Products with (fake) benefits

Years ago on the Simpsons, the family home is destroyed by fire. An insurance agent appears on the scene and the following exchange ensues…

Agent: Any valuables in the house?
Homer: Well, the Picasso, my collection of classic cars…
Agent: Sorry, this policy only covers actual losses, not made-up stuff.
Homer: [miffed] Well that’s just great!

I had a similar reaction when I saw the recent newspaper advertisements for
SOYJOY Nutrition Bars


The details:

The Soyjoy site is thick with links to scientific articles that explain the role of soy in disease prevention and the like, but the site (as does the ad) leads with these much softer and (I believe) unreal benefits. But how appealing it is to imagine that eating some product would increase your optimism? Indeed, in preparing this post I had to think for a minute (and look on their site to check myself) about whether or not it is or could be true.

We don’t expect that Red Bull will really give us wings, other than metaphorically. Here Soyjoy is making literal promises, though, as they describe how we, the eater, will feel. Even if we decide intellectually that it’s just advertising, what is the power of association they’ve created, without having to deliver? Where does our culture (and our legal system) draw the line about what claims must be provably true and what claims are so speculative that there is no expectation of belief?


About Steve