6 Simple Products That Advertisers Pretend Are Complicated
Nobody is ever going to improve the fork. It does its job perfectly, they nailed it the first time around. But if you are a company that manufactures some rock-simple product, the fact that there is no room left for innovation makes advertising a nightmare. Soap is soap. What else is there to say about it? How do you make people buy yours instead of your competitor's?
With a torrent of technical-sounding bullshit, that's how.
Toothbrushes and Toothpaste
Toothpaste commercials always like to make it sound like your teeth are ticking time bombs that could explode at any moment and take out you and everyone you love. Like this one, in which a fake scientist confronts a woman in a mall using the worst pickup line we've ever heard: "Good morning, did you know that your mouth is under attack right now?"
The scientist's high-tech mouth-scanning wand reveals her greatest fear -- her teeth are positively caked with maximum bacteria density, even though she brushes every morning. Her regular, non-super-powered toothpaste just doesn't do a damn thing.
"I'm afraid you have four weeks to live. I'm so sorry."
Colgate's mortal enemy, Crest, also provides a sciency demonstration showing that only their toothpaste can reach the deadly bacteria under your gums. You don't even have to brush! Just hold the toothbrush close to your mouth and a wave of white science will do the rest.
Everyone calm down! It's not real! It's only a dramatization!
This Oral-B ad avoids lame special effects, but it reminds you that choosing a toothbrush is literally the hardest thing you'll ever have to do, so it's lucky that virtually all dentists will tell you to pick up an Oral-B, otherwise you may as well be brushing with your own dick. But does it really have to be this hard?
Not according to this study, where dental health experts concluded that as long as your toothpaste contains fluoride and powdered calcium (and basically all of them do), your teeth are going to be just fine. And what about that claim that four out of five dentists think you should use an Oral-B toothbrush? When some researchers did a poll, they found that most dentists don't think there's any significant difference, with 62 percent saying that it's not about what you have, but how you use it.
That's right -- there is no brush advanced enough that it will save you from learning proper brushing technique and then, most importantly, remembering to actually do it.
Not so long ago, men removed their excess facial hair with a single-blade cutthroat razor, or if they were jungle commandos, a Bowie knife. Then safety razors became popular around World War I -- they had a simple handle with a small angled blade at the end that made it much harder to slice open an artery before breakfast.
"I can feel death's embrace ..."
It was a fantastic invention, and there wasn't much that could be improved upon in the design -- it's a razor blade attached to a stick, and it does what it's supposed to do. When it comes to innovation, razors are more like toothpicks than cars.
But that hasn't stopped Gillette from spending a century trying to find ways to convince consumers that each new version of the razor-on-a-stick is a game changer. For instance, in 1999, they punched the days of low-tech shaving right in the dick by inventing the Mach 3, a shaving experience so advanced that your clothing will literally explode off your body:
But there was no way they could stop there. For 21st century stubble, three blades isn't anywhere near enough. You might as well just try to slap that beard off. That's why Gillette spent eight years and earned 20 patents designing the Gillette Fusion, a five-blade razor that made the Mach 3 look like a giant piece of shit.
According to Gillette, their team of engineers engaged in "intensive laboratory and clinical research" and "thousands of test shaves" to bring us this Manhattan Project of razors. Apparently, the result was two more blades!
But this shit ain't done. In 2011, they introduced an "advanced, low-resistance coating," a "blade stabilizer," "lubricating polymers," and all sorts of other wonders, complete with a technical video that explains what all this stuff does. So why are these guys building razors and not working for NASA?
"Gillette -- for men who like to shave blind while creating extra crevices by smiling obliviously."
Because none of it does shit. According to consumer studies, not only is there no practical difference between the various Gillette razors, but people can't even spot the differences between brands, even if they come equipped with warp drives and flux capacitors. In 2005, a judge forced the company to retract some claims from their advertising, ruling that they ranged from "greatly exaggerated" to "literally false."
It's not that their razors don't work. They work great. They worked great in 1975. They just can't admit that they nailed the design back during the Wilson administration.
"Take it from me, Smoothcheek Wilson -- Gillette is sweet as a mothafucka."
Unless you're bald (or a hippie), shampoo is a daily essential. But with a billion brands out there, how do you even enter the shampoo aisle without collapsing into a fetal position? After all, isn't that shit just soap for your hair? How can there be ten thousand meaningful variations on that concept?
Organic shampoo. Picked straight from the shampoo bushes of the local shampoo farms.
Well, advertisers have been taking advantage of the confusion since the '50s -- this early ad said that its shampoo cleaned your hair with "floating action" and came in a bottle designed by a doctor, as though that's important. It also bragged about how much lather it produced, a claim you may recognize from every shampoo ad ever. And no, lather actually has nothing to do with the cleansing process -- it's only there because we expect it.
Other shampoo ads have long claimed that their detergent will be gentle, while its competitors will violently tear through your follicles like wildfire and leave second-degree burns on your scalp. In reality, detergent is the active ingredient in every shampoo made since the 1930s, so unless you're trying to add some shine to your retinas, there's never going to be enough present to hurt.
"I CAN FEEL IT BURNING INTO MY THOUGHTS!"
As a last resort, shampoo makers started going wild with the razor strategy of pouring on the meaningless technobabble. Like in this commercial for shampoo with a "pro-vitamin formula that actually strengthens your hair from inside!" In 2011, Garnier Fructis bragged about its "antioxidant fruit extracts" that were "proven to be four times healthier." If you read the fine print that flashes by, you'll see that the claim was proven ... when compared to a shampoo that doesn't contain a conditioner, which nearly all shampoos do. That's like saying your car stereo is way better when compared to a bicycle.
A recent commercial from Head & Shoulders hit bullshit critical mass with its "high performance HydraZinc formula." That sounds like something you'd use to buff your Pokemon. Shockingly, this mythological element doesn't help -- a study found that expensive shampoos are no more effective than cheap drugstore brands. Unless you need a special shampoo for medical reasons, there's no need to pay more than a few bucks for a bottle. Unless it turns out 30 years from now that HydraZinc gives everyone mutant superpowers, which is entirely possible, we suppose.
"Soon, the world shall know me as Mandusa."
Think about this for a second: If you stopped using deodorant/antiperspirant for even one week, you'd become a social pariah. Yet nobody had even heard of it 100 years ago -- the need was created entirely by an advertiser. Specifically, after the inventor of antiperspirant failed to sell any of the stuff, the company ran a series of ads in women's magazines in 1919 convincing women that they should be deeply ashamed of how much they sweat. Boom -- body odor prevention is now an $18 billion a year business.
From that point on, they have all worked the same way -- by using an aluminum-based chemical that temporarily plugs the sweat glands. At this point, virtually all deodorants use the same active ingredients, so they've really had to push the phony innovations.
It makes your uppercuts smell like a spring breeze!
So advertisers in the '80s introduced an amazing "double action formula" that fights wetness and odor, just like every other deodorant ever made, but with action! The '80s also brought us Speed Stick's wide stick, for people with abnormally wide armpits, we guess. Ban countered with a "wide oval shape," for those unfortunate souls with gigantic ovular armpits.
Modern deodorant is even more ridiculous, as now it comes with "motion-sensing technology." It's like a Kinect in your armpits.
There's a separate motion-sensing deodorant for men, because we all know that women wear deodorant designed to protect them while shoe shopping, while men wear deodorant to protect them while trekking through the wilderness. That's why deodorants are specially designed for men and women -- with different packaging and scents, anyway. The active ingredient is present in equal quantities in both, but by marketing them as different, manufacturers can bump up the price. So we guess a more accurate slogan would be "Strong enough for a man, made to rip off a woman."
Sorry, men, looks like you'll have to share your powerful deodorant.
According to advertisers, your choice of diaper determines whether your child sleeps peacefully or spends the night rolling in his or her own excrement. Since its invention, the task for manufacturers has been to improve on what is essentially a bag that catches poop.
"Good thing your ass was wrapped in literally anything."
This 1995 Huggies ad introduces the stretchable diaper. With strategically placed elastic strips, your baby will no longer unleash a fountain of unmentionable horror when his or her diaper falls down. It's such a useful innovation that we're surprised nobody came up with it sooner. Oh wait, they did, in 1994. And a decade before that.
So if we've had perfect-fitting diapers for decades, where can you go from there? To material that stretches in eight directions, asshole! These bad boys are designed for babies who move, not those weak, lazy babies who just lie there like slugs. Then, in 2011, Huggies introduced the diaper that changes everything. How did it revolutionize the design of crap receptacles? They're easier to put on moving babies!
Of course, the other important factor here is absorption. So, as you can imagine, diaper manufacturers are eager to convince us that their brand can withstand a veritable tsunami of urine.
Wait, did their older diapers not protect from leaks? Isn't that the entire point of a diaper? No matter, now there's a "Leak Lock System" with "super-absorbent material" for parents who like to give their kids a nightcap.
Is there some easier way to get them to sleep?
Some diapers are better at absorbing than others, but it has nothing to do with how many extreme adjectives their ads use. Not that those can help you decide anyway, since there are more "ultras" and "supers" in the diaper aisle than there are in a comic book store.
Unless it's Halloween, toilet paper is good for only one thing. And unless your toilet paper is Siberian gulag quality, you probably don't care what brand it is. Choosing between kittens and cartoon bears isn't exactly up there with picking out a new car. Don't tell that to Charmin, though, because their commercials make it sound like your ass is literally on the line.
That ad says that Charmin is more absorbent than "the regular stuff," which is a typical claim. But then in 2008, they introduced TP with "diamond-weave texture," which is better because diamonds.
Strongest material on Earth? Use it to wipe your ass.
Just look at all that technology! They zoomed in on it and everything! They don't actually explain what makes it better, but apparently the public can only be enthralled by flashy, blinged-out toilet paper for so long before their assholes become complacent. So in 2010, Charmin brought out the big guns and introduced an enhanced diamond weave.
How did they enhance their weave? They didn't say. Sure, that regular weave got you through a couple of years, but that was the past. If you're not using the latest and greatest in the rough and tumble world of 2010, you might as well be wiping with a belt sander.
Early iterations of toilet paper were no game.
Charmin isn't the only company guilty of spicing up their toilet paper with meaningless innovations, but thanks to their coprophiliac bears, they're certainly the creepiest. Don't get suckered in by the siren call of a silky smooth bathroom experience -- Consumer Reports concluded that Walmart's brand is just as good as any of Big Toilet Paper's offerings, and at half the price. Shockingly, it turns out that your ass isn't that picky.
You can read more from Mark at his website.
For more ways you're suckered by bullshit, check out 5 Ways Hollywood Tricks You Into Seeing Bad Movies and 5 Creepy Ways Video Games Are Trying to Get You Addicted.
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