Advertising, marketing strategies, and campaigns are among the many tools corporate companies use to attract consumers and sell their products. Most of the times, these strategies are benign and a fair means to further their businesses. But, some companies, in order to have an edge over their competitors, try to manipulate consumers and the market by subtly feeding misinformation. The advertisements used to spread the misinformation sometimes become so popular that people find themselves with a false sense of dependence on the products or the companies. Here are some of those things that people believe but are actually myths perpetuated by companies around the world.
1. Myth: The label “genuine leather” is meant to assure the buyers of the leather’s high quality.
Truth: The term does mean the leather used for the product is real, but it is of the lowest quality leather.
Leather products are usually graded according to three levels: genuine leather, top-grain leather, and full-grain leather. Genuine leather belts, shoes, or bags are normally found in malls, department stores, or shops where the prices are low. The leather is actually several layers of low-quality leather glued together and painted to look good. These layers are what’s left when higher-quality leather is stripped away.
Full-grain leather, on the other hand, is top-quality leather with complete grain including all its imperfections and toughness. This leather is used for heavy-duty items such as utility belts and weapon holsters though it is also used in making accessories.
Top-grain leather is mid-range in terms of quality and price and used for making the majority of purses and wallets. It is made after removing the full-grain leather by sanding any imperfections, adding fake grain, then treating and coloring it. Other grades include bonded leather, patent leather, and corrected leather which are also other low-quality leathers made from what’s left after removing good leather. (source)
2. Myth: The food pyramid represents the right quantity of basic food groups we should eat per day for a balanced diet.
Truth: It was altered for the benefit of the food industry and grain growers.
The first food pyramid was published in Sweden in 1974 following the high food prices to give people basic foods that are both cheap and nutritious along with supplemental foods for missing nutrition from basic foods. The pyramid was introduced in the US by the Department of Agriculture in 1992 whose recommendation included carbohydrates that are 50 to 75 percent of the meal.
The food pyramid was heavily criticized for emphasizing consumption of high amounts of carbohydrates and ignoring the importance of healthy fats found in foods such as seafood, nuts, olive oil, and avocados. The USDA was also accused of being influenced by food and agricultural industries, especially milk companies. Milk occupied a very visible position in the pyramid, making people believe more milk should be consumed every day compared to others, while many people are actually lactose intolerant.
In 2005, the food pyramid was modified to MyPyramid which recommended physical activity and decreased grain consumption to 23 percent. In June 2011, a new nutrition guide called MyPlate was introduced and was widely received as an improvement. The new plan recommended a quarter of the plate to contain grains, a quarter to be protein content, and a half to be vegetables and fruits. (source)
3. Myth: VitaminWater is healthy and provides you with extra nutrients.
Truth: It is just flavored sugar-water with 33 grams (128 calories) of sugar, the same as any soft drink, to which synthetic vitamins are added.
Coca Cola’s subsidiary Energy Brands has four mineral water products: Glacéau VitaminWater, SmartWater, VitaminEnergy, and FruitWater. Introduced in 2000, VitaminWater is the most successful of the four and meant to “fill the gap” between soft drinks and water. It was targeted at adults and according to Energy Brands, with fewer calories than soda, VitaminWater both hydrates and nourishes the drinkers with nutrients they might be missing.
In 2008, VitaminWater received the “Shonky” award from an Australian consumer organization called Choice because, despite its claims, “one bottle contains about a third of the recommended daily sugar intake for an average adult woman … and none contains more than 1% fruit juice”. Choice also noted that the label on one flavor blatantly mocked food regulations designed to protect consumers by stating.” In 2011, UK’s Advertising Standards Authority banned VitaminWater’s summer ad that claimed the drink to be “nutritious” which was misleading since the drink contained 23 grams of sugar per 500 milliliters. (1, 2)
4. Myth: You lose your warranty if you break the tamper seal or “warranty void if seal is broken” stickers.
Truth: Under the provision of 1975 Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, it is illegal to impose warranty conditions that forbid consumers from opening or repairing their devices.
The US federal act, which applies to all consumer devices costing more than $15, forbids companies from “tying.” That is, it forbids warranty conditions that “tie” the consumer into using specific authorized services or specific parts for the repair. Tying helps the manufacturers maintain a monopoly on the repair industry as well. According to the executive director of the Repair Association, Gay Gordon-Byrne, these “tying agreements” are not legal and the “manufacturers threaten to do things they cannot do legally, but 99.9 percent of consumers have no idea of their actual rights.”(source)
5. Myth: Using split-end-repairing shampoo and conditioner helps.
Truth: Once split, that part of the hair is permanently damaged and cannot be repaired. Trimming the split ends is the only remedy.
Among the most common reasons for split ends are thermal stress when styling or exposure to sun, chemical stress from excessive application of hair products, or mechanical stress from forcefully combing tangled hair. The stress damages the outer layer of the hair called cuticle, leaving the inner core vulnerable. The damage can be prevented through regular care and maintenance, but once its damaged, despite what several products claim, it’s not possible to repair it back to normal. (1, 2)
6. Myth: Espresso has more caffeine than an average-sized cup of coffee.
Truth: A shot of espresso has 120 to 170 milligrams of caffeine, while a cup of coffee has 150 to 200 milligrams of caffeine.
Espresso is made at very high temperatures and pressure. Very hot water is forced at high pressure through finely ground coffee beans and the process takes a shorter amount of time than the time required for brewed coffee. It also creates a smaller amount of a very intense, thick drink compared to coffee.
Though when measured per ounce, espresso does have more caffeine than a coffee, a typical shot, even a double shot, of espresso, on the whole, has less caffeine than a cup of coffee. In fact, a 16 ounce Starbucks coffee has 330 milligrams of caffeine which is between two to three times that of an espresso shot. (1,2)
7. Myth: You shouldn’t consume canned food if it’s past their expiration date.
Truth: It lasts decades longer than the expiration date and is usually safe for consumption unless the can is damaged or bloated.
Canned foods are mostly packed inside a steel sheet which is then welded shut. The food is also sometimes packed in another layer to keep it from coming into contact with the metal to avoid that tin-ish flavor. When sealed from the outer environment, the food is mostly safe and the cans can withstand a fair amount of wear and tear.
According to USDA, unless the can is bulging, rusting, leaking, deeply dented, or in any way damaged, whatever is inside is safe to consume even if it’s past the expiration date—with the exception of baby formula since it’s better to be safe than sorry. Another criterion is that the cans should be stored at comfortable room temperature and shouldn’t be frozen or exposed to heat. (source)
8. Myth: Mattresses need to be replaced every eight years.
Truth: With good care, they can last much longer and can be used as long as they are comfortable.
Among the various reasons why mattresses should be replaced after a few years are the accumulation of dust, sweat, and dust mites that live off the skin you shed while sleeping resulting in allergies in some. According to one myth, a mattress doubles in weight after eight years because of it.
Using mattress covers, washing the sheets and pillow covers in hot water regularly, and flipping or rotating the mattress to ensure even wear are some of the things that could ensure longer life. Investing in a good mattress could also help in the long run, though it is not necessary to buy over-the-top, expensive ones. (source)
9. Myth: Detox diets and body cleansing products help cleanse the body of toxins.
Truth: Detoxification and cleansing diets have no scientific basis and were abandoned by mainstream medicine in the 20th century.
Detox and cleansing diets usually include fasting or intake of limited food items and consuming high-fiber foods and juices. Such a diet is believed to flush out unnecessary things that are believed to cause nonspecific ill-health from the body such as food coloring, artificial flavors, pesticides, preservatives, and heavy metals such as mercury from contaminated fish or dental fillings.
The idea that our body is not efficient enough to detox spread during the 1830s, but by early 20th century, it fell out of favor only to be revived again in 1970s as part of alternative medicine. A detox diet is heavily criticized by toxicologists, doctors, and scientists alike.
According to the British Dietetic Association (BDA), “the body is a well-developed system that has its own built-in mechanisms to detoxify and remove waste and toxins.” Professor and toxicologist Alan Boobis from Imperial College London stated that “the body’s own detoxification systems are remarkably sophisticated and versatile.”
Though fasting for one day is unlikely to cause any serious damage to the body, doing it for a long time can result in serious health problems. A healthy, balanced diet is what the body needs to stay nourished and clean. (source)
10. Myth: Diamonds are rare and expensive. An engagement ring should cost three months’ salary.
Truth: Diamonds are neither rare nor valuable. The notion was perpetuated by DeBeers as part of a marketing campaign to sell more engagement rings.
Through the 20th century, De Beers used its dominant position to manipulate the consumer with advertising and also to manipulate the market with a diamond monopoly. One of its most effective marketing strategies was presenting the diamonds as a symbol of love and commitment. Its famous slogan “A Diamond is Forever” coined by a young copywriter in 1947, was named the best advertising slogan of the century.
De Beers also created other successful campaigns like the “eternity ring” to symbolize continuing affection and appreciation, the “trilogy ring” to represent the past, present, and future of a relationship, and the “right-hand ring” to symbolize a woman’s independence.
It also tried to monopolize the diamond market by convincing independent producers to join, and when that didn’t work, it flooded the market with diamonds similar to those produced by them. It bought and stocked diamonds from other manufacturers to limit supply and control pricing. (source)