Marketing with the Mandela Effect

Jul 3, 2018

Which Star Wars movie features the iconic Darth Vader line, “Luke, I am your father”?

Believe it or not, Darth Vader never says that. The correct quote is actually, “No, I am your father.”

Yet ask most people to do their best Darth Vader impression, and they’re likely to repeat the incorrect line.

This is a result of a phenomenon dubbed the “Mandela Effect” – cases of large groups of people with clear memories of events that did not occur or misremembering significant facts or occurrences. The name comes from a popular example of the effect – the belief that Nelson Mandela died in prison during the 1980s. In fact, he was freed from prison in 1990 and passed away in 2013.

There are lots of other examples. Forrest Gump says “life WAS like a box of chocolates,” not “life is like a box of chocolates.” The HBO show was called “Sex AND the City,” not “Sex in the City.” The evil queen in Snow White actually says “MAGIC, mirror on the wall,” instead of “mirror, mirror on the wall.”

When confronted with the truth, people often refuse to believe it and have even used parallel universes to explain the discrepancy. In truth, these inaccurate facts and quotes have more to do with how our memory actually works, which can play a huge role in how effective a particular marketing tactic is.

Brands may react negatively when a tagline or message gets misquoted or misremembered. It’s a sign of the power people and society have to shape and interpret a message. Ultimately, it means your message is having an impact and is spreading via word of mouth. People may be doing their Darth Vader impression all wrong, but at least they’re doing an impression.

Long story short: Brands don’t have total control over how their messages are perceived and remembered. In some cases, letting public input guide your marketing message can have a positive effect on your messaging and brand awareness. The more familiar something is, the more memorable it becomes.

This article also appeared in our weekly newsletter, Long Story Short. It was written by Hailey Pohlig

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