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When slogans do what they say on the tin

I’ve been inspired to write this post by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – try saying that three times out loud quickly. Every year, I follow MIT’s Mystery Mini-Hunt. It’s a tradition, a slog involving hundreds of puzzles, and a headache for mere mortals like me.

For 2016 the theme was everyone’s favourite dream-based movie, Inception. So it was that Huntception came to be. If you have a few days to spare getting lost in diagrams and confusing PDFs, definitely give it a look.

Spoilers ahead.

One of this year’s puzzles turned out to be about brand slogans. The puzzle text for One Starry Night looks like a series of user reviews. They are reviews, but based on what the slogans literally say about the product.

It’s clever (it’s MIT, duh), and logical in the extreme. If you buy Skittles expecting to genuinely taste the rainbow, you’re likely to be disappointed.

This got me thinking. How many of the slogans we know and love can be taken that seriously? I’ve picked some of the best-known brand straplines to put to the test.

Ronseal: it does what it says on the tin

The good people at Ronseal have always stayed true to their word. I haven’t dug up so much as a single complaint. It’s a slogan that says as much for the effectiveness of the product as how easy it is to read the instructions.

After a swift change last year, Ronseal now ‘does exactly what it says on the rotund, 203.48mm by 189.12mm, vacuum moulded white polypropylene copolymer 5-litre labelled bucket ‘. Top marks, and long may their honesty in advertising continue.

HSBC, the world’s local bank

This was a job for the handy HSBC global branch locator. This tells us that HSBC has a presence in 71 countries and territories. Even before I checked, I know the world has more than 71 countries. In fact, there are 196 at the last count. So HSBC is less than half the world’s local bank. That doesn’t sound as impressive.

Washing machines live longer with Calgon

I Googled ‘do washing machines really live longer with Calgon?‘ and the results weren’t encouraging. Calgon isn’t bad for your machine, but it doesn’t seem to make any discernible difference. Which is a shame, because this is probably the catchiest jingle.

What we can say is that not all washing machines don’t necessarily not live longer with (or without) Calgon. I’m glad we cleared that up.

Red Bull gives you wings

Take part in the Red Bull Soapbox Race and you will indeed get to fly several metres. On feathered wings? No. Of all the benefits that energy drinks are claimed to have, turning you into Icarus isn’t one of them.

This is the most serious infraction by far. Red Bull was sued in America for making this claim, and they lost. A man brought the case after drinking cans for a decade and remaining resolutely flightless. (Okay, technically it’s because there’s less caffeine in the drink than in coffee.) Red Bull had to compensate every customer who’d bought their drink in the US between 2002 and 2014.

Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s Maybelline

She’s not born with it. I think that’s all I need to say here.

Gillette, the best a man can get

I’ve trawled more ‘top razors and shavers for men’ lists than I ever wanted to in my life. Gillette products aren’t overwhelmingly winning. Whether they’re the best you can get depends mostly on your disposable income. Otherwise you’ll have to stick with the disposable razors, chortle chortle.

Beanz meanz Heinz

There is no language in which ‘Heinz’ is a literal translation for ‘beans’. Come on.

It’s a popular name for boys in Germany, translating to ‘ruler of the home’. Which could be true, if you eat enough beans to cropdust your entire family into submission. Partial credit.

L’Oreal, because you’re worth it

L’Oreal creams typically cost around £10-15 per 100ml. That £15 is three bottles of average wine, a very large and delicious cake, or five-ish lattes at your coffee shop of choice. What would you rather put into your face? You are worth it, but on balance L’Oreal probably isn’t.

Never knowingly undersold (John Lewis)

Ah. So they could be unknowingly undersold, yes? Well, so could everyone else. File this one under ‘duh’.

Max Factor, the makeup of makeup artists

Finding out about the effectiveness of Calgon was easy. Trying to determine how many makeup artists really use Max Factor was nigh on impossible. Most of the makeup tips and tutorials I uncovered were on Max Factor-owned websites. Until someone admits they use the stuff, mystery unconfirmed.

Carlsberg. Probably the best beer in the world

If you’re not going to tell me one way or the other, Carlsberg… That said, in all likelihood I’ve drunk close to my body weight in Carlsberg over the years. It’s definitely up there as far as beers go. It’s a slogan I will personally agree with, factual accuracy notwithstanding.

Cheerios: there’s a whole lot of goodness in those little ‘o’s

Okay, now I could be snarky and say ‘goodness’ isn’t on the ingredients list. But some healthy things are: whole grain oats, a range of vitamins, zinc, iron… The only drawback is that we don’t know the quantities. (Yes, that link is as unhelpful as you’d expect.) Jury’s out on this one.

McVitie’s. Sweeet.

Right on the nose. Those sugar levels deserve the extra ‘e’. I do love a nice biscuit or ten myself.

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