Google the phrase “Middle East rumors”, and the first link that comes up is not, as you might expect, a website propagating conspiracy theories. It is Coca-Cola’s website.
For several years now, says the Economist, the company has struggled to rebut silly rumors about its products.
They stem from the urban legend that if you read Coke’s logo backwards, it says in Arabic: “No Muhammad, No Mecca”. This and other rumors are all false, as Coke’s website explains in painstaking detail. Nonetheless, there is no denying that Coke does worse than Pepsi in Arab countries.
Now the mad Mullahs of Iran claim they see the word “Zion,” in the London 2012 logo and have lodged a formal complaint with the International Olympic Committee.
“As Internet documents have proved, using the word Zion in the logo of the 2012 Olympic Games is a disgracing action and against the Olympics’ valuable mottos,” the Iranian government wrote in a letter to the IOC.
An IOC official confirmed that the letter had been received, but insisted that the logo “represents the figure 2012, nothing else”. Apart from a swastika, that is, according to most other people.
Procter & Gamble received unwanted media attention in the 1980s when rumors spread that the moon-and-stars logo was a satanic symbol.
The poor deluded folk who see these images are suffering from what psychologists call ‘Pareidolia’.
It causes vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) to be perceived as significant. For example, seeing images of animals or faces in clouds and corporate logos, with Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and the word ‘Allah’ among the most common.The Rorschach ink blot test is based on this phenomenon. Not surprisingly, the face of Jesus was discovered in a Rorschach test.
The Face on Mars was one of the most remarkable images taken during the Viking missions to the red planet. Bearing a striking resemblance to a human face, the image caused many to hypothesize that it was the work of an extraterrestrial civilization. Later images revealed it was a mundane feature rendered face-like by the angle of the Sun.
In 1978, a New Mexican woman found that the burn marks on a tortilla she had made appeared similar to the traditional western depiction of Jesus Christ’s face. Thousands of people came to see the framed tortilla.
Similar cases of Pareidolia have spawned a considerable market on eBay.
One famous instance is the 10-year-old grilled cheese sandwich that sold for $28,000.
It’s owner, Diana Duyser, stopped in mid-bite when she saw what she claimed to be the toasted image of the Virgin Mary on the sandwich. GoldenPalace.com, an online casino, coughed up the $28,000.
What should a company do if people claim to see unintended images in its corporate logo? Rebuttals are unwise, argue Derek Rucker and David Dubois, of the Kellogg School of Management, and Zakary Tormala, of Stanford business school, three psychologists.
By restating the rumors, Coke, for example, helps to propagate them. Its web page is a magnet for search engines. And people who read rebuttals tend to forget the denial and remember only the rumor, says Mr Rucker.
Instead of denying false rumors, a company should put out a stream of positive messages about itself. This deprives myths of oxygen and also nudges people to doubt nasty things they may hear about the company in question.
I just wish that fat guy in the Pepsi logo would hitch up his pants.
- The #1 secret PR tip: spread happy truths (swordandthescript.com)
- Olympic Logo Is ‘Racist’, Claims Iran (londonist.com)
- Virgin Mary, Baby Jesus “Seen” On Google Maps (searchengineland.com)
- IOC rejects Iran complaint over London 2010 logo (sports.nationalpost.com)
- 2012 Olympic Logo Unveiled; Iran Protests 2012 Olympic Logo (sugarslam.com)