Tag Archives: Marketing

(taken from wikipedia)

"A lie, Mr. Mulder, is most convincingly hidden between two truths."

-Deep Throat, The X-files

It's Sunday morning and you're awoken by sunlight streaming through your shades.  Groggily, you reach over for your phone to check the time.

...

Revision: it's Sunday afternoon.  You had a pretty hard night - even if you didn't remember exactly how much you drank, your inability to stand up without stumbling would have reminded you.  That's what happens when it's nickel shot night at O'Halligan's.

Your head is killing you and walking is proving quite difficult.  Do you:

  • A) Find the nearest Waffle House, stat
  • B) Take some advil and settle in to watch The Princess Bride for the millionth time
  • C) Salt the shit out of two scrambled eggs and wash it down with a Diet Coke (that was my tactic, anyway)
  • D) Grab some Vitamin Water then go about your day bright-eyed and bushy-tailed

Haha, Amish people!  That's so random and edgy Vitamin Water, you totally get me.

Well, this commercial would lead you to believe that 'D' is the best option.  Here are the claims made in this commercial.  The first two are stated explicitly, while the last is implicit - meaning they never actually say this, but it is glaringly obvious from the commercial.

  1. Vitamin Water Revive has B vitamins and potassium
  2. Vitamin Water Revive will re-hydrate you
  3. Vitamin Water Revive will relieve hangovers

Let's look at these claims more in-depth:

Vitamin Water Revive has B Vitamins and Potassium

VitaminWaterConfused

By 120 I mean 125.  If you know the reason behind the differences here, let me know!

This is true.  It DOES have these things.  However, in trying to find exactly how much, I came across some confusion in the actual nutrition label on Vitamin Water and what their website says.  It's possible this nutrition label information is out of date.

However, you shouldn't stop questioning there.  The next question you need to ask is:

Why does it matter that this product has B vitamins and potassium?

In the context of normal day-to-day life, it doesn't matter.  If you're not vegetarian, you're likely not deficient in any B vitamins.  If you're not competing or training in endurance sports or suffering from diarrhea, you're likely not deficient in potassium.  These are rare conditions.

So, if you're suffering from a hangover, does that change things?  We'll go over that in our last point.

Vitamin Water will re-hydrate you

Well, the first ingredient in Vitamin Water is - you guessed it - water.  (Right before the second ingredient - sugar.  Mmmm it's like hydration candy, delicious!)

Delicious hydration candy. Just look at all dat sugar. (taken from brobility.com)

So yeah, if you're dehydrated, Vitamin Water can help re-hydrate you.  So could tap water, or diet coke, or Gatorade, or tea, or broth...you get the idea.

Vitamin Water will relieve hangovers

Well, this is where we're getting into bullshit territory.  You would think that given humanity's long history of enjoying getting hammered, we'd understand hangovers better. Unfortunately, we don't have a strong grasp on exactly why they happen.

Home remedies abound however, usually consisting of some kind of salty food and water to 're-hydrate' you.  We all know that dehydration is the real cause of hangovers, right?

Well, it doesn't seem to be that easy.  Many hangover cures have been tried and found wanting.  (1, 2, 3) Dehydration only seems to account for a small fraction of symptoms, such as dry mouth.

But, that's not really my point.  This isn't an article about hangover cures.

My point was to draw your attention to one of many health and fitness marketing tactics: hiding the bullshit between some non-bullshit.  You can find examples all over the place.  Often you'll see this in nutrition products or supplements:

But you can also find it in different fitness routines:

SpotTheBullshit

I encourage you to go to the full website for hilarious explanations of the benefits of various yoga poses.

In this case you have one realistic claim and two bullshit ones.  A warm muscle is easier to stretch (4), detoxification is bullshit, and it's doubtful that a hot environment would increase cardiovascular benefits. (5 - an ACE sponsored study that I couldn't find in any database so take it with a grain of salt.  Here's a different study showing benefits of training in heat...but it's with cyclists, who undoubtedly have a much different adaptation to their training the hot yogis.)

Or in fitness products, like the Sketcher's "Shape Up" shoes (I encourage you to watch this video and look for the numerous questionable promises), which claim to:

  1. Maximize calorie burn
  2. Improve circulation
  3. Strengthen muscles

While Shape-Ups (or literally any other footwear...or just your bare feet) could improve circulation and strengthen muscles - due to the fact that you are exercising while wearing them - they do not significantly change the amount of calories you burn performing a particular exercise.  But it's easy to glance over that when you're watching an entire infomercial, isn't it?

Moral

Beware of the many claims put forth in advertisements and promotions of health and fitness products.  It may be true that a protein powder helps build lean muscle and keep you full, but it probably doesn't keep your blood sugar levels steady or promote alert thinking while somehow at the same time reducing anxiety.

Take every claim one at a time.  Many times the real benefits are just the benefits you'd get from eating any kind of food, or doing any kind of exercise, then with your defenses lowered they hit you with a bogus, too-good-to-be-true claim.  More than likely you'll take it.

Trust no advertisement.  That should have been Deep Throat's advice in the X-files.  Perhaps not as pertinent to Mulder, though.

 

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Just a quick little post today about "trigger" words used to grab our attention.

I've spent the past 3 months collecting keywords on the covers of several popular men's and women's magazines, most with a focus on fitness.  Here's what really matters to us, according to marketing:

MagazineCoversWomen

I'll bet you can guess which is which.

MagazineCoversMen

A couple of interesting things about magazine covers,

  1. Men's magazines used the word "sex" ONCE. ONE TIME. TOTAL. As you can see, women's magazines were WAY more obsessed with all derivatives of the word.
  2. Men's magazines in general used about 1/2 as many words as women. Don't really know how to read into that one.

An additional observation was that the models on the covers for men's magazines were predominantly athletes or former athletes with a few actors or performers in the mix. Women's magazines had ONE athlete on the cover (Maria Sharapova), the rest were models, actresses and singers. Find information about sexual booster at 10naturalhomeremedies.

Once again, we come back to a pivotal questions: Are marketers simply giving us what we want, or are we being force-fed these desires?

I'm going to take a stab at this and say it's a little bit of both.  Here are a few things that are innate in human nature:

  • Desire for sex, and thus to be sexually appealing.
  • High social status, to be on level with or above our peers.
  • Safety for ourselves and our friends and family.
  • To quickly understand and organize the world around us.

Marketers didn't need to make any of these up - most everyone is born with these desires.   Where they come in is evident in the keywords:

  • Sex appeal for men equals having lots of muscle, low body-fat and to a smaller extent strength.  Sex appeal for women equals being as small as possible with very little muscle (but not NO muscle), minimizing signs of aging such as wrinkles, cellulite or thinning / dull hair.  These are by far the most popular terms used above.
  • Social status means owning expensive things, having an advanced career or having stronger 'willpower,' 'work ethic' or knowing things your peers don't which manifests itself in a 'better' body than they have.  (Recall I'm focusing on the health and fitness industry here.  Obviously for different subjects this will manifest in other ways)
  • Safety for ourselves, friends and family is signaled with claims to prevent cancer, prevent obesity-related diseases and being overall highly concerned about health.
  • A quick and easy understanding of the world is shown through words like "secrets," "quickly," "by tonight," "easy," "slash," etc.  These are the most commonly used words behind those for sex appeal.

So what can we learn from this?  Well here are my takeaways:

  1. Sex appeal can mean so many different things to humans.  Our brains can be much more complex than "skinny waist and big boobs," despite what many an internet troll will tell you.  A potential mate's desire to have sex with you is not always derived from how conventionally "sexy" you are.  But damn if it isn't easy to sell something if you assure someone it will boost their appeal to potential mates.  This also ties into a desire for a quick and easy understanding of the world.  No cellulite = sex!  Big muscles = sex!  IT'S THAT EASY!
  2. Who gives a shit about how wealthy or perfect your peers perceive you to be?  Yoga pants are yoga pants, ice cubs are ice cubes.  You know who you are.  I know, that's not a very helpful or scientific observation, but I'm not going to claim to be an expert on our desire for social standing.  Someone else out there has probably written something much more insightful.  If you know of any, let me know and I'll link it here.
  3. Exploiting this desire is one of my least favorite tactics.  I know, cancer is brutal, terrifying and unfair.  Its existence causes us pain, fear and anxiety for good reason.  But how much does the latest article (about how in an observational study based on self-completed questionnaires, researchers found a small correlation between diet coke consumption and breast cancer) ACTUALLY help?  Does it REALLY deserve the title "The SECRET Big Pharma doesn't want you to know about stopping cancer in its tracks!" or "Ground-breaking new study finds potential cure for cancer!" ?  NO.  THIS HELPS NO ONE.
  4. Us humans are fantastic at identifying patterns.  Unfortunately, when we see a pattern we also automatically assume it means something significant.  So we read about a study that says obesity rates have increased as carbohydrate intake has increased - and now that you think about it, you really don't eat very much meat, just a lot of bread and candy.  The brain sees these threads and leads you to conclude carbohydrates = fat.  Unfortunately it missed the part where you and the public at large were just increasing your overall caloric intake.  Whoops.

Anyway, that's a little bit of a rant from me today.  Hope you found those keywords as interesting as I did!  I may try to keep this up for a year - I think that would give a better perspective.

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Sometimes a good rant involves more than a mere 1,000 word blog post.

Now, I've made plenty of those, don't get me wrong.  But I've been thinking for a while that I'd like to compile all the fitness-industry ranting in my head and put it in one neat package.  I've been doing a not-really-consistent semi-weekly series on my facebook page called "Let's Sharpen Our Bullshit Detectors!" where what usually happens is I stumble upon some particularly offending health or fitness article and dissect it for everyone's viewing pleasure.

Since they usually go pretty well, I've been planning out a short book that goes through how we can protect ourselves from all the bullshit that gets thrown at us on a day to day basis.  It will come from the perspective of the health and fitness industry (since that's what people come here to read about, and it's also my favorite subject), but you should be able to take away tools and tips to apply towards anything.

Topics that I plan on going over include:

  • The importance of skeptical thinking
  • How to read a scientific paper even when most of the jargon goes way over your head
  • Common tactics used by marketers in the health and fitness industry
  • How to improve your own critical thinking skills
  • Becoming an intelligent, rather than an emotional consumer

Here's an excerpt I've got written so far.  I'm still not sure if I'm going to make this into a series of posts or one short ebook.  Either way, I'm pretty pumped about the content and hope that you all get something fun and interesting out of it.  Drop me a comment below if you have any feedback or if there's anything in particular you'd like to have covered!

_____________________________________________________________

The internet lets marketers get pretty creative when it comes to making money. In this particular example, it really looks like that is all they care about. I want you to take a note of the actual CONTENT to ADVERTISING ratio here:

Exhibit1

#1 – Slideshows

You may have noticed lately many of your favorite websites use a “slideshow” format. If you're like me, you find this very annoying. But websites do this for one main reason: more page clicks. The more viewers it appears that it has, the more money it can get from advertisers, the more people will be willing to affiliate with them and the more likely they'll be able to enter into lucrative sponsorship deals.

This also affords them the opportunity to insert in more advertisements. If you only had to view one or two pages to get all your information about 'weight loss superfoods' (or whatever the hell) instead of 29 pages, there is much less page real estate to sell. If you have to click through to a new page 29 times – and maybe even insert a full-page ad around click number 16 – that's a lot more opportunity to sell you crap. Sometimes when I get tired of all these techniques I just look for some easy and understandable advertising. Here is a car covered with Denver truck wraps, and these is no need to look for some further info. All is clear at first sight. 

#2 – Strong headlines

The stronger the headline, the bolder the claim, the more likely you will be to actually click through all 29 pages. More page clicks = more money. If the headline was something more realistic, such as “A few nutrient-dense foods that, eaten in combination with an exercise plan and reasonable-calorie diet, may promote weight loss,” there is a real good chance you won't care enough to muck your way through all 29 pages of advertisement opportunity.

#3 – Do Our Advertising For Us

Didn't you just love this article? Share it with all of your friends who may have missed it so that we can get more page clicks.”

Now, this isn't a bad thing. If you love an article, a product, a particular group, sharing is a great way to help them continue to do whatever it is they do. But just recognize that is what you're doing – and always be aware of what you're sharing.

If you clicked to share this article, what are you really promoting? Did you actually get a lot of useful information out of the slideshow? (Did you actually make it all the way through?) Do you support whatever Health's general mission statement is? Do you want to look like the kind of person who is into being really healthy, and the best way you can do that is showing everyone on facebook how much you love “superfoods”? Before you click, think about these things.

Be a knowledgeable consumer, not an emotional one.

#4 – Seriously, click through to the next page. And share us on facebook.

Having multiple opportunities to share / stay on the website increases your chance of doing so. This leads to more page views for Health.

#5 – Did we mention we're on facebook? And twitter? And pinterest? And instagram?

Following Health on one or more leads to more page views.

#6 – Other links in the same category

The vast majority of blogs do this. If you label a post as a certain category, such as “nutrition,” you can have a list at the bottom or the side that shows other past posts from you under “nutrition.” They already know you're interested in it, so you'll be more likely to continue clicking through the website. More page views = more money.

#7 – Affiliate programs

Affiliate programs are a popular way for bloggers to make money. Amazon has a very large affiliate program, and in the fitness world it's not hard to find a product or program to affiliate with. Again, there is nothing inherently wrong with this, but it is good to know as a consumer that Health would make money if you purchased that product.

#8 – Paid Advertisements

I don't think I would have thought to make that tiny space an advertising spot. I guess that's why I'm not in marketing!

These are the straight-forward ads. The company or group directly gives Health money for page real estate. Simple!

#9 – Beware the “free”

Here is why Health wants to give you free stuff:

  • So that you sign up for 2 free issues of the magazine which requires your credit card information, thinking that you'll just use them and leave once you get your free stuff.
  • But then you actually just forget and end up paying $50 before you even remember you didn't want the magazine in the first place.

Conclusion

Just look at the content to advertising ratio on this page. You get 2 paragraphs with nothing but buzzwords in return for 9 opportunities to give Health money. And if you think that's only because it was the introduction page, here is the next slide:

Exhibit1b

Oh, a paragraph devoid of anything substantial followed by a link to a recipe on your website? How long you must have spent researching this piece! What a cornucopia of value for me!