Stern, Eric

During the Industrial Revolution in America, the advertising industry experienced technological advancements that drastically impacted the consumer culture. Before the Industrial Revolution, goods were handmade and sold in small volumes, which eliminated the need for companies to advertise. With the coming of the 1800s, a new consumer based economy introduced mass production, individualism, and most importantly, major advertising developments. Factories implemented the use of steam power and assembly lines, dramatically shortening the time of production. Subsequently, products were cheaper, giving all social classes an equal opportunity to consume. And since advertising imbued goods with meaning, consumers often found themselves purchasing products they never thought were necessary. In addition, improvements in transportation and communication gave way to the emergence of department stores, also known as “cathedrals of abundance.” According to Floyd Henry Allport’s theory, effective advertisements strike an emotional cord with the viewer. As a result, advertisers began appealing to all social groups, rather than just a single class. To do this, advertisers used techniques like slogans and jingles to easily catch the customer’s attention. For example, in the advertisement for a sewing machine, the slogan reads, “So simple it never gets out of order.” Placing a brand name on a product also helped companies distinguish and sell their goods to the masses. With the emergence of these new advertising techniques, the entire economic dynamic changed as it introduced immense social change.

While technological improvements dominated many enhancements during the Industrial Revolution, advertising sparked economic change through its ability to create and spread new ideologies. Because newspapers were cheaper to print, current events spread throughout the nation much quicker. As a result, people were able to talk about the news with one another, making this a much more social experience. Similarly, advertisements became popular topics of discussion. These new forms of media reflected upon the changing social order as they played a significant role in defining the “right and wrong” or “friend and enemy.” Prior to these methods of advertising, consumers were never persuaded to purchase goods like they were during the Industrial Revolution. But advertisers influenced consumers by focusing on their “needs” and “wants.” The growing consumer culture even altered the hierarchical class structure, as citizens became increasingly more status conscious. Although rapid modernization influenced social change during the Industrial Revolution, it more importantly created a sense of optimism among the American people as it crafted a model for future success.