How to Advertise War
From The Magic of Believing by Claude Bristol (published 1948), pages 51-52
For forty-four years, ever since the Russ-Japanese war, the Japs immortalized Naval Warrant Officer Magoschichi Sugino, fabled as one of Japan’s early suicide fighters and greatest heroes. Thousands of statues were erected to his memory and in repeated song and story young Nipponese were taught to believe that by following his example, they could die in no more heroic manner than as a suicide fighter. Millions of them believed it and during the war thousands of them did die as suicide fighters… This terrible and persistent deeply founded belief, though based entirely on a fable, caused thousands of Japanese to throw away their lives during the war.
We, too, as Americans, were subjected to the power of suggestion long before and during World War I; we got it again in a big way under the direction of General Hugh Johnson with his N.R.A. plan, and in World War II it inspired us to increase our effort, to buy bonds, and so forth. We were constantly told that Germany and Japan had to be defeated unconditionally. Under the constant repetition of the same thought all individual thinking was paralyzed and the mass mind became grooved to a certain pattern – win the war unconditionally. As one writer said: “In war the voice of dissension becomes the voice of treason.” So again we see the terrific force of thought repetition – it is our master and we do as we are told.
This subtle force of the repeated suggestion overcomes our reason, acting directly on our emotions and our feelings, and finally penetrating to the very depths of our subconscious minds. It is the basic principle of all successful advertising – the continued and repeated suggestion that first makes you believe after which you are eager to buy.