12 Marketing Lies Advertisers Use to Manipulate Consumers

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Marketing is the place to sell and usually becomes a pool of lies. Sometimes, marketers happen to cross the line and use a lie, deception, or even exaggeration to detail their claims. Here are 12 examples of marketing lies, what advertisers said to people, and how this was revealed or punished.

1. Listerine: “Cures A Common Cold”

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Listerine is a famous mouthwash brand that guarantees the killing of germs and the elimination of bad breath. However, during the 1920s, it was also advertised as the cure for the common cold and sore throat. The advertisements showed people gargling, spraying, and spreading on Listerine. The company even coined the term “halitosis” to make bad breath sound like a medical condition that required Listerine. There was no medical proof behind such claims, and in 1976, the FTC ordered the company to stop making them.

2. Volkswagen: “Clean Diesel”

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Volkswagen is one of the car manufacturers from Germany and an engineering masterstroke with sheer innovation. However, in 2015, allegations came forward stating that the company cheated on its emissions tests for its diesel vehicles. The company had put in software that detected this, lowering the emissions to acceptable levels whenever the cars were being tested. The car emitted 40 times higher nitrogen oxides than allowed on the road. The scandal cost the company billions of dollars in fines, lawsuits, and recalls and damaged its reputation and trust.

3. Kellogg’s: “Improves Kids’ Attentiveness”

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Kellogg’s is among these large brands in the cereal market that markets its products such as healthy and nourishing. However, in 2009, this product grabbed headlines when the FTC accused it of lying to customers about its Frosted Mini-Wheats. The cereal was advertised with the slogan “clinically shown to improve kids’ attentiveness by nearly 20%”. The study that the company quoted, however, was flimsy and misleading. It compared the cereal only with water and not with other breakfast foods. And the actual improvement in attentiveness was only 11 percent, not 20%.

4. Red Bull: “Gives You Wings”

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Red Bull is a popular energy drink that says it increases your energy and performance. Its slogan, “Red Bull gives you wings,” is widely known and catchy. Nevertheless 2014, a class action lawsuit for false advertising took the company to court. The lawsuit alleged energy drinks could not give anyone wings or improve attention, reaction speed, or even performance during athletic exercises.

5. Airborne: “Prevents Colds”

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Airborne is a dietary supplement claimed to enhance one’s immunity and prevent one from catching any cold. The product was developed by an idealistic teacher who allegedly never fell ill. Advertisements of Airborne were presented in the form of testimonials from celebrities and ordinary other Americans of commendations that the product received. In 2008, the FTC and 32 state attorneys general sued the company over false and unsubstantiated claims.

6. Skechers: “Shapes Up Your Body”

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Skechers is a company that manufactures shoes for different uses and appearances. However, it faced legal charges from the FTC in 2012 for making deceptive claims about its Shape-Up shoes. The adverts indicated that wearing these shoes could lose weight, tone their muscles, and improve posture. The commercials featured celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Brooke Burke, who supported the product. Nevertheless, the FTC clarified that the firm had no credible proof to support this claim.

7. Activia: “Regulates Your Digestive System”

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Activia is a brand of yogurt that purports to have probiotics that help balance your digestive system. The commercials stated that taking Activia every day for two weeks would lessen bloating, constipation, and irregularity in digestion. However, this resulted in a class action suit against the company for false advertising. The plaintiffs alleged that there was no difference between this yogurt and other regular yogurt, and Snapple inflated the health benefits of its probiotic amount.

8. Snapple: “Made From The Best Stuff On Earth”

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Snapple is a drink brand with teas, juices, and flavored drinks as its products. Its slogan, “Made from the best stuff on Earth,” suggests that these items are organic and good for health. Nonetheless, Snapple was sued by a class action suit in 2009 for deceiving advertisements.

9. Olay: “Visibly Reduces Wrinkles”

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Olay is a skincare brand that markets various products for different types of skin and for different skin problems. One of them is Regenerist, which claims to help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and visibly improve skin texture. Pictures of women who used this product were printed on billboards, buses, and magazine covers to show how they looked younger and smoother after using the cream. However, in 2009, it was discovered that one of the models used in the adverts, Twiggy, had her wrinkles removed by digital manipulation. Thus, the UK Advertising Standards Authority banned these ads for being inaccurate and sensational.

10. Head & Shoulders: “Endorsed By Dermatologists”

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Head & Shoulders is a shampoo brand that claims to fight dandruff and keep your scalp healthy. In their advertisements, dermatologists recommended it as one of their top choices in hair care products. Some TVCs featured medical practitioners who advised patients to purchase this particular product. Then, its class action lawsuits alleged false advertising against it. They said the company did not have any endorsement from dermatologists as claimed but paid doctors to appear in ads.

11. Coca-Cola: “Boosts Metabolism”

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Coca-Cola is a global soft drink giant selling different beverages, such as sodas, juices, and water. Enviga claims to boost metabolic rate in its product line, resulting in calorie burning. However, it was taken to court by the FTC and 27 state AGs for false advertising. The FTC stated that the company did not have a sound scientific basis for believing the drink could increase metabolism or burn calories.

12. Nutella: “Part Of A Balanced Breakfast.”

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Nutella is a children’s and adult’s favorite chocolate hazelnut spread. As the advertisement asserted, Nutella was good for a balanced breakfast regarding energy and nutrients. The commercials showed Nutella being eaten with toast, waffles, or pancakes by happy families. Nonetheless, it was sued for false advertising through a class action lawsuit. Nutella plaintiffs claimed it had high sugar and fat levels, making it unhealthy as a breakfast option.