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When raisins and sultanas are grapes too

Do you sometimes see a commercial for breakfast cereal (in print or on TV) showing grapes in between the flakes and other ingredients? There are no grapes in the actual product, so you may wonder why that is not false advertising. The answer is hyperbole, or in marketing/advertising terminology: puffery.

Raisins and sultanas (what you call ’em somewhat depends on where in the world you are) are essentially dried grapes (certain varieties of), and thus apparently it’s not a lie but merely “a bit out there”. Likewise, when an advertisement projects that a product is “hand-picked by bare maidens just before dawn”, and “individually cuddled by dedicated grandmothers”, you are presumed to know that that is not actually the case. But do you, really?

What would happen if one were to go out and conduct street samples to see how many people believe the various claims to be literally true? What scary percentage might come out of that? In my example above I’ve used extreme cases make the point absolutely clear (hyperbole on my part!) but today’s product communications contain so many of them and often less blatant.

Now back from cereal to our own realm of technology… when you read announcements and claims (even in blog posts), how confident are you that you can tell literal truth from puffery?

Ref: the sultana/grape example comes from The Gruen Transfer, a fabulous TV show about advertising, broadcast on Australia’s public network ABC.