If you don’t think you are being lied to by advertising/marketing firms—as well as the companies they represent—I actually have a bridge I would very much like to sell to you.
Personally, I can think of only about three products that ever worked exactly as well as advertised. I once started drinking Diet Coke (instead of regular Coke, which I had been drinking up to that point) in order to help lose weight, however; it only worked in the vague sort of sense that I didn’t gain any weight as a result of sugar—sugar that the beverage definitely didn’t contain. The diet soda might not have helped me, though. It may have hurt!
An international study suggests that drinking artificial sweeteners may actually lead to belly fat. People that drink them tend to have a higher BMI, or Body Mass Index. Oh, and according to the study, they may be at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
On a mostly unrelated note, sales of the 35-year-old beverage ‘Diet Coke’ haven’t been so good lately, which is why the beverage company just rebranded the product and started offering the popular drink in several new flavors.
So, based on my personal anecdote, you should accept now that you’re being lied to by the products you purchase and the marketing firms that work hard to make sure you spend your hard earned money on the aforementioned products. In case you need a little more proof, here are 10 examples of how you are being lied to.
1. Companies want you to believe that numbers actually mean anything at all
If you’re programming a video game or launching a satellite, numbers mean a lot. If you’re in marketing? Eh, not so much. It has been said that statistics don’t lie, but it has also been said that liars—unfortunately—use statistics; and people in marketing can and do lie to you.
The long and short of it is that there’s a lot of cherry picking going on when claims are made about what percent of people prefer a certain brand of whatever compared to the product’s competitors. It is really all about the number of people involved in the study or survey.
Sure, it may be claimed that four out of five doctors prefer a certain kind of gum, which kind of suggests that 80 percent of doctors prefer that gum; however, if only six doctors were interviewed by the marketer about their gum preference, that statistic isn’t exactly significant.
2. Companies want you to believe that their products look like they do in advertisements
Much like the people who you’ll meet for dinner after seeing their profile pictures on dating sites, the products you buy often don’t look like the products you see on television, in magazines, and on the internet. This is especially true of food. Yes, while it is technically required by law in many countries to use actual food in advertisements for the product being sold, there’s no law against photographers making the food look better via airbrushing and other tricks of the trade.
Basically, if you’re buying food and expecting it to look like it did in an advertisement, you’re going to be as let down as the woman going on the date with the guy she met online with the airbrushed photo and who claims to have a body like Brad Pitt did back in his heyday.
3. Advertisers expect you to believe that products do as they say
We’ve all seen advertisements for those creams and moisturizers that can take 10 years or more worth of wrinkles off of your face. They might take off a year or two, especially if you naturally tend to have very dry skin, but 10 years? Good luck with that, friend!
I can’t even count the number of products I’ve bought that didn’t exactly do what was promised; it would probably be easier to count the number of products that actually did work as promised.
Ripping people off is unethical, certainly, but when companies are toying with your health in order to make a buck? That’s crossing the line from unethical to kind of evil, really! Hand sanitizers, for example, tend to be marketed as a magic product that kills every germ that ever was or ever could be. They do not, in fact, kill all types of germs.
Also, if you’re worried about bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics, which you probably should be, hand sanitizer may be contributing to that. A recent also study links regular use of the stuff to outbreaks of the always unpleasant norovirus infection.
4. Advertisers want you believe that the so-called experts know anything at all and can always be believed
If you’re anything like me, you have that one doctor who should probably go back to school for a couple of years to ‘brush up’ on his or her medical knowledge.
Doctors are not infallible—and neither are dentists, engineers, lawyers, actors, or members of the United States House of Representatives.
However, marketing companies really want us to believe that certain people—like doctors—are right all of the time. Conveniently, the marketers and advertisers ignore the fact that doctors used to drill holes in people’s skulls to release foul demons and other evil spirits.
More recently, a drug company got in hot water for bribing doctors; why would they do such a thing, you wonder? To recommend its products, of course!
Also, doctors used to peddle cigarettes in magazines.
Personally, I find an unfiltered menthol to be a great remedy for the common intestinal illness. Thanks for the great advice, doc!
5. Advertisers want you to believe there is one definition of ‘quality’
The idea of quality is extremely subjective. For example, in the EU, Coors Lite is an imported beer, and everyone knows imported beer is better, right? There’s nothing wrong with Coors Lite at all, but few in the United States would consider it a truly quality beer. We reserve that label for beers that come from Europe and cost two dollars more than the domestic beer we’re buying during happy hour at our favorite watering hole.
The bottom line is that if we’re told a product is quality by marketers, we’ll believe it is quality and therefore superior to the product we might otherwise buy. Studies have shown that wine drinkers tend to prefer more expensive bottles of wine to cheaper ones, even if the actual wine in the cheaper bottle is in no way different than the one in the expensive bottle.
Personally, I’m probably more likely to feel confident in a $40 dollar t-shirt than I would in one that cost only $20, even if the two t-shirts aren’t noticeably different in any way. Because the more expensive t-shirt cost me more, I am just hard-wired to believe it is better!
6. Advertisers expect you to believe words means anything at all in this day and age
Words like “deluxe” and “premium” really don’t mean anything when it comes to products. If you were on a date and the waiter offered your date the “water” or the “water deluxe”, wouldn’t you insist on that date ordering the “water deluxe”? That is, assuming, you ever wanted to see that person again after the date?
As we’ve mentioned, even terms like ‘diet’ may not necessarily mean a product is healthier for you; those who drink ‘diet’ beverages tend to have a higher level of abdominal fat than those who do not consume them. Abdominal fat is, by the way, terribly bad for you, as it is linked to unpleasant things like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The diet sodas may not be bad for you, per se, calorie wise; however, they may activate your brain in such a way that you end up ingesting more calories in the long run than you actually want to. It all has to do with the fact you’re not actually consuming the energy that your brain and body have been tricked into thinking was consumed.
Also, “light” potato chips and “light” beer—if consumed in excess—will both still lead to a heart attack and liver failure, respectively.
There are few—if any—good things of which you can’t have too much. That’s just the sad state of being a human being.
7. Identity marketing tricks you into believing the products you consume define you
Let’s be honest here: if you believe the products you consume define who you are as a person, you might need a little bit of professional psychological help.
Those in the advertising/marketing game, however, kind of count on you to choose a brand and make it a part of who you are as a person. Just think about all of the silly rivalries between competing products of which you’re aware. If you’re a video game player these days, you’re likely either an XBOX fan or a PlayStation Fan. Maybe you genuinely like Nintendo, and if you admit that on social media you’ll be called either a child or old. Of course, PC gamers pretty much seem to loathe anyone who uses—gosh—a console to play video games. Perish the thought! Consoles are so underpowered, don’t you know?
Of course, there’s the whole Pepsi v. Coca-Cola debate, which will likely exist until the end of time. You’re either a Pepsi drinker or a Coke drinker. Believe it or not, there was once actually a survey that erroneously suggested that Pepsi drinkers were more likely than Coca-Cola drinkers to be uneducated. Just so we’re clear: the study had absolutely no merit at all. Pepsi is fine.
8. The Companies with well-known brands want you to believe their products are better
You have to wonder, at times, why certain brands have become as successful as they are. Well, it might have to do with the fact that a small handful of companies—all of which have a ton of money—own most of the products you use and consume on a daily basis. But that’s a different conversation for a different day!
In case you’re unaware, there is a company called Unilever that sells products in roughly 190 countries. Brands include Ben & Jerry’s, Tresemme, Slimfast, Axe, and Lipton. Also, you would be shocked to learn how many brands the Pepsi Corporation owns!
Did you know that Coke owns Dasani? Kind of weird, right?
The important thing to note here is that cola generally tastes like cola, and potato chips generally taste like potato chips. In fact, I could name one “off-brand” soda that actually tastes loads better than the product it is blatantly ripping off. It also costs about half as much. I personally can’t tell the difference between a coffee from Starbucks and the stuff I make in my Keurig.
Bottom line: numerous studies have shown that people really can’t differentiate between cheap knockoff products and the alternatives offered by well-known brands (which are usually more expensive).
If you think you can, you’re probably lying to yourself.
9. Spending money makes you happy, according to advertisers
If you’re anything like me, you don’t believe money can make you happy. Not having it can make you miserable—of course—but just having a ton of it really won’t do anything for your mood. Right?
With money comes the ability to purchase things, however, and that’s what advertisers really want you to do with any money you might have—to the point they actively try to suggest that you will be happier if you have more stuff. Turns out that’s absolutely not the case.
Studies have shown that our intense consumer culture has actually been linked with children’s poor mental health. Even worse, one study linked negative self-image as well as the unrealistic expectations of children to advertisements.
10. The advertisers want you to think choice is always a good thing
Choice is probably a good thing in a lot of cases; if—for whatever reason—you only have one choice when it comes to your life partner, you might end up with a person with whom you are wholly incompatible, which means your life will end up just terrible.
However, legitimate studies have shown that too many choices actually stresses people out, to the point the choices cause anxiety. One of the aforementioned studies involved speed dating, and apparently people were happier when they had a smaller selection of potential mates to choose from. The larger pool actually caused them stress. You would think people prefer options when it comes to who they’ll share a bed with for 40 years or more, but apparently not!
So—should I get the XBOX or the Playstation? Should I buy the Coca-Cola or the Pepsi or the weird off-brand cola that costs a dollar less?
These are the sort of questions that—again, studies have proven choices create stress—have apparently made the human race a bit nuts and will likely do so for a long, long time to come.