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Crazy Advertising Gimmicks

Updated on January 16, 2017
Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

Marcy writes about family, home life, parenting, money-saving tips, and many other topics, as well as essays and occasional humor pieces.

Are you buying the hype in ads?

Marketing professionals are experts at telling you what you want to hear. Or making you believe you heard something real.
Marketing professionals are experts at telling you what you want to hear. Or making you believe you heard something real.

Virgin vinyl? What the heck is THAT?

I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit tired of the trend of using euphemisms in advertising and marketing. I think I first noticed this when I started seeing made-up words for various products (or fake products), and the unbelievable efforts companies make to fool us into thinking something is the real thing, or as good as the real thing.

Years ago, my mother got a new coat. It was white, and rather nice looking, with a leather texture. But my dad immediately began teasing her about her ‘plastic coat,’ which of course didn’t make her very happy.

Finally, she took it off one day and indignantly said, “It’s not plastic!” She fumbled for the label, still talking, then stopped dead in her tracks, pausing a bit before she read it. “It’s genuine . . . Virgin Vinyl . . . ”

Of course, my dad laughed even harder, and the coat was immediately given a nickname. My mom would grab it on the way out the door and say she was wearing “Virgie” that day. Virgie was with us for years – and gave good service as a coat. But why couldn’t the manufacturer call a spade a shovel, and just leave well enough alone by labeling it ‘vinyl,’ rather than trying to make plastic sound more exotic than it really is.

Leather is one of the key targets for this type of marketing ploy – how many times have you seen something labeled ‘leatherette.’ There’s no leather in the product; it’s been given a texture treatment, and a gussied up name to make you think you bought something other than bumpy plastic. At least Virgie’s label had the word ‘vinyl’ in it.

"Faux" is a fancy way of saying "fake"

One common advertising gimmick is to label something with a deceptive name. Faux fur?  Really?
One common advertising gimmick is to label something with a deceptive name. Faux fur? Really?
Face creams can sound great, but may not be magic.
Face creams can sound great, but may not be magic.

An artificial rose by any other name is still plastic

To be sure, some manufactures get a little more honest and preface the euphemisms on their labels with the word ‘faux.’ But that’s actually a marketing strategy as well. Let’s get one thing straight, faux is an uppity word for fake.

So, if you bought a faux leather purse, you bought a plastic handbag. Hey, I’m not criticizing – I’ve bought plenty of plastic handbags in my day! Been there; done that!

Faux fur? No dead animals involved; it’s not fur, no matter how mink-like it might look. Actually, with the Animal Rights trend, manufacturers might make more money and more points with activists if they call it fake fur to begin with.

How about those ‘non-surgical facelift’ creams that used to be quite popular? Women slathered their faces with ointments that didn’t do much in the way of moisturizing, but they did crank up their skin temporarily.

The effect of feeling your face was more taut probably had influence than the actual results in terms of creating a market share. Women liked the idea of thinking they’d had the visual effect of a facelift without going under the knife, so they bought it, and bought the hype along with it.

Advertising and marketing are all about branding and image

There are numerous ways various businesses put a spin on words to make a silk purse out of pig ears. Does the restaurant offer ‘al fresco’ dining? You’ll be eating outside. Just wanted you to know that, in case you need a sweater.

Simulated anything means it’s fake. Simulated pearls – plastic covered in a pearly (or ‘pearlized’) coating. Simulated diamonds, rubies, whatever – they’re all ‘faux.’

Another marketing strategy is to mask the actual effect of something in an elaborately worded phrase. Facial creams ‘minimize the appearance of wrinkles.’ Notice the phrase does not say wrinkles actually go away? It says it reduces the way they look. I guess that means the cream fills in the cracks and gives you a smoother facial surface. Nothing wrong with that, but why don’t they get real to begin with and tell it like it is?

I’m not suggesting that anyone should stop buying facial cream, or plastic purses. I’m just pointing out that we live in a world of hype, and we actually fall for it. Using the right word helps manufacturers to sell things.

Think about it, are you more likely to buy a coat that’s ‘plastic,’ or one that has ‘faux leather’ embroidered on the label?

Maybe there ought to be a law. The next time you’re shopping for clothes, creams, accessories or anything else, check the semantics of the labeling to see if they’re trying to ‘faux’ you out.

This little Canadian Advertising Standards video says it all

What do you think?

Should manufacturers be required to use plain language rather than fancy marketing words?

See results

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