How marketers use science to trick you
LET’S FOCUS ON MARKETING AGAIN
Marketing is a super powerful tool, which can easily be used to influence public opinions especially if we are talking about the commercial aspects of the trade.
One great example is how Orbit started about 15 years ago to advertise how chewing its gum helps to stimulate saliva production and will adjust the pH level in your mouth, the conclusion is that if you care about your mouth oral and dental health you should chew Orbit’s bubble gum.
Orbit even has a webpage with videos and facts to educate the public about the benefits and the science behind its chewing gum. This example illustrates how marketers use scientific facts to establish a point and convince the public why their product is a healthy choice, and not using it is a huge mistake.
While Orbit’s claims are right they forgot to mention that any chewing activity will increase the saliva production but more importantly it is only needed after a big meal.
WHY AM I TELLING YOU THIS?
Good question, recently I went to buy my son a bottle of water and noticed the label on the back of the bottle indication the levels of the different mineral in ppm.
Just to make sure we are on the same page here is a short scientific background, I tried to simplify it as much as possible. 30 sec of science: In different scientific disciplines, there are different acceptable units to measure things. PPM is an acronym for “parts per million” or mg per liter of a mineral or a compound. or What drew my attention, due to my vast experience in this topic, was the concentration of heavy metals.
One example is Lead (Pb) which, unfortunately, is not that rare of pollutant in cities like Montreal where you can still find old lead pipes in some homes, or when you have a tribble accident like in Flint Michigan and you poison your reservoirs with lead. The Canadian maximum allowed levels of lead in drinking water are 10 ppb (parts per billion or μg per liter) which is 0.01 ppm (the US levels are 0.015 ppm) and the goal is to lower it even lower to 0.05.
Why is this important? well, lead as a tendency to accumulate in the body in what is called bioaccumulation. This means when you eat plants or animals you also absorb all the lead they had inside and increase your risk.
LET’S FOCUS ON MARKETING AGAIN
Back to marketing and facts-masking. Let’s look at some popular brands that I found at my local store: ESKA water, Fiji Water and Stream Water. Notice (in the images below) how they all report concentration in ppm.
Now the Canadian bottled water regulations (under the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations) specify what should be on the labels but not in which units! So of course if it is reported in ppm why not round up the numbers so lead (Pb) and Arsenic (As), which their maximum allowed concentration is 0.01 ppm are reported as 0 is it 0.1 (above the maximum limit)? 0.01(the exact maximum allowed limits)? or 0.001 (below the maximum allowed limits)? I guess we will never know but the marketing team did their job and as consumers, we are sure our bottled spring water is clean, after all, 0 ppm of Pb and As.
If you look at the images again you will notice that two of the companies report their Fluoride (F) and nitrates (NO3- ) concentrations in a much more accurate number, 0.24 and 0.27 (for Fiji water, respectively) since these numbers are less significant and will probably add credibility to their report.
And for those who will claim maybe the method they use to measure it is not that accurate so it’s not a marketing trick but a scientific limitation let me assure you all the standard methods that are used are accurate to the third decimal point (0.001) or lower(remember 0.011 is still higher then the law requires).
Don’t be fooled by some of the marketing teams to mask scientific data and make their products look healthier or safer. Just like in my fake news article, you should not except everything as a fact.
I know this is not a perfect example since not everyone has the specific knowledge or ability to verify this, or simply doesn’t care. But I hope you will use this example to be more aware and use YOUR knowledge to see behind the tricks or should I say illusions.
Sometimes by seeing what the marketing is trying to do or what they are doing, we can better understand what it is they are hiding or what spin are they selling us and make wiser choices as consumers or investors.