Most people know the saying “necessity is the mother of invention”, but when has anything been that straight forward in PR?
Everyone knows the term “supply and demand”, but what happens when you have the supply, but you don’t have the demand?
Well, some companies have been known to create their own demand by making people think that they must have a product, or that their product fixes a problem they didn’t even know they had.
There are countless companies out there that have invented things we didn’t know we needed and other companies have taken it even further than that – they have created health scares and illnesses to ensure that people buy their ‘cures’.
These exaggerations, or blatant lies in some cases, have even been known to slip into urban myth and be passed down from generation to generation.
“Feminine hygiene” companies have been around for decades. With advertising that plays on women’s fears of looking or smelling bad, feminine hygiene products often create or enhance these fears in women all around the world, despite the fact that most (if not all) feminine hygiene products that contain soap or aim to ‘clean’ the vagina are extremely harmful to women’s health.
These products sell on false information that can cause long-term harm in the customers*.
On the other hand, to increase the sales of a product that was already well known, Alka-Seltzer launched a campaign to double the sales of their indigestion tablets –the slogan of which was “plop, plop, fizz, fizz”.
This campaign told consumers that you needed to use two tablets of Alka-Seltzer rather than one, and it has since been established that this campaign was based purely off the want for higher sales and had nothing to do with genuine health advice.
However, it can easily be said that the campaign worked, as people continue to use two tablets over one, despite the campaign being launched more than 50 years ago.
Probably the most accessible variation of this technique is the motto on the back of many shampoo bottles – Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Anyone that listens to that advice is automatically buying double the amount of shampoo, due to one simple word – Repeat. I haven’t been able to find information on the shampoo company that started this trend, but have a look at the shampoo in your bathroom – does it say the same thing? Do you repeat?
And more questions we need to ask ourselves include: Are these types of PR campaigns ethical? Are they even legal?
Of course, it entirely depends on exact circumstances, but as a consumer, I can’t help but feel a little cheated by these companies and their plans to take more of my money.
Perhaps, then, these tactics of making money from false information may work for a while, but as soon as people catch on, these types of campaigns could easily be major drains on the image of the company involved.
Nevertheless, it can be said that some companies are catching onto the fact that consumers can see what they’re doing, so if you do read your shampoo bottle, you’ll more than likely see that is says ‘repeat if desired’ or ‘repeat if necessary’.
Perhaps this is the beginning of the end for invention being the mother of necessity? Or possibly it’s just being better disguised in this time of scrutinised ethics and questioning publics.
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*If you have a vagina and use such products, please read this NHS guide to keeping clean instead!