In America, everyone knows Thomas Edison was a genius.
He is credited with inventing everything from the light bulb to the telephone.
What isn’t so well known is that he was actually an advertising genius.
One of the things he is credited with inventing is the electrical system we all use today.
In fact he didn’t.
Edison’s electrical system was DC (direct current).
Unfortunately for Edison, his main competitor had the AC system (alternating current).
The AC system was much more powerful than Edison’s DC system.
It looked as if the competition’s system would drive his out of business.
But Edison knew the mantra that should be tattooed on every advertising person that calls themselves creative.
“How do you turn a problem into an opportunity?”
At a dinner party he got talking to the Governor of New York.
He expressed a worry about the way the death penalty was administered, by hanging.
Edison felt this could go wrong and result in unnecessary suffering.
He suggested a more humane way: the electric chair.
It was fast, humane and foolproof.
He suggested his competitor’s powerful AC system was the perfect way to administer this.
The Governor was persuaded by the humanitarian argument.
The State of New York adopted the electric chair.
Soon after the first execution, Edison called a press conference with New York’s news media.
He said that the fact that the AC system was powering the electric chair was proof that it could be deadly in the home.
If families wanted a system for their houses that was safer, they were far better off using his own weaker DC system.
Particularly amongst parents this was a persuasive argument.
Edison’s DC system was adopted by many families.
It remained a competitor to the AC system for half a century.
Not because it was a great invention.
Because it was a great piece of selling.