Posted on 02/20/2020 at 09:00 AM
Marketing is a superpower.
In the right hands, it can change the world for the better. Your Brand can harness that power. Want proof? Read on.
Have you ever learned that something that you “knew” was true actually wasn't? The feeling can be tragic. Depending on what that something is, the feeling can be enough to make you want to scream. Speaking of which, have you ever heard goats scream (spoiler, it’s hilarious).
The word “Tragedy comes from an Ancient Greek word for “goat song”.
If you're the kind of person who finds it hard to question what you thought you knew, strap in because you are in for a ride. This article is all about exposing the truth about "common knowledge" and demonstrating just how powerful marketing really can be!
Mind the Message
Keep in mind as you take the journey through this article into the depths of discovery, that in many cases entire industries have been built (and continue to stand) on lies (strategic messaging), spread through powerful marketing that was strong enough to shift public opinion of entire countries. The purpose of the compilation of this list is to amuse, entertain, and educate. Hopefully, it will force you to consider the power of your own marketing message, and the strategy that should be behind it!
The good news is that we’ll start with fun/funny little alternative facts and work our way up to the real mind-blowing stuff. You’ll very likely question what you are about to read. That’s a good thing. Please do! In fact, if you don’t believe what you read, Google it!
Alternative Animal Facts
Dogs v. Bulls: Not so Black & White
Man’s best friend: exceptional hearing, a sense of smell that can stop crime, and loyal to a fault. The only downside to our canine companions? They’re completely colorblind. Poor Fido only sees in greyscale… right?
Nope. Much like humans, colorblindness is not about black and white or the greys in between. Dogs see a full spectrum of color and they see yellows, greys, and shades of blue particularly well! They type of “colorblindness” that they do have can make it difficult for a dog to spot a red ball in green grass, but rest assured, they are not only seeing in black and white. The misconception about a dog’s type of colorblindness likely stems from people simply not understanding what colorblindness is.
Speaking of animals, there are some animals that react violently to colors, right?
Everyone knows that bulls hate the color red. The mere hint of shades of rouge can be enough to send bulls into an uncontrollable frenzy- the likes of which no bullfighter or runner is likely to survive! Heck, there’s a phrase about how when a person gets too mad, they’re “seeing red”.
But here’s the thing. Bulls are totally colorblind- the greyscale kind. Meaning, bulls are just as likely to charge at you if you are wearing a bright yellow traffic vest as if you wear Superman’s cape. It’s probably best to simply leave bulls alone.
The bull myth likely comes from a few places. Matadors tend to wear red for dramatic effect and the idea that red conveys a sense of sensuality, mystique, and danger. Another likely source is cartoons from the late 1920’s and 1930’s which showed protagonists being attacked by vicious bulls just because they saw the color red (Mickey Mouse’s early adventures featured one such episode)
The Lemmings Lie & “The Lemming Effect”
Lemmings are cute little rodents typically found in the Arctic. Calling someone a lemming is considered a bit of an insult, as lemmings are known to copy the actions and behaviors of others around them without considering the effects of the actions on themselves.
The origin of the insult comes from the “common knowledge” that lemmings often commit mass suicide when migrating by staying in line, copying the lemming in front of them, who is copying the leader, resulting in all of the herd falling off of cliffs to their demise.
“The Lemming Effect” is a term describing instances where “entire segments of a society […] lose their sense of judgment all at the same time,” according to a post on the website cyclingtips.com
There is just one tiny problem: Lemmings don’t do that. They never have. The misconception is all thanks to Disney. That’s right, the house of mouse is responsible for this rodent myth. The “documentarians” behind the 1958 Disney Nature film White Wilderness were hungry for dramatic footage so they faked it. They pushed dozens of lemmings off a cliff while cameras caught the action. Lemmings are quite good swimmers, so there is a chance that many survived, but the myth of their “natural instinct” to harm themselves was born.
Nuts for Nutella
Now we get into marketing. Nutella is good for you. Nutella is made from the finest hazelnuts in Italy, contains no gluten, and contains skim milk. It tastes great on a sandwich, used as a dip for both fruit and veggies, and can even be used to frost cookies! What’s not to love?
Nutella would have you believe that it’s main ingredient is hazelnut. In truth, the main ingredient is Sugar. A lot of sugar. Rather than a healthy alternative to sugary jams and jellies, Nutella is loaded with calories and fat. To keep people from realizing this, Nutella has been pushing to be qualified as a breakfast topping.
Speaking of breakfast, let’s talk bacon.
Breaking the Bacon
Bacon is bad for you. Really, really, bad for you. 34% of calories that come from consuming bacon come from saturated fat and 30 milligrams of cholesterol. It’s also high in sodium. Some of the other key components of bacon are known to cause cancer. But who cares? Bacon is tasty, right?
So why, if bacon is so bad for you, is it so untouchable?
The pork industry used to have trouble selling the fattier parts of the pig. Then they partnered with fast food giant Hardee’s. Hardee’s introduced the Hardee’s Frisco Breakfast Sandwich and rebranded bacon as the breakfast meat. A series of super ad campaigns ensured bacon became a breakfast mainstay, and bacon never looked back.
Raising in popularity thanks to memes, bacon has become so untouchable that the editor of this blog threatened to delete the whole thing if its author kept this section in. If you’re reading this, the truth won.
The moral, choose healthier alternatives.
Can’t See Carrots
Mothers everywhere have been telling their children that carrots are good for their eyes. First of all, never shove a carrot in your eye. No good will ever come from this. Secondly, this myth comes from the fact that carrots contain Beta Carotene, which your body naturally turns into Vitamin A, which is good for your eyes… but the Vitamin A produced from eating carrots is not enough to impact your eyesight. Make no mistake, carrots are a healthy snack, they just don’t help your eyesight.
Another carrot lie? Baby carrots. There is no such thing as baby carrots, only regular carrots that have been shaved down to a smaller size, bagged, and sold for snackable consumption.
Both the carrot-eye-lie and baby carrots were created by the veggie farming industry for one reason: to boost sales of carrots.
Those Valiant Vitamins
You don’t need vitamin supplements. The whole vitamin industry is built on the idea that your body doesn’t produce enough vitamins and you need more. B Vitamins for focus, A Vitamins for your eyes, and who could forget Vitamin C for fighting the common cold?
The fact is that your body gets most, if not all, of the vitamins it needs by converting the foods you eat. The myth that Vitamins magically solve everything comes from a (mad) genius who won two Nobel Prizes by the name of Linus Pauling. To this day is remembered as one of the greatest scientists ever to have lived. Until his death in 1994, Pauling swore that Vitamins were the answer to every world ailment- even death. We have Pauling to thank for the notion that Vitamin C fights the common cold. It doesn’t. In fact, many of the claims of Pauling regarding Vitamins have been disproven, but not before the multi-billion-dollar Vitamin supplement industry was born.
What About Vitamin Water?
Here’s the thing: If the fact that vitamins supplements don’t really do much for your health isn’t enough to turn you off to spending more on Vitamin “enhanced” water, perhaps these two words will: Sugar Water.
That loaf of bread you threw out with the Orange Juice that was expired so you could replace it with fresher food… that was a huge waste of money. The “Best by” and “Sell by” dates on foods can’t be trusted. Those seldom have any real indication of when food will expire. They exist so that consumers know the exact date that the food product will taste best by, or to tell stores when they need to rotate inventory. The only real way to tell if food has gone bad is to look for signs of spoilage.
Industries Built by Marketing
Before the early 1900’s most men did not shave. This is because shaving required one of two options: the use of a straight razor and could prove to be quite dangerous, or a trip to the barber, which could prove to be quite expensive.
Enter a gentleman by the name of King C. Gillette. Gillette saw the need for a new industry standard and created the first disposable razors in 1901. The idea was simple: simple and safe razors (made from cheap metal) for men that were inexpensive as were the refills… which would need to be replaced very regularly… forever.
What About Women?
In 1914, King C. Gillette realized that women represented an entirely new and untapped market. The only problem is that most women don’t have facial hair.
The solution? Enter “by request” the Milady Decollete Gillette. Gillette created an ad campaign claiming that the “modern” women in Europe stayed clean and fresh by shaving their legs and underarms. The ads implied that hair was an embarrassing personal problem, and the Milady Decollete Gillette was the solution.
Appealing to women’s fashion sense worked. The product was placed in all the trendiest department stores, jewelry stores, and even hardware stores and was available in 14K gold plate finish. Then, Gillette realized they could charge more for razors for women (which were the exact same razors as ones used for men) simply because they were for women (but “the pink tax” is a subject for another blog, another time).
Diamonds Are Not a Girl’s Best Friend.
Diamonds are an ultimate expression of love. The bigger the rock, the bigger the love, right? The glass-cutting stones are valuable because they are rare, right? Well…
What if I told you that the only reason it is tradition to propose to a woman with a diamond ring is that the De Beers company decided you should. The stockpile of most of the worlds rough diamond supply is in the hands of one company: De Beers.
In the late 1800’s De Beers created the most powerful monopoly in the world when they decided that they needed to offload some common rocks that were not selling well thanks to an overflooded market. De Beers bought almost all the South African diamond mines where most of the world’s supply came from. This ultimately gave them control of around 90% of the world’s diamond supply.
Then in the 1930’s, the ad campaigns started. “A Diamond is Forever” became the De Beers tagline and De Beers began convincing women that if their men really loved them, they would spend a month’s salary on the engagement ring.
Some glasses cost more than smartphones. Good pairs of glasses are an investment. You want high quality- long lasting lenses? Be ready to shell out the big bucks. Can't afford to break the bank? Good thing there are more cost-effective alternatives!
Another interesting but hidden monopoly is the company Luxottica. This firm owns 80% of the brands associated with eyeglasses and sunglasses. It also owns the manufacturers, distributors, retail outlets, and most of it’s “competitors”. In fact, when smaller companies try to challenge Luxottica, the Godfather of Glasses simply refuses to stock their products in stores, forcing them to sell online. Once the challenger is almost bankrupt, Luxottica simply swoops in and buys the brand.
This means that most brands- from luxury to low-cost alternatives- are owned by a single company. They control the prices, the supply, and even the alternatives. They simply provide the illusion of choice so that consumers don’t revolt.
The Pledge of Allegiance
Nothing is more patriotic than the Pledge of Allegiance. Place your hand on your heart, face the flag, and state your loyalty… to the flag.
The hidden history is that in 1891 the Pledge was created as a marketing piece for a family magazine called Youth’s Companion to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus coming to America. It was later used to sell American Flags. The Pledge has since become a staple of patriotism and the center of more than a few controversies.
What’s the Message?
The message is to mind the message.
Your company has the power to shape not only its brand, but entire industries and consumer behavior! All you need is the ability to see what others can’t and create a strategy that does what others haven’t!