Everything Is Marketing

Especially all of our food

Anything that involves our emotions has marketing.

And it always involves our emotions.

Orange Juice

Oranges have less vitamin C per mg than many other foods, including fruits such as strawberries, pineapple, and kiwi, but also a whole slew of vegetables like chili peppers, bell peppers, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower.

Oranges just had the biggest marketing budget — and a big ole surplus after World War II, during which we’d been shipping them over to American soldiers.

Vitamin C

Does almost nothing to fight colds.

Not surprising, the “vitamin C” push came just after the “orange juice” push, during the 1970s.

And vitamin C may support protection against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, eye disease, and skin wrinkling. But ain’t none of that got anything to do with your common cold.

The Orange Slice in Blue Moons

This is the last one on oranges — I promise.

Blue Moon denies that this was a marketing ploy, of course — they’ve written all kinds of pieces about how the orange “brings out the flavors.” And maybe that’s true. But whether it is or isn’t, what we know for sure is that customers saw “the beer with the orange” and ordered it on basis of looks, not flavor.

And as a bartender, I can assure you: the most popular drink will always be the one that gets the most attention. The single signature drink we light on fire probably makes up half our cocktail sales.

Moscow Mules (and their copper cups)

Copper cups were a thing before Moscow Mules — they use them in India all the time, because it makes the drink feel colder in your hand. But the reason they’re used in mules is literally: two drink reps — one for vodka; one for ginger beer — were at the same bar, trying to dream up ways to sell more. Vodka guy needed an edge; ginger beer guy needed an edge — together a drink was born. But then they needed a cool cup to put it in, and one of them knew about copper cups in India, and voila — marketing magic.


1.) Molasses and the original boxed cake mix

A lot of people think boxed cake mixes were invented after WWII when companies had too much flour, but actually they were developed in the 1930s when a Pittsburgh company, P. Duff and Sons, had too much molasses. It developed a dehydrated gingerbread mix and sold enough to deplete its excess supply.

2.) “The egg”

By now most of you have heard, but in case you haven’t: we actually have the chemistry that wouldn’t require you to add an egg to cake mix. But the 1950s housewives to whom cake mix was marketed liked the product a lot better when they could contribute a bit more — and it turns out “the egg” was the perfect amount.

3.) Red velvet cake

Was a ploy to sell red food coloring.

Yes, red velvet was a thing before that, and originally got its name from the chemical reaction between the cocoa powder (which contains anthocyanin, a pH-sensitive antioxidant that reacts to acids) and the vinegar and buttermilk, which turned the cake reddish brown.

Sure. But mostly it was the Adams Extract company, in a ploy to sell more red food dye, who made the “red velvet” we know today.

The way Guinness is poured

See: “Blue Moon,” above.

Right down to the arguments that it’s about “taste” or “head,” and sure, if you say so. But it’s also about making Guinness seem special.


Wanna know why pomegranates hit us out of seemingly nowhere in the early 2000s?

Because Lynda Resnick and her food empire:

“According to her memoir, she acquired a pistachio orchard that also contained some Wonderful variety pomegranate trees in California’s San Joaquin Valley. In 1996, intrigued by folklore, she began to sponsor medical research regarding the pomegranate’s health effects. By 2000 there was research published with findings regarding effects of regular pomegranate consumption.”

Dog Food

Pro tip: skip this one if you’d just rather not with how the sausage is made.

Dog food has pretty much always been a way to sell by-products of other industries. For the most part, this was commercialized (human) food production (which is why most dog food companies have always been owned by people-food corporations.)

That being said, the dark and dirty catalyst for commercialized dog food in the U.S. came just after World War I — when we needed a way to dispose of dead horses from the war.


If you thought apples were safe from this post, you thought wrong.

The “Red Delicious,” for example, is so notoriously disgusting (rubbery on the outside and almost universally mealy on the inside) because it was bastardized for looks, not taste, over the years. (The only reason it’s still so common is because the orchards went in before other varieties came along to offer our faces a much-needed reprieve.)

And the “Pink Lady,” alternatively, was the first apple with a trademark. It is described as having “pink skin,” “white flesh,” and an “attractive pink blush.” It’s also “real,” “authentic,” “the only truly pink apple,” and “considered to be one of the best.” (Even better, buying one supports programs “fighting things such as child obesity and breast cancer!”)

I’ll let you guess which demographic it was explicitly designed for and marketed to.

The Food Pyramid

The FDA won’t admit to this, but anyone with half a brain and even a basic understanding of human nutritional needs (and the US lobby system) can take one look at the food pyramid and put two and two together.


As several Johns Hopkins doctors published a few years ago, “multivitamins are, at best, a waste of money.”

Alright, KG! Enough with the food! We GET IT! What else you got?

Oh, you want more? I got more…

The Pledge of Allegiance

And the Smithsonian Mag wrote about it, so it’s gotta be true.

It all started with Youth’s Companion, the country’s largest circulation magazine. In a marketing gimmick, the Companion offered U.S. flags to readers who sold subscriptions — and not only that, but they proposed a flag in “every Public School from the Atlantic to the Pacific,” and that children salute it with an oath.

Francis Bellamy, a writer and publicist at the Companion, wrote that “pledging allegiance to the flag” would ensure “that the distinctive principles of true Americanism will not perish as long as free, public education endures.”

Santa Clause

Dude, Coca Cola stole / created him.

The Chicago Cubs

I was still living in Chicago after the Cubs won the World Series, and one night was grabbing a beer with a fellow biker / art director who works on campaigns for one of the major sporting goods companies that supplies the team.

So I asked him the obvious: “Who’s your favorite Cub?”

And he said, “Joe Maddon.”

I laughed. Because Joe Maddon, for those (like pre-World Series me) who are not in the know, is the Cubbies’ Coach.

“Why??” I asked.

And he said, “because that guy created that team. Everything they do, on and off the field, is totally deliberate and by design.”

And that’s when I realized everything I’d seen on the Cubs —pitcher Jake Arrieta being featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated body issue in 2016, Kris Bryant’s pranks as a “college transfer” and Lyft driver, his bromance with first baseman (and my personal favorite) Anthony Rizzo (or, as I affectionately call him, “Rizzie.”)

I’m not sayin that Rizzie and Bryant aren’t buds IRL. They probably are. I’m just saying their bromance didn’t hit Youtube and Chicago Tribune by accident.

And it’s probably true for all teams. If it’s not, it certainly should be, because whatever they’re doing over there is working.


The NFL pushed real hard over the last 50+ years to get us to associate “football” with “patriotism.” (And now, of course, that’s causing some problems.)

Barnes and Noble

I hope I’m not shooting myself in the foot here, but… lol, guys… there are oodles more books published each year than whatever is sitting on those tables at Barnes and Noble. And sure, it’s lots of peoples’ jobs to weed through it all and make sure what’s sitting there is “the best out there,” but some of what’s “the best” is marketing too.

“Gift Guides”

lololol I pity all you sad fools still using these — just like I pitied myself when I finally realized (mostly because of how long it took…)

I didn’t realize these were marketing until I started a business and, come mid-fall, got several emails in my inbox citing prices to be included in their publication’s “gift guide.”

Guys, these things aren’t editors sitting at their dimly-lit, midnight-oil desks mulling over every product option, pros and cons, to decide which is best. This is — for the most part — people pushing their product on both sides.

Maybe this was obvious to everyone. Maybe it should’ve been obvious to me. Maybe you’re thinking “but they still vet them!” and the answer is no, not really — just so long as your product fits their audience. Sorry to burst your bubble.

Featured and Recommended Products

I already wrote about this when I wrote that “top three things I know about consumers I learned from bartending.”

“You can ‘create’ a ‘most popular’ item simply by telling people that it’s the most popular. This is sometimes the truth behind ‘featured products’ lists. Social proof is a powerful thing.”

Actually, pretty much anything you read online

Probably including this post.

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