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Believe it or not, “Hot Dog Water” is a semi-real thing. It was a product being sold at an event in Canada for $28, and people were actually buying it, according to an article on bustle.com. It has to be said: Hot Dog Water takes health quackery to a whole new level, but it proved a point about human behavior.
As far as marketing is concerned, if you call a product “healthy,” this experiment showed you can charge whatever you like and people will buy it.
A concoction of water and a hotdog (hence the catchy name Hot Dog Water) was sold in Vancouver, Canada at Car Free Day.
A sign at the Hot Dog Water booth, according to Canadian news outlet Global News, claimed that this miracle drink, which is served in a glass bottle with a single hot dog inside, can help you look younger, reduce inflammation, and increase your brain function.
Douglas Bevans, the Hot Dog Water CEO, told Global News, “We’ve created a recipe, having a lot of people put a lot of effort into research and a lot of people with backgrounds in science really creating the best version of Hot Dog Water that we could.”
Water wasn’t the only hot-dog related product people could buy at the booth. There was also Hot Dog Water lip balm, breath spray, and body fragrance for sale, according to the bustle.com article. These products supposedly held the same amazing properties as the hot dog water.
It sounds just a bit suspect, don’t you think?
Snake Oil Disguised
If you’re skeptical about the claims, you should be. In reality, Bevans said the creation of Hot Dog Water was to study human behavior.
In fine print at the bottom of the sales material, it says, ““Hot Dog Water in its absurdity hopes to encourage critical thinking related to product marketing and the significant role it can play in our purchasing choices.”
In other words, if you don’t stop and think about what you’re buying, or you believe the health claims of a product without questioning them, you are likely to fall victim to false claims.
This type of marketing is grounded on affective conditioning, described as the transfer of our feelings from one set of items to another. It is commonly used in advertising and is the belief that if you advertise your product with things the public associates with positively, it will sell better.
A research article on the psychology and marketing website by Edward A. G. Groenland and Jan P. L. Schoormans found that “affective conditioning is thought to create a longer lasting integration between a product and an affective stimulus (than mood induction). Consequently, the mechanism of affective conditioning may be successfully employed by producers of a specific product (line).”
“The most powerful effect of advertising is just to create a good feeling about a product by surrounding it with other things that you like. It is also important to point out that affective conditioning is most effective when you don't realize that it is happening,” writes Art Markman in Psychology Today.
Bevans said that most people thought it was a joke, but he reportedly sold about 60 bottles of Hot Dog Water during the festival. After all, who wouldn’t want to look younger and have increased brain function, just by drinking water surrounding a hot dog?
"From the responses, I think people will actually go away and reconsider some of these other $80 bottles of water that will come out that are 'raw' or 'smart waters,' or anything that doesn't have any substantial scientific backing but just a lot of pretty impressive marketing," Bevans said.
Let’s hope so.