How Chuck Wolfe fought a $10 billion industry when most of the traditional campaigns failed.

This is the second time I’ll write to you about a filthy product with extremely good advertising.

Cigarette companies advertise terribly well.

A Philip Morris memo notes “ Today’s teenager is tomorrow's potential regular customer”.

Not selling cigarettes to kids meant less business for tobacco companies.

No. They never tried to sell these to kids and teenagers directly.

They just made cigarettes more appealing to teenagers and kids. 

Winston cigarettes was a sponsor of the popular cartoon Flintstones, back in 1960, they showed Fred and Barney taking smoke breaks.

When a ban was imposed on cigarette commercials, in 1970. Cigarette companies went a step further to make smoking seem fun. 

They invented friendly cartoon characters like Joe Camel.

When regular cigarettes didn’t work. They introduced flavored ones, in different colors, like candy wrappers.

The techniques worked. 

In the 1990s, 75% of high school kids had smoked. And, 25% were daily smokers. 

And the numbers were increasing. Every. Single. Day.

Jonah Berger shares how Chuck Wolfe solved this problem. 

The American government, organizations, and the healthcare industry spent billions of dollars trying to persuade youngsters to quit. 

It didn’t work. 

How did Chuck manage to do it?

Let’s dig in.

*Puts on the psychology hat*

Warnings became recommendations.

Telling someone to do something encourages resistance.

We humans need freedom and autonomy. 

There was an experiment conducted at a nursing home.

On one floor they asked residents to choose how they wanted to stay. They were asked to choose the furniture. They were asked if they wanted a houseplant and were told the staff was working for their comfort.

The residents of the other floor were given the same facilities without giving the feeling of freedom and choice.

After a while, researchers found the people with control and freedom over their choices were more happy, cheerful, active, and alert.

The residents on the other floor were not. Fast forward eighteen months, and a little less then half residents were dead.

We have a psychological need for freedom and autonomy. We need to feel our actions and lives are within our control.

Doing forbidden things is an easy way to feel the sense of being in control. 

Hence, Warnings become recommendations.

Restriction generates a psychological phenomenon - reactance.

How did Chuck use this?

He stopped telling kids to quit smoking.

Instead, he made them take the decision.

Here’s an example of a ‘truth’ ad he made:

Two regular teens call a magazine executive and ask why they accepted tobacco advertising. Even when they know their readership is youth. 

The executive says they’d support anti-smoking campaigns too. The teen asks them to run some anti-smoking campaigns as a public service.

"No", says the executive.

Teens ask “why?”

“We’re in business to make money.” He says.

“Is it about people or money?” they ask.

“Publishing is about money” and quickly hangs up.

That was it.

No warnings. No demands. Nothing. 

Within a few months the “truth campaign” was led by 30,000 Florida teens to quit smoking.

Teen smoking rates dropped by 75%.

The program prevented 450,000 youth from smoking in the first four years. And saved billions in healthcare.

The tobacco companies filed a lawsuit to stop him.

This campaign made teens quit smoking because it didn’t ask them to quit smoking.

That’s how you change minds.

(Ironic how the first thing we need to change minds is to stop forcing to change minds)

Till Next Time,
Noman Shaikh.

P. S. How do you implement this to change minds? We’ll talk about this in the next email. 

If you’ve not yet added me to your contacts and dragged this email to your inbox from the promotions tab. I’m gonna hunt you down and snatch your phone and do it myself. Or, you can choose to ignore and forget about it. Whatever. It’s not for me, it’s for you.
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