In the 1940s, Pepsi saw African-Americans as an untapped niche market. Pepsi adverts portrayed them in a positive light, in a time of racial segregation. Pepsi faced threats from KKK, but their market share increased by the 1950s with African-Americans being 3 times more likely to buy Pepsi than Coca-Cola.
2. In 1952, Mr. Potato Head became the first toy ad on TV and the first ad campaign to be aimed directly at children. Previously toy ads were always aimed at parents. It successfully sold over a million units in the first year, and the concept revolutionized marketing resulting in an industrial boom.
3. When Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs first opened in 1916, the owner hired people to dress as doctors and eat hot dogs outside his shop, to convince people his hot dogs were healthy.
4. Generic SNES space shooter “Phalanx” had an old man playing banjo on the cover, not for any relation to the game itself, but purely as a marketing technique to differentiate itself in the crowded space shooter market. “Banjo man” does not appear in the game at any point.
5. Marlboro cigarettes were originally designed for women. The iconic red stripe was intended to hide lipstick stains, thus making it appealing to women. When it failed to attract women, the company changed the filter color to a muted brown, slapped a cowboy on it, and marketed it to men.
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Axe deodorant’s advertising was targeted to work on insecure males. The ads were so successful that the brand eventually backpedaled, as the brand was being too closely associated with their target group.
7. More than a hundred years ago Listerine was marketed and used as a floor cleaner and a cure for gonorrhea. It wasn't until the 1920s when it was pitched as a solution for “chronic halitosis” (an obscure medical term for bad breath, which wasn't even considered an issue until then) that it became a huge success.
8. 97% of the French Cognac is exported to the USA, where the majority of consumers are African-Americans. World War 2 soldiers stationed in France returned to America with a taste for it and by the 50s, Cognac companies marketed directly to the Black middle and upper classes through Jet and Ebony magazines.
9. In an attempt to boost the sales of the Playstation 2, Sony’s marketing chief attempted to anonymously seed a story to news outlets that Saddam Hussein had imported 4,000 PS2s to use their processing power to build nuclear weapons.
10. For years Chrysler advertised their luxury cars as containing “Corinthian leather” with Ricardo Montalbán as the spokesman. On Late Night with David Letterman Montalbán playfully admitted that the term meant nothing. The leather was actually sourced from New Jersey.
Fiji Water once ran an ad campaign stating “The label says Fiji because it's not bottled in Cleveland.” The city of Cleveland responded by testing both Fiji water and their own tap water. They found 6.3 micrograms of arsenic in Fiji water, and none in their own.
12. In the 1990s, Subaru realized that it was surprisingly popular with lesbians, and decided to develop a campaign subtly, but specifically, targeting that core group, helping to push gay and lesbian advertising from the fringes to the mainstream.
13. The “Share a Coke” campaign, where Coca-Cola replaced its name on bottles with people’s first names, increased Coca-Cola's U.S. sales by more than 2% and, in doing so, helped reverse more than 10 years of decline in Coke consumption in the U.S.
14. Burger King launched a $40 million ad campaign in November 1985 called “Where’s Herb?” The idea was to find a character named Herb who’d never been to Burger King. Other chains pointed out that if Herb wasn’t at Burger King, it meant he probably liked other chains' burgers more. Burger King’s profits fell 40% in 1986.
15. Victoria's Secret was originally marketed to men to buy for their partners. Leslie Wexner bought it for $1 million and changed the marketing to women. To create the illusion of luxury, the company listed on catalogs that it was headquartered at a fake London address, but the real one was in Columbus, Ohio.
16Partnership for a Drug-Free America
Partnership for a Drug-Free America, which used to air many PSAs through the 80s to the mid-2000s, was actually funded by alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceutical companies. The ads steered clear warnings about legal drugs being abused.
17. The “Fearless Girl” statue that’s famous for “standing up to the Bull on Wallstreet” was commissioned by an investments firm, State Street Global Advisors, which holds $2.8 trillion in assets. The statue was to advertise a new investment fund they were offering.
18. One of the few times Pink Floyd allowed their music to be used for corporate advertising was a bizarre 1973 ad for Dole bananas.
19. Murphy’s Irish Stout, a brewery in Cork, Ireland, had a 60-second anime advert produced by the creators of Ghost in the shell in 1997. It was the first anime advert shown in Ireland and the UK and it shows six Samurais racing to make “Last orders” at a pub.
20. In 1996, after the Sugar Puffs mascot ‘the Honey Monster’ appeared in an advert playing football for Newcastle United, sales of the cereal in nearby Sunderland plummeted. The boycott continued until 2009 when Honey Monster appeared in an ad wearing a Sunderland shirt.
The drink mix Tang wasn’t created by or for NASA. It was introduced in 1957 but sold poorly until the U.S. space agency used it for John Glenn’s 1962 Mercury mission. Tang was then marketed as what the astronauts drank, but Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin later said, “Tang sucks.”
22. The inventor of Vaseline used to advertise his product by burning himself with acid and fire, then covering the wounds with the jelly while showing off his other healed injuries.
23. Mr. Goodbar was created in response to the Great Depression. It was marketed as a “meal replacement bar” for lunch and allowed the Hershey Company to be one of the only major companies to not lay off a single employee.
24. The world’s largest advertisement was Citroen’s 1925-1934 advert which used the Eiffel tower. For almost a decade, the word “Citroen” was emblazoned vertically on the tower. 250,000 light bulbs and 600 kilometers of electric cable were used to make the 30-meter-high letters.
25. When Crystal Pepsi was released, Coca-Cola released a competitor called Tab Clear. However, Tab Clear was intentionally marketed poorly in order to hurt Crystal Pepsi’s image by product association. The “born to die” strategy was successful and both campaigns were dead 6 months later.