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It’s amazing how much a well-placed marketing campaign can do to change people’s attitudes.

One of the best, most famous examples of this is Listerine. The company initially sold its product as an antiseptic and disinfectant, advertising its uses in surgical rooms and also encouraging housewives to mop their floors with it.

When they pivoted to being a mouthwash, they ran an aggressive campaign that preyed on the insecurities of women of the era – they claimed that bad breath was the silent reason that some young women just weren’t getting any male suitors. Naturally, everyone was too polite to tell you about your stank breath, but it was surely the reason you were still unmarried by your late 20s. They even popularized the term ‘Halitosis’ just to make it seem more like a medical condition!

That campaign was HUGELY popular and influential and propelled Listerine (and halitosis) into becoming a household name. Below, you’ll see even more great examples of how marketing campaigns have influenced us into believing things that aren’t necessarily as real as the companies behind them would like us to believe.

1. “‘Breakfast is the most important meal of the day’ was made up by James Caleb Jackson and John Harvey Kellogg to sell their cereal.”

2. “People eating KFC during Christmas time in Japan because of KFC’s marketing campaign that promoted their products as a traditional Western Christmas treat.”

3. “Using enough toothpaste to cover the entire head of the toothbrush in commercials. Total marketing ploy. You don’t need more than a pea-sized smear of paste on your brush.”

4. “The white picket fence American dream. It was actually a propaganda campaign on the ’50s to try and get women out of the workforce so men returning from war would have jobs to go back to.”

5. “The idea that teeth are supposed to be perfectly white. People should know that a healthy set of teeth doesn’t mean they’re perfectly white. Super white teeth are not even normal. Our enamel will slowly become more translucent as we age, revealing the colour of the dentin (which is yellow) underneath it. That’s why as we get older, our teeth will become yellower. Doesn’t mean they’re not healthy or unclean.”

6. “The food pyramid was created in 1977 as the (heavily influenced by companies) USDA made new dietary recommendations to cut out fat and replace it with “heart healthy” starches and carbs. It actually led to a growth in obesity rates.”

7. “Getting a new car at 70,000 miles. That’s crap. If you take care of them they can easily last over 100. My family had a Mitsubishi Endeavor that we finally got rid of at 275, and it ran fine”

8. “Clovers being weeds. Many weed killers can’t differentiate between clovers and other weeds so they just kill all of them. So companies began emphasizing clovers as a weed so they could still sell their chemicals.”

9. “Those who sell top cash Ibuprofen or Paracetamol. Normal cheap/store brand stuff works just as well. Just very good marketing”

10. “That Napoleon Bonaparte was short. He was 5 feet and 7 inches tall which might be a little bit on the shorter side by modern standards, but it was around the average height for people back then. The idea that he was short actually came from a British propaganda campaign to mock him.”

11. “Women’s razors. Marketing shaving to women and convincing them and the rest of the population that being hairless was more feminine.”

12. “The concept of individual litterbugs. Corporations such as the tobacco industry helped fund the nonprofit front Keep America Beautiful to shift the responsibility of cheap, environmentally damaging packaging from the producers to the consumers. And it totally worked.”

13. “Hallmark invented Valentine’s Day as we know it today. Yes, the holiday started with the Romans, but Hallmark marketed it brilliantly making buying cards, chocolate, flowers, etc. into the norm.”

14. “Many Korean people believe that fans can cause death. Even my mother, who moved to America in her mid-teens, still prohibits me from leaving a fan on overnight for fear of death. There is a conspiracy theory that the South Korean government spread this myth as propaganda to prevent energy overusage, but it’s origins are unkown. It’s strange that many Koreans believe this myth considering it is one of the most technologically advanced countries.”

15. “The idea that cow’s milk is a great source of calcium. Plenty of other foods are MUCH better sources of calcium. The idea that milk is the best source/part of a balanced diet/is necessary etc. comes from marketing tactics dating back to like, the 1940s”

16. “The need for diamond engagement rings and the belief that diamonds are rare so corporations can inflate their value when they really only sell a limited amount of diamonds to artificially inflate the price. In fact, diamonds are the most common gemstone around. Things like Emeralds and Sapphires are significantly more rare.”

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