries that work with raw materials – steel mills and oil refineries, for instance – represent a larger and less flexible investment. It’s possible to make autos in a plant designed to build bombers, but you can’t turn a grain elevator into a cotton gin. Thus after WWII the U.S. produced vast quantities of cars, tractors, washing machines, and the like; materials like plate steel, copper wire, and gasoline were abundant.

    6. Wars are typically followed by brief depressions. This is not due to the frugality of consumers, but to cuts in government spending accompanied by the release of large numbers of soldiers onto the job market. Uniquely, WWI was NOT followed by any depression in the U.S.

    7. It’s highly unlikely that advertising was ever accounted as an R & D expense. Long before the New Deal, it was recognized as a necessary business activity and would have been explicitly tax-deductible as such (just as it is now).

    8. It is characteristic of marketing intended to create new demands (or to accelerate existing ones) that it benefits every producer in the market, not just the one paying for the marketing. Thus we have a plethora of industry/trade organizations whose function is to ration out the cost of building demand (as well as to discourage competition between producers).

    9. The classes on cigarette smoking for women are also a great example of deceptively re-framing an issue – in this case, a double re-framing. One one level, the issue is being changed from “Should women smoke?” to “How should women smoke?” On a deeper level, the essential issue, “Should anyone smoke?” has been twice buried.

    10. “Black Friday” is a great example of a tradition artificially created just to sell crap. Thirty years ago, the name didn’t even exist and no one knew that they were supposed to go on a shopping spree after Thanksgiving. Then, starting with the “news” that it was the busiest shopping day of the year, “Black Friday” was gradually turned into an orgy of commercialism, a “holiday” without any color of religion or even dignity, an engineered and unvarnished celebration of crass consumerism.

    11. If FDR was correct that advertising improves the quality of life by making us aware of “higher standards”, where does that leave us?

    • You should write a book!
      I wish I knew so much.

      2. How do you feel “marketing” will evolve in the 21st and 22nd centuries?

      9. Would contraception be similar to this? Maybe the framing of the issue wouldn’t be how to cultivate a more passionate life of devotion; but how to fuck like rabbits without any adverse side effects.

      10. Totally agree. We and other SGM readers may be bewildered by it, but once you realize that most people are waiting for someone to say “jump” so they can reply “how high?”, you realize where this demi-equivalent to a zombie apocalypse comes from. No co-incidence most people on “black Friday” are the Walmart crowd.

      Something I’ve been thinking about – most people trade on ignorance. The job of 99% of “professionals” is to convince someone else they are ignorant of, and therefore not qualified to handle, the “facts”. “Facts” which, as we are discovering, are either cooked or completely false.

      What do you think?

      • Thank you Richard.

        2. If human civilization survives this century (of which I am far from confident) I think it will have reached a point where marketing is no longer necessary or relevant.

        9. I think the reframing of the contraception issue happened in the other direction. Not so long ago, women were not expected to enjoy sex and it was believed that honorable women were interested only in procreation. Otherwise they were prostitutes, or perhaps victims of seduction by men falsely promising marriage. Laws against contraception were intended to discourage such license. When they first began to be lifted in the U.S., it was only for married couples (and only with a prescription, even for condoms).

        I wouldn’t say the job of 99% of professionals is to convince other people of things wherein they are ignorant, but it is a very large part of it. Whether those facts are false depends on the professional and on whoever else gets their paws on them.

        In this vein you might find Galbraith’s “The New Industrial State” interesting. One of his observations is that large modern organizations are really controlled by mid-level professionals, because only they have the specialized knowledge to understand what is going on. Higher management has no tools to judge the advice of their hired experts.

    • Re # 5 (factories)
      Very astute. I did not know the specifics.

      Re #8 (unions)
      Could you explain more?
      I think a great example of this might be the Cable Union —- NCTA. Especially during its golden era.

      Re #11:
      My point exactly.

      • I saw to examples of #8 in my country.

        People tended to stop eating sugar, and instead, they started using sweetener.
        I remember one ad in TV that wasn’t from any sugar company in particular, but from an organization of sugar companies. It said something like “use sugar, it is good for your health and it’s nutritive”.

        I guess wine popularity was going down too, and was perceived as not healthy. There was this ad from another organization of the wine industry where they said that one cup of wine is good for the hearth or something like that.

        And I remember a while after this ad, my uncle saying something in the table, at dinner, about wine being good from time to time for health. I was thinking “hey, where did you get that from? The TV?”.

        Every time I hear someone claiming something I think for myself “Where did you hear that?”. And I bet nobody talks from experience, or read any serious study, and then reflect if the study was real or fake. Also, sometimes when I claim something I hear “Did you get that from internet?”.

        So yeah, this kind of ad work.

      • I’ve never heard of NCTA, although it might fit the pattern. I was thinking more specifically of the organizations that exist in the U.S. to promote the consumption of e.g. beef (“it’s what’s for dinner”), milk (“it does a body good”, ha), pork (“the other white meat”, hahaha), etc. Most U.S. States (yes, I know that’s a pleonasm) have a government agency to help promote local tourism. There has even been cooperation among churches (e.g. the Ecumenical movement) to collectively promote church attendance. Some organizations (like the AMA or the RIAA) are more concerned with purchasing favorable legislation than building markets, but I have seen advertisements marketing e.g. dental care generically.

  4. “What if some of the most fundamental ideas, habits, and cultural traditions that you base your life on were created to sell you something, without you being aware of it?”

    Here’s one everyone will recognize: Sports. Athletes have competed since at least the dawn of history, and probably long before; spectators have surely been around just as long. But until the nineteenth century, no one thought of making money from spectators. Attendance at the Olympic games, at gladiatorial contests, and at medieval tournaments was free. Even the best athletes were far from rich.

    Over the course of the twentieth century occurred a generational series of massive marketing campaigns that made /watching/ sports a central part of American life. Today it is considered normal for an adult male (or even a woman, in some places) to have a strong emotional attachment to a team that plays a sport he has never played, for a college he has never attended, in a city he has never visited, with players he has never met. In fact, the man /not/ obsessed with sports is considered an eccentric or worse. Sports that didn’t even exist two centuries ago are now central to many people’s lives, though none of those people have any rational cause for caring about them. So successful has this marketing been that a huge secondary revenue is now derived from sports paraphernalia. The fans now not only carry on the marketing campaign at their own expense, they pay a profit for the privilege of doing so! In a half dozen generations, commercialized sports have been installed as equals alongside nationalism and religion.

    • Yes this is totally right. And the lengths some of these sports “fans” go to pronounce their “loyalty” is crazy(ily lucrative) too ;-)

    • I did not know that. Have you got any recommendations for where I can find out more?

      “Today it is considered normal for an adult male (or even a woman, in some places) to have a strong emotional attachment to a team that plays a sport he has never played, for a college he has never attended, in a city he has never visited, with players he has never met.”

      –I have never understood this. Or well, I have, but I still haven’t come to terms with it. Heh.

      • I can’t give any particular sources on the history of modern sports; most of what I know I’ve picked up piecemeal – but the basics are probably all on Wikipedia. Of course, I’ve seen some of the marketing firsthand.

    • I thought about it, too. In my country, soccer is the most popular sport. For me, it’s not about marketing. Its social.

      I am not a fan of sports. But in the world cup, I felt what everyone else feels with local championships.

      It works more or less like this: You become a fan of a club (usually since you are a child, by your fathers). Then you get to mock people that are fan of other clubs, but at the same time, when you lose, you are mocked. It is really fun, and you can talk with anyone about soccer for hours if you want.

      At the same time, everybody enjoys playing soccer in this country (in contrast with basket or volley, for example). We play a lot in schools, and after school a lot of people play each Saturday, with friends. So, that’s why it’s about soccer and not other sport.

      It’s like this kind of behavior is deep inside our brains. About being part of a tribe, defending it and hating others. It’s like a war, and every match is a battle. But a war that you don’t have to kill to enjoy.

      There are not many things in life as pleasurable as making fun of someone that lost against “your” team.

      So it’s like the marketers used something that was already powerful as fuck, and then made money with it.

  5. THIS is what blogging should be. I can tell this is something that has clicked into place after a lot of input/time. Excited to see the rest.

    Creating the “proper” way of something is brilliant, I’ve always felt silly about taking time to discuss the subtleties of wines, cigars, beers, whiskeys… now I know why.

    One question: was he able to create demand for a specific type of piano?

    • Thank you sir Eschen.

      I don’t believe he says specifically. But I think so.

      Surely other piano companies also benefited from his work, and could piggyback for a free ride. But I think it was specifically his client’s piano company that got the positive mental association of “piano room + piano brand X”.

  6. extremely interesting… you always make me want to read and learn more and envious of your knowledge

    it is even more interesting for me since i am preparing my own products to sell and I study direct/internet marketing.

    I have read several times that it is better to choose market that is already proven and not to build new one. and that to create new market is very hard. companies and governments (as you said) cooperate and invest enormous money to create new markets.

    but this post as always takes things to whole new perspective. great lesson from history and should be taught at schools.

    I always thought that i wont really study history because i am interested in other things and i never liked it in school. but after regularly reading your blog it seems to me that i should. if I start reading books about history, you can take credit for that. and maybe I could also take a look into some sociology. definitely i need to read more.

    • i still wonder why advertising has changed so much in past 100 years. there used to be mainly text base direct response advertisement in newspapers. but now there are image based ads without much text. I don’t think it is because attention span is getting shorter but because big players do it so everyone mimics. but why? maybe it works better with “new salesmanship”?

      • I think attention spans have indeed decreased, and also modern advertising is targeted at a broader and younger audience. In 1920, no one tried to market to teenagers because teenagers had no money.

        And if you saw some of the images they used back then, you’d understand why text was more important. Recall that they had no cheap way of making good contrast prints from photographs, and color printing was reserved for collectible books. Also they apparently had no aesthetic sense. Most of the pre-WWII advertising images I’ve seen range from incomprehensible to comical to frightening.

      • to Abgrund:
        yes, attention span could have decreased but i don’t think it is the reason why there is less text in advertisements. Long copy always win. just google long vs short copy and you will get many reasons why it works better.

        i am not talking about some boring corporate talk but copy that is highly relevant for target audience. so relevant that it is as interesting for them to read as this article is for us.

        i don’t know if modern advertising works better younger audience. but i don’t think so. if we talk about newspaper advertisement it doesn’t seems to me there is much for me (i am 19). same goes with tv.

        one thing is important about old school ads. it was keyed. this means that advertisements were tested against each other and results were compared to see which one performed better.

        this started in the beginning of 20 century. book scientific advertising (1923 – now in public domain – free to read) talks about tested principles of advertising. it is still considered to be one of the top books about advertising. David Ogilvy wrote that “Nobody should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this book seven times.”

        There is a chapter about pictures in advertising (chapter 9). Use of pictures was tested. Even black and white pictures sometimes won against color pictures. So those ads with funny images that you have seen could have sold more than modern ads.

        But now very few advertisements that are tested. and that doesn’t makes sense to me.

      • Marek, how do you know that advertisements aren’t tested against each other? I ask because I know someone whose job is to do just that.

      • you probably mean some focus groups and so on. could you say more about what do they measure? engagement? don’t they focus to make people like their advertising? wouldn’t it be cheaper to test something that brings measurable results?

        I am confused. I listen to masters of copywriting and direct response. Stuff they do seems to work yet there are almost no text based ads other than for some viagra or fat loss pills (at least in my country). who is the one getting more stupid here… advertisers or prospects?

    • Marek, this goes even beyond creating new markets. Christmas is not just a market, it’s a whole cultural institution, which people take for granted as an inviolable tradition even though it is mostly recent and artificial.

    • Thanks, Marek!

      “I have read several times that it is better to choose market that is already proven and not to build new one. and that to create new market is very hard”

      –Yes. That’s why most (especially online) products are generic. That’s why most Kindle books are copies of old popular books, slapped on a flashy cover, and boosted by reviews. Etc., It’s damn hard to create something original. It’s much easier to just go with a proven concept (“get laid, get paid, look good, lose weight — and in just 7 days”. Buy now.).

      “i still wonder why advertising has changed so much in past 100 years.”

      — I love that you ask this question. It will hopefully be answered in detail over the next few articles, so I will not answer it extensively here. But yes, I believe lower attention spans have a LOT to do with it.

      Even though we have better opportunities for self-education than ever, very few people apply themselves to use it (how many other 19-year olds do you know that read Ogilvy/Hopkins?). Despite all this, most people’s literacy, their vocabularies, and their general level of education (and attention spans) are worsening. If I hadn’t (soon) written a book about it, I would be confused as hell about why this is happening.

  7. I don’t know ANYTHING about marketing (I’ve forgotten all I was forced to learn in business school), but thanks to you I’m SLOWLY learning a bit here and there.

  8. EXCELLENT Article. I liked it a lot.

    I kinda knew about this, but I didn’t know it was possible to such extent.
    Like Ochard said (one of your commenters), about health business, its a big problem. You won’t believe how many cases about bad propaganda we have.

    In TV you could see an ad that said, if you take one pill everyday, you can reduce the risk of a hearth attack by half. The truth is that if you took that pill everyday you would get serious secondary effects, I don’t remember which were them. The pill is called Aspirinetas in my country, by Bayer. Anybody could sell them, that is, free, without papers / order from your medic.

    That aside, I know a lot of stories about this evil industry. One doctor investigated a well known medication because he suspected it wasn’t that good. This medication was well sold and established as safe and good for health, without heavy secondary effects.
    He investigated and he was right, this pill wasn’t that good. He was going to publish his paper, that could destroy this pill… and he was offered a lot of money to not publish it. I don’t remember if he was threatened or not. He was scared, but in the end, published the paper anyway, and thank god nothing happened to him.

    There are more cases: Let’s say, there are two kinds of medicines. One is well known, has a lot of years in the market (for example, 50), was tested a lot, you-know-it’s-safe, etc. The other is a new compound that some company wants to sell and get money from. This new one is not so well tested so nobody knows for sure if it would have some bad reaction in your body.
    If you are a doctor, which one are you giving to your patient? The proven one, right?

    Well, if you are a bad doctor, and made business with the pharmaceutical, you will give them the new medicine. Or worse, maybe you are a new doctor, and ask someone for advice, and you get this medicine.
    This happened with my father. He was ordered to take one of this new medicine. The old one didn’t have any problem at all. So, my brother became aware of it (he was studying medicine). We ended visiting another medic and got the good old pill.

    About milk industry, in my country there was this ad about “Actimel”. It encouraged you to drink their product once a day for 30 days. It reinforced your intestine bacteria (why would you want to do that?) , and they said that your health would improve. It had “l casei defensis”, that is, Lactobacillus casei.
    The problem: When you drank this shit for 30 days, nothing happened. But when you stopped drinking it, the body was accustomed to this constant flow of new bacteria, so it became dependent. And then, you could get sick, mostly in children.

    This doesn’t have direct correlation with your article, but since you mentioned Henry Ford again, I remembered you like reading about him. I found some information about Ford by accident, maybe you are interested:

    I couldn’t believe this part:
    >In the early 20th century, National City Lines, which was a partnership of General Motors, Firestone, and Standard Oil of California, purchased many electric tram networks across the country to dismantle them and replace them with GM buses. The partnership was convicted for this conspiracy, but the ruling was overturned in a higher court. Electric tram line technologies could be used to recharge BEVs and PHEVs on the highway while the user drives, providing virtually unrestricted driving range.

    So, that means that we could be using trolleybuses and trolley trains, that is, electric vehicles without the problem of the batteries.

    That’s it. I’m glad you made a new article. I always read your blog. I must say you are special, in the sense that nobody knows the thinks you know or write similar to you. You really know a lot of history and you can relate it successfully with “today”.

    I have always hated propaganda, I think capitalism is not that bad, if it wasn’t for propaganda. Maybe if people wasn’t influenced, and using only the word of mouth and reviews, we could get higher quality products, and smaller companies that cannot afford that level of publicity would have more chances to sell their products, and everything could be more fair.
    Oh, I don’t watch TV for at least 3 years. I don’t really remember when was the last time I sat down and watched TV.

    This kind of knowledge really sets you a few steps ahead of the rest. I wonder what can I do with this information.

    I can tell you what I was thinking when I was reading your article:
    Knowing this makes me feel different compared to some of my friends, family, and a lot of acquaintances, like I can’t relate that much (they are so stupid). It makes me want to use this for the evil, do the same tricks that had been used by these people you mentioned, and get money from this suckers that watch TV and do everything they are told by “famous” and “influential” people. After all, they deserve it for not thinking about what they hear, and just accepting it, don’t you think?

    I wonder, since you mentioned breakfast, if “eating 4 meals per day” is more of the same. How many other successful propaganda has installed in my (and our) brains?

    • Wow, very interesting comment art sun. Thank you for sharing that.

      That’s messed up.
      Especially the Actimel part is interesting. Sounds like a “perfect” product–like selling cigarettes in Asian countries where there are no anti-tobacco regulations.

      I have not read/heard that about Ford before. But I wouldn’t be all that surprised if it was true. After all, Edison DID have a huge influence on Ford (as a mentor/role model). Supposedly Edison thought Ford was kind of a dullard when they first met, but then, eventually, as Ford rose to success, Edison realized he wasn’t dumb. And then they formed their mastermind group (I’m simplifying it).

      What happened to Tesla is, without a doubt, one of the biggest tragedies in history. Something similar seems to have happened with Buckminster Fuller’s car (though I have not researched it much, so I cannot say with certainty). But it makes perfect sense from a basic perspective of financial incentive. The automobile industry has always been “corrupt”. Similar type of “foul play” appears to have been used on [Elon Musks] Tesla cars on that famous British TV shows about driving cars (I forget its name, but it’s extremely popular).

      • What happened with Mr. Fuller’s car was that it was a badly designed death trap.

      • Thanks for replying, Ludvig.

        I didn’t know about Buckminster Fuller’s car. About that famous British show you mention, is that Top Gear?

      • Abgrund, would you care to elaborate on why it was a “badly designed death trap”?

        art sun:
        –Yeah, that’s the show I mean.

      • I found what you were talking about (in case anyone else wants to see what happened with Tesla and Top Gear).

        I didn’t see that Top Gear episode. But I remember seeing another about electric cars, a Nissan and a Peugeot. In the end, they ran out of electricity. But its was pretty obvious they did that in purpose, and besides that, you wouldn’t use an electric car for a long trip.

        I like Top Gear, they are funny as fuck. I am studying automotive engineering, and I love cars, so the jokes they do are like meant for me. I remember a 3 wheel car they constantly made it overturn. Another was when they poorly built an electric car (and then, they made it hybrid). It was an ugly piece of shit (in a funny way). Another, a “teenage competition”, in which they took a damaged and cheap car to race it in a obstacle circuit, that included crashing it with shopping carts and a drift with three teen girls as the jury. Also I saw a Top 10 wrecks they did.

        But this episode wasn’t a funny joke. It started serious, with the guy asking if electric cars should be bought or not. Most people are ignorant about them, and I’m sure that propaganda didn’t do any good to those cars.

        Oh, and by the way, I’d like to build electric cars and start a electric car company. I’m working on that.

      • The “Dymaxion” was rear-wheel steered, which is highly unstable at high speed. Instead of explaining the mechanics behind this, I suggest you take your car on some road (an empty one with no parked cars) and drive it full speed in reverse for five minutes. Then imagine doing it for hours at sixty miles an hour in a three-wheeled vehicle that easily overturns.

      • I’ve never seen any evidence of a conspiracy to suppress electric cars. The reason they died out early seems to be the same reason they’ve never caught on: the battery.

        In the earliest days of automation, electric cars were viable because the performance demands were extremely low. As better roads were built, the electric cars literally couldn’t keep up. I have a “Ford” repair manual from 1920; in those days “Ford” was synonymous with “automobile” and the author also covered electric cars. He pointed out that while the top speed of electric cars was only 10 or 15 miles per hour, half the speed of gasoline-powered cars, and the range was only a few miles, there were very few places one could actually drive a car faster than 10 miles an hour and no need to drive further than a few miles.

      • There were a pair of movies called “Who Killed the Electric Car” and a book which described the battery chemistry used in the EV1 and how there were better versions that were suppressed.

        Note that the RAV4-EV did pretty well and lasted in some cases well past 150K miles on the original batteries.

        One of those “anonymous” inventors that doesn’t get alot of attention in the mainstream press. I’m really excited about Elon Musk’s team and the Tesla. I think they have proven what is possible while the mainstream stomps their feet and tells us is impossible.

        You can take a ~100 miles range EV and use it as a great commuter / shopping vehicle. No, it wont be the car you drive on vacation or across the state to see Grandma unless you buy the Tesla S.

        We Americans have been conditioned to believe that we need to buy vehicles for every occasion so most of us own vehicles that have more power than we need, more seating than we need, 4WD/AWD when we won’t likely need it, more size than we need, etc.

        I’m a big believer in using the right tool for the task. I don’t need a big truck to bring home 500 lbs of supplies from the hardware store – I needed a small trailer (Brenderup 1205S to be exact). I didn’t need a van or cargo trailer to move my 200lb table saw, the same trailer works just fine and is so light that I can pull it with a very modest vehicle. Trailer = 400 lbs, capable of 1200 lbs of cargo but happiest below 1000 lbs more or less. I generally haul about 500 lbs or less in it. It will outlast whatever vehicles I tow it with.

        Right now in an effort to keep my expenses low and in order to pay off my mortgage early, I own 15-18 year old vehicles which are presentable and reliable but probably uncool (who cares). With a nod to the artificially low fuel prices we are experiencing I’ll be looking at turbo diesel VWs, hybrids and EVs when I next buy a vehicle because I do expect $4+ fuel to return during the ownership of my next vehicle.

        I’d like to see more bicycles, scooters, golf-carts, and EVs being used for around town transport. Just isn’t any reason to fetch a gallon of milk with a 7500 lb 4WD pickup.

    • Abgrund, you are right. In the early times, the gasoline car won, and won for the right reasons. Gasoline is amazing, not only because you can charge your car with energy in two minutes, and their lightness and power. The best thing about gasoline is that you can make a hole in the ground and get energy in form of liquid, ready to be burnt. You don’t need to “make” the energy.

      In contrast, with electricity you have to get it from another source, for example, the sun, wind, water, or worse, from petrol itself. And with that, you charge your batteries.

      But nowadays, the price of gasoline went up (in the 20’s it was cheap), and the best gasoline engine can only use 30% of the energy contained in fuel for moving. For diesel engines, the record is around 50%, for a helluva cargo ship.

      Electric motors transform electricity to movement in more than 80%, around 90%. And even using petrol for producing electricity, an internal combustion engine working outside a car is way more efficient that one fitted inside.

      Are the batteries the problem? Maybe, but they are enough for most uses. Tesla model S can do more than 300 km on a single charge. And most people do less than 50km a day. The problem is another: their price. But it will drop.

      It’s only natural for the electric vehicle to become the most popular kind of car. Wait for the batteries to drop their price (that happens when you mass produce them) and the price of petrol to go up. The Kw.h is already many times cheaper than the price of petrol.

      >I’ve never seen any evidence of a conspiracy to suppress electric cars.
      Google Chevrolet EV-1, and a documentary called “Who killed the electric car”. In the 90’s, the technology was enough to make a working electric car. And an excellent one. They did the electric car, and then they destroyed. It was fucking sad…

      • If you’re talking about lithium ion batteries, expect the price to go up, not down, if they go into true mass production. Good sources of lithium are rare and it would ultimately have to come from seawater (using enormous amounts of energy).

        Electric cars will also not lead to net savings in energy unless they can be coupled to a very high efficiency source of converting primary energy to electricity. Even the best fossil fuel plants get less than 30% total efficiency by the time the electricity is distributed, and more is lost in the battery charging cycle. At present, an electric car would make a larger net contribution to CO2 output than a gasoline car, because it would be in effect powered by fossil fuel (probably coal) at an even lower total efficiency.

        Battery charging time is also a problem. Even if most people don’t run the battery dead on most days, they will not pay new car prices for a vehicle they can’t drive to Grandma’s house at Christmas. The obvious solution is to change out the depleted battery for a charged one (as is done with electric forklifts). For this to work, you have to have batteries that are durable, maintenance free, and reasonably cheap. You don’t want to swap out your $10,000 battery pack to find you’ve gotten a worthless battery that won’t hold a charge because some dickhead abused it.

        What is needed is
        1. A battery that is cheap, lightweight, and resistant to abuse;
        2. An electric grid powered by cheap, abundant (and preferably clean) energy.

      • And, FYI, gasoline energy is still cheaper than electricity at current prices. Breakeven (assuming electricity stays at $0.10/kw-hr) is at about $3.40/gallon for gas.

      • >And, FYI, gasoline energy is still cheaper than electricity at current prices. Breakeven (assuming electricity stays at $0.10/kw-hr) is at about $3.40/gallon for gas.

        1 kw*h = 3.6MJ (Mega Joule) = 0.10 U$D
        1 gallon gasoline = 132MJ = 3.40 U$D

        So, if 1 kw*h = 0.10 U$D = 3.6 MJ, 132MJ of electricity is 3.67 U$D. That is more than U$D 3.40 the gallon.

        But you can only use 30 % of the energy contanied in gasoline, so you aren’t using 132 MJ, only 40 MJ. And with electricity, lets say you use 80% of it. So, its
        105 MJ

        40*2.6 =~ 105 MJ.

        So, 3.4 U$D *2.6 = 8.84 U$D while the same electricity would cost 3.67 U$D

        But 30% its a lot. Engines rarely reach that high all the time. What happens when you are waiting for the red lights? That’s 0% of efficiency. How about driving at 2000 RPM at 25 MPH? Thats pretty inefficient compared to driving at 3000RPM at 60 MPH. Electric cars have more efficiency at all ranges, making them ideal for city usage.
        Compare electric motor efficiency:
        To gasoline (and ethanol) engine (ethanol is better):

        The trend is that gasoline prices go up. So in the time, electricity will be more and more cheaper. In my country, the difference is bigger, electricity is cheaper (0.05 U$D/kWh).

        Even with today prices, lets consider a van that is offered with both electric and petrol engine, and the difference in its price (the electric version costs around 3 times more). I remember doing the math. The results were that, after doing 300.000 km (190.000 miles) you recover the inversion.

        >If you’re talking about lithium ion batteries, expect the price to go up, not down, if they go into true mass production.
        I didn’t make that claim. MIT did, in the paper “On the road in 2035”. They say, in a pessimistic situation, the price of the batteries will go from the actual 1000US$/kWh to 350 US$/kWh in 2035.

        So, electric cars are the future. If you still don’t believe me, remember my words for 20 years later. Meanwhile, I’ll be busy making money with this new business that a few people know its coming. I’d like to know more about your claim about lithium being used up, though.

        >Electric cars will also not lead to net savings in energy unless they can be coupled to a very high efficiency source of converting primary energy to electricity. Even the best fossil fuel plants get less than 30% total efficiency by the time the electricity is distributed, and more is lost in the battery charging cycle.
        Don’t forget the energy you waste getting fuel from the ground, refining, and bringing it in a truck to the city. That decreases the petrol efficiency as well.

        Anyway, would you consider gas as fosil fuel? Its great. The generators that work with gas, turbines that use the remaining heat for a steam machine, are really efficient. I can’t find the number, but let’s say its about 70% or more.
        And you can make energy with uranium, its one of the cheapest way. If it wasn’t for the radioactive waste, it would be perfect. You can also use hydroelectric generators.
        In the worst case, electricity could be produced with a diesel engine, but that is not so common. Only for small applications.
        The fact is that you will be using less than 100% of energy from fossil fuel.

        >Battery charging time is also a problem
        No, it’s not. You can charge it at night while you sleep, or if it was needed, you could charge it at work. If the car works 24/7, then, buy a gasoline car by all means (or maybe you should buy two batteries pack). For the 90% of the cars remaining, they don’t have any problem with this.

        >They will not pay new car prices for a vehicle they can’t drive to Grandma’s house at Christmas
        That depends on the price. Also, most people in the USA have two cars, right? They could use a electric car every day, and once per year they could use the gasoline car.

      • 1. $3.40 v. $3.67 is trivia (I got my figure for gasoline energy density from the infamous Wikipedia and will not argue it); the point is that gasoline is *not* “many times cheaper than the price of petrol”. But if you are getting electrons for $0.05 the kw-hr, the question is “where?” and “how can I get there?”

        2. The real inefficiency of gasoline engines is not running at idle. It’s the surges of high power output, above all accelerating from a stop (which is why “highway” gas mileage is counter-intuitively better than low speed “in-town” gas mileage). The electric motor excels particularly in providing high torque at low rpm, precisely where the internal combustion engine is most deficient – this is one of its major attractions.

        3. If an electric car costs $60,000, a gasoline car costs $20,000 and gets a measly 30 mpg, and gasoline costs $4.00/gallon, you will not recover the difference until you’ve driven 300,000 miles – and that’s if both electricity and interest are FREE. Gasoline will cost more than that before too long, but it’s also easy to build a car that gets much better than 30 mpg. If electric cars have a 1:3 purchase cost disadvantage, they are DOA.

        3. Known reserves of usable lithium ore are only a few million tons. There might be enough to build tens or even hundreds of millions of electric cars but it will not supply the world with electric cars. Recovery of lithium from seawater is a possibility but likely to be very expensive.

        4. Energy is used in refining and distributing petroleum, but energy is also used in mining and transporting the coal used to produce most electricity, and more is lost in the battery charging cycle. At least a third of electricity distributed on the grid is lost in transmission.

        5. Yes, natural gas is a fossil fuel. It is also the most limited of all fossil fuels in accessible reserves. It is more efficient, in net, to use it directly in vehicles rather than indirectly via electric vehicles, but either use is very much unsustainable.

        6. The efficiency of the thermal cycle is nowhere near 70% even for natural gas (I have heard claims as high as 40% for open-cycle gas turbines). This is an inescapable basic reality of thermodynamics. The conversion of mechanical energy to electricity, however, is astonishingly efficient, as close to 100% as makes no difference.

        7. The issue with uranium (or thorium) is not the radioactive waste, which is a trivial problem. The whole “nuclear waste” nonsense was cooked up in the Seventies by the coal mining lobby, which feared the competition. I recall vividly reading in 1977 “environmentalist” literature which promoted coal and, among other things, denounced global warming as a myth invented by evil nuclear… somebodies. The real threat – and coal would save us! – was from global cooling. The issue with nuclear power – and it is a real, though not insurmountable, issue – is safety.

        8. Hydroelectric energy is great, but sites are limited. In the U.S., it is basically accepted that there will be no significant increases in hydropower output.

        9. Battery charging is indeed a problem, for reasons I have already given as well as (since you brought it up) commercial vehicles that run many miles per day. The possible solution of households owning different vehicles for daily commuting and for other purposes occurred to me in 2004; from your point of view, however, the problem is that it is easier and cheaper to build a 1-person gasoline vehicle for commuting that gets 60 mpg than it is to build an electric vehicle (let alone the infrastructure to support said vehicle).

        12. Charging cars at night is something I’ve seen proposed before, but it’s easier said than done. Ideally the car would start charging late at night when electricity demand is low, but what do you think people are going to do when they get home from work? Plug in the car, crank up the A/C, turn on the lights, and start cooking dinner, all at once.

      • 1) > $3.40 v. $3.67 is trivia
        But you can’t get all the energy in gasoline, 30% at ideal situations. That’s why electricity is better (its said that electricity is a high quality kind of energy). And no, you cannot get more than 50% with a internal combustion engine in any situation, because you got problems with the design itself (you are trying to move something up and down, and transform that movement to rotation. Besides, you are really far from 100% because that second law of thermodynamics that talks about a perfect engine).

        >But if you are getting electrons for $0.05 the kw-hr, the question is “where?” and “how can I get there?”
        I live in Argentina, Buenos Aires. Here i got the receipt of the electric company.
        It says $ 0.503 the kWh of the local currency, that is, around 0.05 U$D. But that is for business. For homes, we have a subsidy, and we pay around 0.02 U$D the kWh. Also, one gallon of gasoline is 4,5 U$D (yours is cheaper)

        Even though, electric cars aren’t that popular in our country. Why? Because if you want to pay less for fuel, you can modify your car to work with CNG. It only costs around U$D 1500, and you pay really low prices for gas instead of gasoline. (I didn’t do the math, but is way cheaper). Electric car should win against CNG car first, here.

        2) >The real inefficiency of gasoline engines is not running at idle.
        Well, I don’t know if that is the time they waste more fuel, but when you have your engine running and you don’t move, that is 0% efficient. With electric cars that doesn’t happen, because the engine doesn’t have to be idling. Great for cities that

        >It’s the surges of high power output, above all accelerating from a stop (which is why “highway” gas mileage is counter-intuitively better than low speed “in-town” gas mileage).
        It’s true. You have to use a lot of energy to make that heavy acceleration. But that’s not the only reason why highway is more efficient. Another is this: You burn the same fuel at 3000RPM in second gear and fifth gear, but you go faster in fifth.

        >The electric motor excels particularly in providing high torque at low rpm, precisely where the internal combustion engine is most deficient – this is one of its major attractions.
        That is true, and you don’t need a start-up electric motor for the electric car.
        Also, electric motors tend to be more efficient in all ranges of RPM. Internal combustion engines are more efficient at a specific RPM.

        3) I remember doing the math. I don’t want to do it again. At least, it was true in my country. I think the reason it worked was because the prices were like U$D 10000 for the gasoline version and U$D 30000 the electric one
        >but it’s also easy to build a car that gets much better than 30 mpg
        That is the trend right now. But after getting the car a little more efficient, there is not more room for improvements, and eventually electric cars will be inevitable.

        >and interest are FREE.
        Yeah, the higher initial price is a problem. Electric cars will be cheaper in 20 years from now, I hope.

        4) So we should do the math, it doesn’t seem that easy

        5)>It is more efficient, in net, to use it directly in vehicles rather than indirectly via electric vehicles
        I disagree. The best thing about electric cars is this, that it is more efficient to have the generator outside the car than fitted it inside. For example you can have a low speed diesel engine with more than 50% efficiency, like the one big ships use. And I mean true 50%, at all times.
        >The cylinder bore is 38 inches and the stroke is just over 98 inches. Each cylinder displaces 111,143 cubic inches (1820 litres) and produces 7780 horsepower. Total displacement comes out to 1,556,002 cubic inches (25,480 litres) for the 14-cylinder version.

        Try to fit something NEAR in efficiency in a car. 50% efficiency means that the engine runs at the best RPM all the time. Try running a car at the best RPM always. Oh, and did you notice that it only works at 100RPM? Well, that is because as RPM increases, friction increases too (friction increases with speed linearly). A car has at least 1000RPM, and its most efficient at around 3500RPM.

        And that is about diesel engines. We got more cheap generators than diesel engines…

        6) >The efficiency of the thermal cycle is nowhere near 70% even for natural gas (I have heard claims as high as 40% for open-cycle gas turbines). This is an inescapable basic reality of thermodynamics.
        Yeah, but after the high temperature gas that comes out of the turbine, you fit a steam machine. You use the remaining energy to boil water. That’s how you reach that high efficiency.

        7) >The issue with nuclear power – and it is a real, though not insurmountable, issue – is safety.
        Yeah, that is a problem too…

        8) We got a lot of energy from hydroelectric generators, maybe that’s why its so cheap here.

        9) >it is easier and cheaper to build a 1-person gasoline vehicle for commuting that gets 60 mpg
        Yeah, that could be nice. You can also build a 1-person electric vehicle. I guess it will weight a lot less and need less batteries and in result be cheaper. But yes. In 10 or 15 years, that will be the car you’ll see in the streets. Or at least two seaters like that ugly Smart car (you can see it today).

        >…than it is to build an electric vehicle (let alone the infrastructure to support said vehicle).
        You don’t need a lot of infrastructure, you can plug it in anywhere and that’s it. People aren’t going to buy electric cars all at once, so it will be progressive.

        12) Well, you supply the demand then. You make the generators work as much as when the demand is high.

      • To art sun:

        “You burn the same fuel at 3000RPM in second gear and fifth gear, but you go faster in fifth.” >Not so. To travel at a higher speed requires more power; in this case, a more open throttle, more airflow, and more fuel would be required in fifth gear. If this were not the case, it would be possible to drive a lawnmower at the speed of sound just by putting the right transmission on it.

        “But after getting the car a little more efficient, there is not more room for improvements, and eventually electric cars will be inevitable.” >There is much more than “a little” room for improvement. There is no reason a single-person vehicle cannot get 60 miles per gallon or more, and widespread use of such vehicles would greatly extend the life of the petroleum reserves. Of course those are still finite, but since it is easier and cheaper to go for higher mileage than to switch to electric cars, I foresee that gasoline vehicles will remain predominate for decades.

        >Can you provide an example of 70% efficiency for natural gas generation? It’s within theoretical limits, but I’m not finding a source.

        “You don’t need a lot of infrastructure, you can plug it in anywhere and that’s it.” >Nope, the charging currents will require rewiring most houses, and you can only charge the battery where you have a battery charger. Putting the charger in the car is a lot of unnecessary weight. The biggest cost will be adding capacity for producing and distributing electricity. This can be alleviated somewhat by creating mechanisms to encourage battery charging at off-peak hours, but that in itself is an investment. IMO the best option is swappable batteries, which solves the problem of charging time, gets the charger out of the car, and doesn’t require rewiring hundreds of millions of homes.

      • If you are making more electricity than you use at home with your rooftop solar who cares what the costs and efficiencies are compared to gasoline?

        There is some math on the web that indicates that you can drive further on the electricity used to refine the gallon of gasoline than you can go burning that gasoline.

    • Art Sun,
      I will take this one step forward.
      You mentioned how you feel like you are smarter than people you know, who are ignorant to all these strategies that are being used to sell stuff to people.( regardless of how much they need it ). You feel confident.

      Be careful. Your last words alarmed me. You might be under the spell yourself :
      Is it easier to sell marketing advice/ ebooks/ whatever to people that feel more confident, comfortable and smarter for using them ( your based-around-marketing-cult, class 1 ) OR to sell them to people who see marketing as the devil, who would feel bad if they were into marketing ? ( class 2 ) Maybe subtly coerce them as time goes by into joining the ” 1st class ” ? Of course the newly gained knowledge, if harnessed, might be used for your profit now. But the seller of that product would count on exactly that : making it appear that it is of your interest ( you wanna make money ) to further their interest ( to give them your money ) I can easiky think of 2-3 bloggers who succesfully did that, making crazy profit.
      I might be bordering on paranoia …
      Just food for thought.

      • I’m not saying that I’m going to do anything using some of these strategies… But I used to think that I should help people to see the truth.

        Now I think I shouldn’t even try, they won’t understand even if I tell them what’s going on. They don’t want to understand. So, maybe I could get some profit from them at the same time, selling them stuff.

        But I’m not evil. I’m a good person. I don’t know if I could sell something people don’t need.

  9. Sounds like you’ve recently taken the red pill Ludvig! :)

    I’ve been aware of this most of my life hence have never, ever been able to fit in with the mainstream idea of go to college, get a 9-5, get a mortgage, have kids and die.

    Glad you’re back. It’s been a while since you posted.

    Ps: I read your article on PLM and bought a book on the East India Company. Fits perfectly with what I’ve been reading recently and fascinating stuff.

  10. What about the cosmetics industry? That seems to me to be an industry that is based on an entirely fabricated need. Fashion industry as well.

    Drinking culture, as someone already pointed out, could be another example. But to me it seems like the result of glorification through modern media, not necessarily advertising.(Though who really knows whether or not script writers were paid off somewhere along the line.) (Not to mention that it’s weird how Alcohol is legalized given how bad long term effects of use are, compared to the effects of other drugs that are illegal in most countries. .)

    Communities in which to ”be cool”, you have to have the newest iPhone/iPad whatever, come to mind as well.

    I’ve argued this point with people about Christmas and birthdays before, especially since many of the gifts tend to pile up and not really be of use. Interesting post, might have to read Propaganda. Also, this makes me feel even better about finally, finally taking the necessary steps to eliminate this influence from my daily life.

    • I’ve thought the same things lately

    • Hey Ragnar — long time no see!

      Good point on the fashion industry. Bernays actually mentions a number of examples of work he has done for those in his book. Here’s a good quote.

      “You cannot persuade a whole generation of women to wear long skirts, but you may, by working through leaders of fashion, persuade them to wear evening dresses which are long in back.”


      “finally taking the necessary steps to eliminate this influence from my daily life.”

      –Yeah. I have a similar outlook. I look at it (it = self-development) as gradual process of elimination of unnecessary things. But first you have to identify what is unnecessary. Then when you’ve done that–stepped outside the box a while and developed an alternative viewpoint–you can choose to be part of it again without being unconsciously and negatively influenced by it. Advertising is a great example of this.

  11. Awesome Ludvig. Your posts keep getting better and better. Just finished my 2 day fast a few days ago.Never tried anything of the sort. Definetely something I will be doing again. Also, read quite a few of the books you reccomended. I’m impressed. Only quality material. I liked Ayn Rand’s work the best, thus far. That shit was pure phylosophy. Keep up the good work. Cheers.

    • I am also going to do a 2-day fast. Can you share your experience/give some tip? I have also not done it before, never even done IF, which is why I ask :)

      • Sure. I did it because I saw myself snacking on junk food, or eating when I was full, just because I ain’t got shit to do. It definetely put my ass back in line. Awesome diacipline builder. I’d say be as busy as possibile when you attempt it. Have some objective in mind. I initially wanted to isolate myself for 2 days until it’s done. It’s not necessary. It didn’t weaken me in any way. I felt fine. Your awareness will be sky high. I started feeling my body, the whole of it. You feel every damn heartbeat on the second day. It’s like meditation. As far as the hunger goes, I can’t say I’ve had any real issues with it. Only felt hungry on the first day, in the evening, when I would usually eat. After that, it was straight sailing. It really isn’t that hardcore. I urge you to try it. You’ll be leaner and more disciplined at the end of it.

      • Thanks a lot man! That actually makes me more confident, and Im going to do it next weekend, just going to stay home from work and try to finish off 250 pages of a (pocket) book i got about Roman generals. It is a pretty cool book but I have had trouble focusing before, it has been a bit mentally demanding, so I look forward to seeing if there is a difference. I am going to drink a bunch of green tea too

    • Thanks.
      And I’m glad to hear you like the books. Interesting that you comment specifically on Ayn Rand. I’ve got a bunch of emails from people regarding her books/ideas.

  12. Damn, crazy times we live in. Great article by the way, I knew about Ford and cereals but the rabbit’s hole is much much deeper. Looking forward to the next entry.

  13. This is very seth Godin style, did he influence you to write some of this?

  14. “it’s a waste of time and money and people are oftentimes just pretending to have fun”
    Same here, but I hadn’t reasoned on it like that.

    “Unexpected gifts get way bigger smiles.”

    Smart. I read that somewhere. Think it was from Seeking Wisdom.

    • Ops. The comment above was meant for Nicklas!

      I think the Bernays piano strategy is really cool. I wish I could do it myself somehow. It seems easy in theory but it seems to be pretty tricky and require lots of time to somehow find some way of making all of that come together and combining all of those interested parties/groups of people.

      On another note I’ve actually started becoming a bit interested in history from reading your stuff Ludvig, so thanks for that.

      Also, I see that you took my advice and created the gmail settings. :)

  15. Finally a new SGM article ;) and a great one at that!

    I find that society is chock full of people only getting their information through sources like institutions or magazine articles, and just blindly follow the info without seeking out corroborating or opposing points. Stopping for a moment and thinking and really breaking down why you’re doing what you’re doing or buying what you’re buying is a rarity. Yes breakfast is a great example. Another example is how all western kitchens have an appliance for every dish you could make – who really needs an ice cream machine? Exercise equipment is another one – creating products that are inferior to or just another way of doing something very simple – like pushups or putting cream and sugar in a bowl, putting it in the freezer and stirring it every 30 minutes for two hours.

    It’s amazing how aware you become of all the bs society tries to pull of on you, once you unplug from traditional media and make reflecting on everything a habit.

    Another semi related point: I’ve noticed how you can counteract a lot of societal expectations by doing the same things but in different contexts. Notice how when you go out and buy your friends a round of drinks it’s kind of, I wouldn’t say expected, but it’s not the kind of recognition I would expect for just having spent 40$ on friends. Meanwhile if you spent the same amount of money on them just hours earlier, say a meal or snacks during the day, the recognition and gratitude is significantly greater. This is one of the reasons I’ve stopped going out at night, it’s a waste of time and money and people are oftentimes just pretending to have fun.

    The same goes for birthday or event related presents. They’re expected. Unexpected gifts get way bigger smiles.

    Sorry about the rambling, but it seemed relevant at the time of writing :)

    Thanks for the awesome content, Ludvig!

    • All real gifts are unexpected. An expected “gift” is not a gift at all, it is a duty. The recipient will feel little gratitude, but will resent it if the “gift” is not provided. Never let anyone expect “gifts” from you.

      Related: It is more important to be consistently generous in small things than to be generous at all in large ones. If you give someone a ride to work for a month he will be just as grateful as if you gave him a car. I don’t know why this is, but it’s true.

    • Thank you Nicklas!

      Hope you’re doing good.

      Great insights with the gifts/generousness.

  16. I see a lot of your posts containing versions of the “Vitruvian man”.
    Brand imaging? The outstretched man does resemble the SGM symbol.

    I have to be honest a lot of this stuff I already know, or don’t understand the significance of. I think it would be more relevant to have posts on how to use your “filters for truth” (personal experience, scientific studies, pattern recognition etc) to determine the lie from the truth.

    I think generally people do realize that they are constantly being fed falsehoods. So whilst I do enjoy reading these posts about being aware of Media, propaganda etc. It would be more useful to relate it directly to self-improvement. In other words, more of the “how-to” rather than a discussion of the problems themselves.

    For instance I did not know that breakfast wasn’t all that important for a long while though I knew there is a lot of misinformation about nutrition. But how did I figure it out? I found people with good health on the internet and found out what they ate. Found out their reasons. Looked at the studies they based their conclusions on. This method is more important than the problem itself.

    • That’s correct, Shaun.

      You will like part 3, about branding.

      “So whilst I do enjoy reading these posts about being aware of Media, propaganda etc. It would be more useful to relate it directly to self-improvement.”

      –The purpose of the “Intelligent Man’s Guide to” series is to put modern society into a context and develop an alternate viewpoint. So that when the site gets big people can read through them and unplug themselves from social conditioning.

      “In other words, more of the “how-to” rather than a discussion of the problems themselves.”

      –It will come eventually. And BOOH will basically be a how-to guide on all that.

      “This method is more important than the problem itself.”

      –You’re right. But first you (not YOU personally) must get into the habit of thinking and reflecting about things. Otherwise you miss the problem and go on doing what you’ve done before.

    • “…….or don’t understand the significance of”

      Shaun, I’m guessing you are not in sales/advertising profession? The health industry is a good example of where you can see many of these patterns. Just a few years ago fakir mats (or whatever they are called) with small plastic “needles” in them were made trendy by manners like these.

      Other implications obviously involve PR/propaganda as a way to create norms for a state… because once something is a norm people will question you, and perhaps even point fingers or become angry, if you do not follow it. And ofc the norms should be something that is beneficial to the leaders. I believe Karl Marx originated this idea. Perhaps someone else knows better.

      Ludvig, what are your “filters of truth?”

      Also, I would like to point out that I enjoyed this article. I like it when your content sort of leads me to learn more about interesting topics, I think that is something you do well.

      • Oh no I understand the significance of the concept of PR and advertising, but I was merely pointing out that I want to understand how one can guard against it as a consumer and observe these patterns yourself years before books are written about it with the advantage of hindsight. As I said I’m more interested in the filters for truth

    • Two things:

      Have a broad base of knowledge. History and science are most important, but it’s good to have some acquaintance with economics, technology, psychology, geography, etc. – basically everything that school teaches us to think of as boring. When you have a clear view of the “big picture” you can see when something bogus has been inserted.

      Expect resistance. Herd beasts will be suspicious, at the least, of anyone who doesn’t follow the herd.

  17. I wonder if Pokemon achieved popularity the same way. I am not kidding, it would be cool if you did an article on that some time in the future.

  18. Ludvig this is a good point you bring up how culture is influenced. I totally agree and I’m trying hard think of some cool example of my own of how this but unfortunately I am coming up short right now :O

  19. Dammit.

    “How many other “popular ideas” like this exist in modern consumer society.”

    Insurance, Tax, “Savings” accounts – take a look at “Fractional Reserve Banking” to get a true picture of how the banking world really works. It’s illegal to trade insolvently in the UK; banks around the world have made a business out of it – feeding off credit interest like a parasitic worm. This is where the term “interest slavery” comes from, and is in my opinion, the underpin of the “consumer society”.

    Good video (30mins totally worth it):

    Action & influence are the only currencies you need.

    This is also at the core of the “problem” Russia has with the US, explaining a major part of the torrid resistance in Donetsk. Look up American Imperialism for information about this. Hitler’s tirades against “International Jewry” is a highlight of this problem. Not sure where Bolshevism fits into this picture.

    Another example is politics.

    Politics is, especially now, a popularity contest. Anything that gets said has to be appraised by the majority of the populace otherwise it will be consigned to some committee or bureaucratic office. If most of those people are concerned with being a mindless “consumer” zombie, you’re going to get lame ducks in power.

    Politics should be for people with real experience wanting to create a real difference to their society. The “greats” of history have been remembered as such, notable examples being Napoleon and Caesar (yes, both became dictators but that’s besides the point).

    In most cases, any changes in policy are curbed by the bloated mechanics of government – paid for by people who solemnly pay their taxes every month/year. Unfortunately, the term “might is right” is apt in this situation; myself being a prime benefactor in that half the world speaks English because of my illustrious ancestors & the Americans.

    If you want to affect change in society, it starts with who you influence. Votes != influence. Votes = popularity. Influence comes from actually being successful at the change you want to effect. Entrepreneurial & innovative people hold influence. Ludvig holds influence; and is a good example who could push through societal changes from which the civilisation will benefit, votes come second.

    Thanks for the post Ludvig, truly incredible times we live in.

    • Great comment Richard. Im watching the video now.

      “Politics is, especially now, a popularity contest.”

      That’s an interesting way of viewing it. You could perhaps say the same thing of the stock market the way most people play it:

      • Thanks Snake!

        Interesting RE Keynesian Beauty – I’ll have to look at this! Seems to be consistent with Herd Mentality which you may already know about —

        BTW regarding “The Fed”, I don’t know if it’s owned by private citizens any more (I think it is but I’m not sure). I figured the Bank of England (which I was at the other month) was a similar setup, in that the Rothschilds (Red Shield from the video) owned the hell out of it. Turns out although this may have been the case in the days of Empire & Conquest, it’s now a “public” institution.

        Here’s a good site I found about it:

        Thanks for the reply, hope all is good.

    • “Action & influence are the only currencies you need.”

      You are dead on regarding populism. This may be the topic of a future article (on politics).
      I don’t know about British politicians, but there are a lot of retards in Swedish politics.

    • Politics is not for people wanting to make a difference to society. Politics is for thieves who want to parasitise society. Elected officials have no ability to make a real difference; they are mere tools. Influence comes from money alone; popularity can be bought or hired.

      The “Fed” (Federal Reserve System) is not a bank; it is a quasi-public agency comprised of a dozen or so major banks and their politician lackeys. The banks are all privately owned. The U.S. briefly had an actual national bank in the early nineteenth century, but it was suppressed.

  20. Ivy Lee made ca $300k in half an hour? Damn, productivity advice was the place to be!

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