The Marketing Man Who Invented Bacon for Breakfast

07 Jan The Marketing Man Who Invented Bacon for Breakfast

Bacon is enjoying its Moment, culturally speaking.

We’ll credit comedian Jim Gaffigan for a lot of this, but when it comes to cultural trends there is no real way to know where they start and how they got where they are. They just sort of did. So bacon is “in” right now, and we know what you’re thinking: Come on, Was bacon ever “out?” Bacon is popular because it’s delicious, end of story.

Well, actually: No.

Actually, the popularity of American bacon owes to a single man named Edward Bernays, a genius who in the 1930s tricked a bunch of doctors into recommending bacon for breakfast, and in the process invented public relations as we know it today. It’s an amazing case study in marketing, with lessons that still apply today.

Here’s how Bernays did it:

To understand this story, you have to understand that during the 1930s and before, most Americans ate toast and coffee for breakfast. Bacon sales, if you can believe this, were slipping, so Beech-Nut Packing reached out to Bernays, who had some experience solving these sorts of problems. Bernays decided not to make a move on dinnertime — too much competition there. But if he could convince Americans that breakfast time was bacon time, he could change the world.

So he goes to a doctor and says, basically, “Is a hearty breakfast better than a not-hearty breakfast.” Naturally, the doctor answers yes, setting up the key question, “Would bacon be considered part of a hearty breakfast?” The answer, of course, was yes, and then he had it:

Doctors recommend eating bacon for breakfast.

That, friends, is a headline.

If you watch the video, you can see Bernays himself was amazed that little scheme of his actually worked, but it did. Oh man, did it work.

Bernays didn’t advertise a product; he created a meal. He created a meal that his client just so happened to have the perfect product for. He didn’t break any laws, he didn’t say anything that wasn’t true, and he didn’t create a giant, glossy ad campaign. He simply took a meal, and took a food product, and twisted them until they fit together.

Edward Bernays, you gave us bacon, and for that we are forever grateful.