Life is filled with little stories meant to shock, amuse or teach us all a life lesson. Stories that defy probability fall under the category of “urban legend.” For example, it’s often touted that the Great Wall of China is the only man-made structure that can be viewed from outer space, when in fact it is virtually invisible from even a low earth orbit.
Quite frequently such legends are blindly accepted as truth by the general population, sometimes even quoted as historical fact in school textbooks. You really can’t believe everything you hear or read.
Take a look at the following list of nine product development urban legends and see if you can determine which of these are true and which are made-up-out-of-control-playing-the- telephone-game myths (be careful when scrolling, answers appear below):
TRUE OR FALSE?
- The most famous successful early experiment of subliminal advertising happened when a movie theatre inserted phrases such as “Hungry? Eat popcorn” into a film which dramatically increased concession sales.
- The flush toilet was invented by Thomas Crapper.
- The mother of Mike Nesmith, former member of 60’s TV Rock Band “The Monkees” invented Liquid Paper.
- The introduction and subsequent failure of New Coke was actually a clever marketing ploy to refresh the brand’s original product.
- The Chevrolet Nova sold poorly in Mexico because its name translates as “doesn’t go” in Spanish.
- Prankish Intel engineers etched the phrase “Bill sux” onto a new version of the Pentium chip as a stab at Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates.
- The Atari videogame company buried millions of unsold copies of the game, “E.T. The Extraterrestrial,” in a New Mexico desert landfill in the 1980s.
- Nike offered a personalization service for sneakers but rejected a customer who requested his shoes be embroidered with the word ‘sweatshop.’
- Mars, Inc., turned down the opportunity to have M&Ms be the candy featured in the film E.T., opening the door for new competitor, Hershey’s Reese’s Pieces.
1. FALSE – While this actually took place, the experimenter lied about the test results which were not reproducible.
2. FALSE – While he may have been a real plumber who held many patents, there is no evidence to suggest Mr. Crapper had anything to do with this product’s development.
3. TRUE – Inspired by how painters covered up their mistakes, Bette Nesmith invented correction fluid while working as an executive secretary, and originally named the product “Mistake Out.”
4. FALSE – Donald Keough (former President of Coca-Cola) said: “Some critics will say Coca-Cola made a marketing mistake. Some cynics will say that we planned the whole thing. The truth is we are not that dumb, and we are not that smart.”
5. FALSE – The car sold well for GM in Mexico and Venezuela.
6. FALSE – This is a classic Internet rumor that was accompanied by a picture of said engraving which was later discovered to be a doctored version of a picture from the cover of a book called “Dynamic Asset Pricing Theory.”
7. TRUE – Facing unprecedented returns of a horrible product, Atari was left with no choice but to dispose of over 5 million units of the game that were unsellable. To prevent looting, the company ordered that the games be crushed with a steamroller and a layer of concrete poured over the top of the disposal site.
8. TRUE – Another famous Internet legend, the customer himself spread news of this experience with the shoe company and also published their extensive thread of back and forth communications about the issue, which shows the real absurdity that often happens in consumer relations. His intention was merely to rib Nike about their image problems from involvement with overseas factories and child labor, but they would have none of it.
9. TRUE – While the product tie-in technique worked poorly for Atari, it was a key success factor for the fledgling peanut-butter candy. It is speculated that Mars did not think highly of the film’s premise or that they were unsure it would afford M&Ms a desirable image.
Research for this article was conducted at http://www.snopes.com