MONEY Odd Spending

Top 10 Strangest Things Marketers Tried to Sell Us in 2014

Our look back at some of the year's strangest products may seem laughable or a sad source of embarrassment—depending on whether you actually bought any of them.

Check out 10 of the strangest things marketers tried to talk us into buying in 2014. A few of them, we’re sure you’ll agree, were quite literally hard to stomach.

  • Dewitos

    Doritos and Mountain Dew
    Scott M. Lacey

    Following on the heels of Doritos cheese sticks and Doritos tacos, this fall PepsiCo began doing taste tests of the most frightening Doritos mashup so far: Doritos-flavored Mountain Dew, a.k.a. “Dewitos” or “Dewritos.” The innovation has been called a “new frontier for fast food,” with a flavor best described as “liquid cheese,” only with lots of caffeine.

  • Quarters for Doing Laundry

    rolls of quarters
    George Diebold—Getty Images

    Over the summer, a startup launched on the premise that people would pay a premium for a subscription service for quarters, which would be delivered so that you wouldn’t have to go round up up the on your way to the laundromat. The service charged $15 per month for a once-a-month delivery of a $10 roll of quarters. Needless to say, the site folded nicely and neatly—not unlike properly handled laundry—after about one week of existence.

  • Burgers for Breakfast

    Person holding BK Whopper
    Karl-Josef Hildenbrand—picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

    The battle for fast-food breakfast customers raged in 2014, with Taco Bell and McDonald’s launching ads, special promotions (like free coffee), and new products to beat out the competition. Burger King joined in the fracas with the laziest fast-food concept in recent memory: Burgers for Breakfast, in which BK made Whoppers and other burgers available during early morning hours. The idea reportedly flopped with customers; burgers were not on the restaurant’s national breakfast menu at last check.

  • A Fake “Mona Lisa”

    Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, oil on wood
    Is it real...or is it a Mark Landis? Fine Art Images—Getty Images

    No, no one actually tried to sell the original Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. But to celebrate the launch of a new documentary about Mark Landis, an infamous and prolific art forger, Landis’s forged version of the Mona Lisa was hung in a coffee shop in New York City with an asking price of $25,000. Apparently, no one wants to pay that much for a fake—not even a masterful fake by the likes of Landis. “After all the hype, there wasn’t much real interest or a sale,” a spokesperson for the coffee shop told us.

  • Derek Jeter’s Used Socks

    New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter #2 during a game against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards August 11, 2014 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Orioles defeated the Yankees 11-3.
    New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter #2 during a game against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards August 11, 2014 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Orioles defeated the Yankees 11-3. Tony Farlow—AP

    Throughout the course of Derek Jeter’s final season for the New York Yankees, ticket prices soared when #2 was in town, and an astonishing and varied amount of Jeter collectibles were marketed and sold. Among the oddest pitches: $400+ for one of Derek Jeter’s socks (game used, of course).

  • Seven Weeks of Unlimited Pasta

    Olive Garden pasta
    Joshua Lutz—Redux

    In September, the Olive Garden restaurant chain rolled out one seriously odd food offer: The Neverending Pasta Pass. The potentially cost-effective (also: potentially nauseating and potentially weight-altering) $100 passes gave users as many pasta dishes, breadsticks, and Coca-Cola soft drinks as they could stomach over the course of seven weeks. Only 1,000 of the passes were offered, and they were quickly snatched up by the masses—a few of whom recorded the good, bad, and ugly of eating at Olive Garden week after week.

  • Ebola Fashion

    man in hazmat suit in front of house
    PM Images—Getty Images

    The Ebola outbreak stoked fears around the globe, while also serving as a boost for an array of products, some understandable (hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, anti-germ protective gear), others downright bizarre (Halloween costumes, fashionable masks that retailed for $20). Yet another entrepreneur was trying to sell Ebola.com for at least $150,000 this year; he’d purchased the web domain in 2008 and has been waiting for an opportune moment to sell.

  • Pot Edibles That Look Like Hershey’s Candy

    Marijuana leaf
    allOver images—Alamy

    Soon after the sale of recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado, shops began selling a range of smokeable and ingestible products. Among the edibles was a brand of marijuana-infused candy called TinctureBelle, which made pot treats like Ganja Joy and Hasheath—with labels that looked eerily similar to traditional Hershey’s candies Almond Joy and Heath. Understandably, family values advocates and Hershey’s didn’t like the imitation versions, and the candy company sued last summer. The case was settled in October, and the pot candies that resembled Hershey bars have been recalled and destroyed.

     

  • Caffeinated Underwear

    caffeinated underwear
    iStock

    File this one under the category of products making outlandish claims that are just too good to be true: In 2014, the FTC ruled that a pair of companies that made and marketed caffeine-infused underwear must stop advertising that its products aided in weight loss. There was no scientific evidence to back up the claims, and customers who were coaxed into buying the caffeinated skivvies were granted refunds.

  • Bigger Butts

    Jennifer Lopez performs onstage at the 2014 American Music Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A.
    Jennifer Lopez performs onstage at the 2014 American Music Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Kevin Mazur—WireImage

    In 2014, marketers were more than happy to help convince women that they should try to enhance their physical assets to resemble Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez in one particular way. Hence the increase in butt implants and lift surgeries, as well as the sharp sales rise of products such as padded underwear, which give the appearance of a larger backside.

TIME Advertising

How Facebook Is Going to Battle With YouTube

Facebook Said to Plan IPO Filing for as Early as Coming Week
In this file photo the Facebook Inc. logo is reflected in the eyeglasses of a user in this arranged photo in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Facebook is suddenly a serious player in video

Facebook is well on its way to developing its next big cash cow, and it has nothing to do with the social network’s splashy billion-dollar purchases of messaging and virtual reality startups.

This year, the company dusted off its oft-neglected video feature and quickly made auto-playing clips ubiquitous in users’ News Feeds (with a big assist from the wildly viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge). People are now watching videos uploaded directly to Facebook one billion times per day — and that big number is starting to whet marketers’ appetites. As the social network ratchets up its plan to lure brands to place video ads on the site, its efforts could eventually threaten YouTube, which has dominated the online video space for nearly a decade.

This holiday season, Facebook is partnering with brands such as fashion design house Kate Spade and retailer Gap to develop targeted video ads that play automatically in users’ feeds. The Kate Spade spot, a two-and-half minute short starring Anna Kendrick, has managed to rack up 1.8 million views and 49,000 likes, comments and shares since launching in November. A YouTube version of the commercial released the same day has about 150,000 views. (Facebook’s view metrics automatically lean in the social network’s favor because videos auto-play by default and only have to be seen for three seconds to register as a view; a Google spokesperson says a YouTube video must be watched “many times longer” to count as a view).

Kate Spade’s new spot was the first time the brand used Facebook’s native video player instead just posting a YouTube link onto Facebook. Chief Marketing Officer Mary Beech says the company is happy with the results, which came from a mix of paid promotion and organic sharing by users. Kate Spade now intends to launch another video ad on Facebook in the spring. “Facebook has been wonderful in terms of the shares,” Beech says.

Facebook’s video pitch to marketers is much the same as it’s always been: thanks to the social network’s massive trove of user data, Facebook believes it can show video ads to precisely those people who will be most receptive to them. “[Marketers] are looking at Facebook to deliver very personalized messages,” says Nicolas Franchet, head of retail and e-commerce on Facebook’s global vertical marketing team. “Video is now one of the ways they can do that.”

Videos also give Facebook another key data point it can use to try to ferret out its users’ intent. For example, Kate Spade was able to serve ads for certain products featured in the Anna Kendrick commercial specifically to users who saw the video. “If you’ve viewed a video, you’ve certainly formed some sort of interest in the brand and so the brand can capitalize on that,” Franchet says.

While Facebook has found fast success with video, YouTube continues to lead in the space by many metrics. An analysis of 10 holiday ad campaigns by the advertising research firm Unruly found that that the commercials earned 13 million views on Facebook, but about 32 million on YouTube. The YouTube versions of the videos were also shared more across the Internet, gaining 630,000 shares compared to 530,000 shares for the Facebook versions. And in terms of raw usage, YouTube is still king—the video site had 4 billion views per day way back in 2012, compared to Facebook’s current 1 billion (YouTube no longer regularly discloses overall viewcounts, but the amount of content being uploaded per minute to the site has quintupled since 2012). Compared to Facebook’s videos, YouTube videos are easier to find weeks or months after they’ve been posted, and they’re easier to embed on websites or competing social networks.

“With YouTube watch time up 50% [year-over-year] and data showing that people are watching more ads than ever, advertisers are finding that their campaigns have staying power on YouTube,” a Google spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

But Facebook’s video ambitions are still young, and the company has some key advantages that previous YouTube competitors lacked. With more than 1 billion monthly users each, Facebook and YouTube already boast similar scale globally. Facebook also drives some portion of YouTube’s traffic and could use its control of the News Feed to give its own videos preference over YouTube ones (Facebook videos are already the only ones that auto-play, and they appear as larger posts within the News Feed). And Facebook has reportedly been trying to use its substantial amount of cash (its annual revenue now exceeds $11 billion) to poach YouTube stars to get them to make Facebook-exclusive content.

Still, experts say the two sites currently offer different video viewing experiences. “If you go to YouTube, you’re kind of in a serach mode. You kind of want to sit back and watch something,” says Debra Aho Williamson, a social media analyst at eMarketer “On Facebook, it’s all about discovery–almost serendipity. It’s kind of a different mindset.”

Brands will likely continue to experiment on both platforms. Kate Spade, for instance, used portions of that Anna Kendrick ad to create pre-roll spots to place on YouTube. But with finite ad dollars available, companies will have to make a conscious decision about where they spend their online video ad money. And for the first time in a long time, the answer isn’t necessarily YouTube by default.

TIME marketing

Vermont Man Wins Right to Use ‘Eat More Kale’ Slogan, Despite Chick-Fil-A Objections

Bo Muller-Moore stands in his home studio in Montpelier, Vt. Muller-Moore, the Vermont man who is building a business around the term "eat more kale," which has been plastered on T-shirts, bumper stickers and other items, is running into opposition from the second largest fried chicken retailer in the country, Chick-fil-A, on Nov. 22, 2011.
Bo Muller-Moore stands in his home studio in Montpelier, Vt. Muller-Moore, the Vermont man who is building a business around the term "eat more kale," which has been plastered on T-shirts, bumper stickers and other items, is running into opposition from the second largest fried chicken retailer in the country, Chick-fil-A, on Nov. 22, 2011. Toby Talbot—AP

Bo Muller-Moore is now free to print the phrase on T-shirts

Correction appended

The Vermont man who went up against Chik-fil-A to defend his right to use the phrase “Eat More Kale” — which the fast food company argued was too close to its trademarked slogan “Eat Mor Chikin” — has won his legal battle to use the trademark.

Bo Muller-Moore can now silkscreen “Eat More Kale” onto T-shirts to his heart’s content, because the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office approved his request to trademark the phrase. The application was held up for a while, but a “black-out-period” for Muller-Moore’s request ended on Tuesday, his lawyer said.

The approval comes after a drawn-out battle with Chik-fil-A over the use of the slogan. Muller-Moore started selling T-shirts with the phrase “Eat More Kale” in 2000 after a kale farmer friend asked him to make them.

But shortly after Muller-Moore attempted to trademark the phrase in 2011, Chik-fil-A sent him a letter requesting he stop using the saying because it was too similar to their “Eat Mor Chikin” catchphrase, and listed 30 other companies who had agreed to stop using the “eat more” language in their marketing.

Muller-Moore is expected to make a formal announcement of the victory Friday with Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin.

The original version of this story misidentified Muller-Moore’s phrase, “Eat More Kale.” It is a trademark.

MONEY consumer psychology

10 Subliminal Retail Tricks You’re Probably Falling For

soda can with sprinkles and a cherry on top
William Castellana—Gallery Stock

There's a reason that salesperson is being rude. Increasingly sophisticated consumer research shows that if she disses you, you'll spend more.

Today’s marketing strategies aren’t dreamed up in smoky rooms full of Mad Men. The tools companies employ to get you to buy their stuff have grown ever more sophisticated, with marketers even using neural measurements to design product packaging and appeal to your deepest desires (to be covered in Cheetos dust, apparently).

Consumer experience these days is not simply designed; it’s engineered. Research determines the ads you see, the scents and sounds you encounter in stores, even the way a salesperson might casually touch your arm. It’s not all high-tech brain science, but here are some of the tricks companies use to entice you to spend more.

1. They make you nostalgic. Don Draper was on to something with his sentimental pitch for a Kodak campaign. But the abundance of families, puppies, and childhood ephemera in the ads you see every day is more than a simple ploy to tug on your heartstrings. Recent research shows nostalgia makes people value money less and feel willing to pay more for purchases.

2. They sic rude salespeople on you. At high-end stores like Gucci, customers are actually more inclined to buy expensive products after a salesperson has acted snottily to them, a new study found. This effect—which doesn’t work with mass-market brands, only luxury—seems to have something to do with the desire to be part of an in crowd. To paraphrase Groucho Marx, you’re more likely to want to belong to a club that doesn’t want you as a member.

3. They use smaller packaging to get you to buy bigger. You’d think that it would be easier to buy and drink less soda and beer if you stick to the cute new mini-cans that seem to be all the rage these days. But research shows buying multi-packs of those small sizes can actually lead people to consume more overall.

4. They get you lost and confused. It’s not an accident that grocery stores are often laid out unintuitively. Losing focus makes people spend more on impulse purchases, says expert Martin Lindstrom, who has conducted studies on marketing strategies. Getting interrupted during shopping also makes you less price-sensitive, according to research co-authored by marketing professor Wendy Liu at UC San Diego. That’s because when you return to look at products after a distraction, you have a false sense of having already vetted them, she says.

5. They mimic your gestures—and get women to touch you. A woman’s touch—but not a man’s—makes people of either sex looser with their money, so when that saleswoman touches your shoulder, you may unwittingly end up spending more. Additionally, research shows that if a salesperson of either sex imitates your gesticulations, you are more likely to buy what he or she is selling.

6. They get you to handle the merchandise. Consumers are willing to pay at least 40% more for mugs and DVDs—and 60% more for snacks—that are physically present than for the same products displayed in photographs or described in text, according to a Caltech study. And other research shows your willingness to pay more increases as you spend more time looking at and holding objects.

7. They create the illusion of bulk bargains. Whether you’re using a jumbo shopping cart or a small basket, you’re going to be tempted to load it up, so it pays to make sure those “deals” are actually worthwhile. Researcher Lindstrom found that adding the sentence “maximum 8 cans per customer” to the price tag of soup cans caused sales to jump, even if no true discount was offered, because it gave the illusion of one. It’s worth asking at checkout: Does that “10 for $10″ actually just mean one for $1?

8. They give you free treats. Consuming even one free chocolate increased shoppers’ desire for nonfood luxuries—including expensive watches, dressy designer shirts, and Mac laptops—right after eating it, according to a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

9. They drop the dollar sign. If you think the plain old “28” rather than “$28″ on the menu of your favorite fancy restaurant is simply designed to look chic and minimalist, think again. A Cornell study found that a format that leaves off dollar signs and even the word dollar gets people to spend 8% more at restaurants.

10. They carefully engineer store ambiance. Ambient sounds and smells can make you less careful with your cash. In an appliance store, researcher Lindstrom pumped in the smell of an apple pie, and the sales of ovens and fridges went up 23%. He also found that alternating German and French music in a wine shop influenced which bottles customers purchased. Even nonmusic background sounds can make you overspend: A researcher found that the distraction of noise made people more likely to buy fancier sneakers.

 

TIME marketing

Bud’s Iconic Clydesdales Put Out to Pasture as Jay-Z Steps In

A Budweiser clydesdale horse sticks his head out of the trailer before the game between the Colorado Rockies and the Houston Astros on Opening Day at Minute Maid Park on April 6, 2012 in Houston.
A Budweiser clydesdale horse sticks his head out of the trailer before the game between the Colorado Rockies and the Houston Astros on Opening Day at Minute Maid Park on April 6, 2012 in Houston. Bob Levey—Getty Images

Horses will be replaced by a hipper ad campaign as beer company looks to appeal to a younger crowd

Budweiser is ditching Clydesdale horses in favor of Jay-Z.

The self-styled King of Beers is reportedly reworking its marketing campaign in a bid to remain relevant as craft beers capture the attention of drinkers.

The company is looking to stem the falling sales of its title offering — and is turning to younger drinkers for its best chance, banking on a new advertising campaign to bring that strategy to the market, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The new commercials that focus exclusively on the 20-something age bracket this holiday season. A new ad campaign will feature young drinkers answering the question: “If you could grab a bud with any of your friends these holidays, who would it be?”

That will lead the way for the brand’s bigger marketing push, which includes food festivals and a two-day concert in partnership with Jay Z in Philadelphia that was started in 2012.

Budweiser has faced declining demand over the past 25 years. In 1988, the brand sold about 50 million barrels, but last year that dropped to 16 million barrels, the Journal says. Part of that decline is its own brand cannibalism: Bud Light has pulled away customers from Budweiser for decades and became the nation’s No. 1 selling beer in 2001.

Budweiser’s appeal is particularly dismal among young drinkers in the U.S. Nearly 44% of drinkers aged between 21 and 27 have never tried Budweiser, according to the brand’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch InBev. ANHEUSER-BUSCH INBEV BUD -0.3227%

If Budweiser can gain the 20-something appeal, it has access to the biggest number of new drinkers since the baby boom. The number of people turning 21 peaked in 2013 at about 4.6 million.

Clydesdales have featured in many Budweiser ad campaigns and have been associated with the beer company since 1933, when Budweiser introduced them to celebrate the repeal of Prohibition for beer, the AP said.

MONEY consumer psychology

Why JetBlue Can Break Your Heart, but Comcast Never Will

JetBlue Planes
Seth Wenig—AP

It hurts to find out that brands like JetBlue want you to love them—but they only love you for your money.

This week, JetBlue announced it’s adding more seats on planes and new fees for checked baggage. The moves are clearly aimed at hiking profits—which is what businesses are supposed to do, right?

So why, then, has JetBlue’s policy change been met with outrage and a sense of betrayal? Isn’t JetBlue just a business that’s, you know, in the business of making money? Shouldn’t we fully expect these kind of profit-first policies? And if this kind of behavior is to be expected, why would there ever be any sense of surprise or disappointment, let alone heartbreak?

The subject brings to mind the old fable “The Farmer and the Viper,” in which a farmer nurses a freezing snake back to health—and is then promptly bitten and killed by the snake as soon as it has the opportunity. The moral is that you shouldn’t be surprised, and you certainly shouldn’t feel betrayed, when a snake behaves like a snake. A similar takeaway comes from the disturbing 2005 documentary “Grizzly Man,” which tells the tale of a man and his girlfriend who were killed, in essence, because a bear behaved like a bear.

The complication is that consumers don’t necessarily view brands that we interact with regularly as animals that will take advantage of us whenever the opportunity arises. We’re encouraged to “like” brands on Facebook, and marketers spend billions to try to get us to love brands, ideally with a cult-like fervor. We tend to view favorite brands as trusted partners or even friends, and we can feel violated and betrayed to the core when the terms of what can be a very warm partnership are exposed as more “strictly business,” to quote The Godfather.

“Some brands are so good at connecting with consumers on an emotional level that the relationship feels incredibly personal, much like a friendship,” explains Kit Yarrow, consumer psychologist and TIME and MONEY contributor. “In most cases the consumers feel they share the same values as the brand, which they see as manifesting human characteristics.”

This certainly seems the case for JetBlue and its longtime customers. The brand resonated and indeed became beloved because of the perks (free TVs and snacks for everyone) and amenities (leather seats and plenty of legroom all around) as much as because of its overriding ethos that all customers were valued—and valued equally. What helped make JetBlue stand out and become an industry darling is that its competitors in the airline business are notorious for exceptionally poor customer service, especially in regards to passengers who are paying the least for their flights.

Slowly, though, JetBlue tweaked its business model—adding a business class and adding more fees recently—and with this week’s announcement about shrinking legroom and the addition of baggage fees, it’s clear that the values originally embraced by the brand have changed as well. For the people who loved and were loyal to JetBlue specifically because of its egalitarian, customers-first approach, the latest moves serve as a big slap in the face with the cold-hearted reality that shouldn’t really come as a surprise, but hurts nonetheless: Brands like JetBlue want you to love them, but they only love you for your money.

Experts who study marketing and company-consumer relationships believe that brands that have developed cult-like followings for supposedly doing things the right and honorable way—Chipotle and Whole Foods come to mind—are likely to feel greater backlash if and when they appear to violate customers’ trust. “Our theory is that the people who feel most betrayed are the ones who were most attached to the brand in the first place,” says Debbie MacInnis, a marketing professor at the USC Marshall School of Business who is researching brand betrayal with colleagues.

By and large, consumers tend to get most attached to scrappy smaller brands with a streak of independence—brands they can identify with and feel good about supporting. “We love underdog stories,” says MacInnis. “We see ourselves as underdogs. We love the little guy, so there’s a natural brand connection.” It’s a connection that goes beyond a mere mutually beneficial economic transaction.

On the other hand, brands that are monolithic and fail to develop long-lasting loyalty or affection—big banks, pay TV and wireless providers, and yes, airlines come to mind—are less at risk of betraying customers’ trust because there was little to no trust to begin with. “You’re not likely to feel betrayed when a cable company treats you poorly,” says MacInnis. “You’ll shake it off and jump” to a competitor without blinking (assuming another one is actually available). “The transgressions are par for the course.”

It’s all about expectations: When someone we thought of as a friend turns out to be just another snake, it’s heartbreaking. Hence, the presence of several “Et Tu, JetBlue?” headlines out there, indicating that the once beloved airline’s betrayal is one of epic proportions.

“When consumers sense they’ve been used or manipulated they feel a burn more similar to a human betrayal than simple transactional disappointment,” says Yarrow. However, bigger, widely bashed brands are “lucky” enough to disappoint customers so frequently that there’s no surprise or sense of betrayal when they make yet another profit-first, customer-unfriendly move. “Consumers have such low expectations of Comcast, for example, they are thrilled when there simply aren’t problems.”

MONEY groceries

Rumors Are Flying of a Thanksgiving Turkey Shortage

Turkeys in a grocery store
Richard Levine—Alamy

You may have heard that there's a turkey shortage, and that prices are rising just in time for Thanksgiving. Hogwash.

Supermarkets have plenty of turkeys, and prices are incredibly cheap right now. How cheap? How about 79¢ per pound? That’s what the Kroger chain of supermarkets is offering in a special deal valid through Thanksgiving, so long as the customer buys an additional $35 or more in groceries.

If that’s too pricey, check out the offer from Meijer: When a customer spends at least $20 in the store, the chain’s own brand of turkeys are 50% off, which translates to 54¢ per pound for frozen birds and 98¢ per pound for fresh ones. In competitive markets such as western Michigan, meanwhile, some local grocery stores are selling turkeys for as little as 49¢ a pound. The latest Stop & Shop circular is advertising frozen turkeys for 59¢ per pound with a $25 purchase, and the chain says it will match the turkey prices of any grocery competitor. Yet another large player in the grocery field, Hy-Vee, has a coupon valid for a free 10- to 14-lb. Honeysuckle White Turkey for customers who purchase a Hormel whole ham. And ShopRite is giving reward club members a free turkey once the customer meets certain spending requirements (usually $400) over a period of a few weeks.

So why are so many headlines are making the rounds lately indicating that turkey is getting expensive?

It’s true that production is down, and that wholesale prices are up for turkey. But the important takeaway for shoppers is that neither of these factors is necessarily translating to rising prices in stores.

Due to long periods of drought and rising prices for feed, production of all manner of livestock has been on the decline in recent years. Beef prices, for instance, have increased to the point that consumers needed smart strategies to keep barbecue costs down over the summer. The Associated Press recently reported that American farmers will produce a total of 235 million turkeys this year, “the lowest since 1986, when U.S. farmers produced roughly 207 million birds.”

It sounds pretty dire. And yet, there’s nothing remotely true about the idea of there being a turkey “shortage,” as some have called it. A shortage means there’s not enough to go around—that the supply can’t keep up with demand. But as no less an authority than the National Turkey Federation noted that Americans collectively consumed 46 million turkeys at Thanksgiving 2012, and 210 million turkeys during the year as a whole. That, combined with the fact that there are ample supplies of turkeys at supermarkets all over the country, should dispel any claims of a “shortage.”

As far as prices go, wholesale prices may be rising—reportedly up 12% in October compared with last year—but, as USDA agriculture economist David Harvey explained to the AP, “There’s really no correlation between what grocery store chains are paying and what they’re selling them at.”

This year—and every year around this time—supermarkets use turkeys as “loss leaders.” The stores advertise exceptionally low prices on turkeys, knowing that doing so will be a draw for customers. The grocers don’t care if they make little or no money, or even if they lose money, on turkey sales; shoppers who come for turkeys almost always buy plenty more groceries when they’re in the stores, especially when they’re required to do so, as the best deals stipulate, and it’s in these purchases where the supermarkets make their money.

What’s more, the idea that there is a turkey shortage and/or that turkey prices are soaring is a myth that pops up regularly around this time of year. Last year’s “shortage” turned out to be hype because, once anyone read past the headlines, it was clear that even as the supply of one particular kind of turkey had declined, the vast majority of turkeys (and consumers) were completely unaffected.

In a story published today by the New Jersey Star Ledger, Ashley Myers, co-owner of Ashley Farms, is quoted laughing off the idea of there being a shortage of turkeys. “They say that every year,” she said.

And every year, everyone who wants to buy a turkey for Thanksgiving is able to buy a turkey very easily, generally at very low prices—or even free. This year is no exception.

MONEY investing strategy

12 Business Books You Should Read Right Now

Stack of books on pedestal
Chris Ryan—Getty Images/Caiaimage

The surprising key to business success: reading.

Reading is the best way to gain experience without having been there yourself. As Warren Buffett’s business partner Charlie Munger said, “In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time — none, zero. You’d be amazed at how much Warren reads — at how much I read. My children laugh at me. They think I’m a book with a couple of legs sticking out.” While there are mounds of terrible business books out there, there are some hidden gems. Read on for what I think are the best 12 business books and why you should read them.

Self-improvement

1. How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Carnegie’s classic book was first published in 1936 and remains a best-seller today . The crux is Carnegie’s idea that “the person who has technical knowledge plus the ability to express ideas, to assume leadership, and to arouse enthusiasm among people — that person is headed for higher earning power.” Buffett took a course on the book when he was 20 and said the experience “changed my life.”

2. Choose Yourself! by James Altucher
In this book, Altucher demonstrates that it’s up to you, and easier than ever, to take charge of your life and create both inward and outward success. He offers lessons learned through accounts of the trials, tribulations, and heartbreaks of his own life.

Leadership and management

1. The Effective Executive by Peter F. Drucker
This is the classic management book by business guru Drucker. For Drucker, executives’ key job is to “get the right things done.” He identifies five essential practices to business effectiveness for executives: “managing time, choosing what to contribute, knowing where and how to mobilize strength, setting the right priorities, and effective decision-making.” A favorite of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, this book offers many valuable lessons.

2. Turn This Ship Around! by L. David Marquet
Marquet was a submarine captain who turned around the USS Santa Fe from the worst submarine in the U.S. Navy to the best. The book teaches timeless principles of empowering leadership. Fortune Magazine called the book the “best how-to manual anywhere for managers on delegating, training, and driving flawless execution.”

Strategy

1. The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen
The book teaches the theory of disruptive innovation and why great companies fail when they ignore disruptive products in their competitive space. A favorite of Bezos, Steve Jobs, and countless other great CEOs, the book challenges conventional wisdom on what businesses should be focused on and when they should deviate from business as normal.

2. Competition Demystified by Bruce Greenwald and Judd Kahn
Written by the current head of the Columbia Business School’s Value Investing program, Bruce Greenwald, this book presents a way to analyze the competitive structure of any industry, and pairs it with the idea of moats, market niches, and competitive advantage.

Marketing

1. Influence by Robert B. Cialdini
This book could also be titled defense against the dark arts of marketing and persuasion. It explains the psychology of marketing and persuasion, which you can learn for using yourself or for defending yourself against it. In the early 1990s, Charlie Munger gave a series of talks on the psychology of human misjudgment (which have been combined and condensed in his book, Poor Charlie’s Almanack ) in which he heaped praise on the book for filling gaps in his knowledge. This is the book that I give most often as a present and is my top recommendation on this list.

2. Purple Cow by Seth Godin
The book that made the word “remarkable” clear to me (worth remarking on). This book delves into the importance of differentiation and of creating things that other people find worth pointing out. I would also highly recommend Seth Godin’s blog where he has published once a day for 12 years now.

Entrepreneurship

1. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
Written by a successful entrepreneur and venture capitalist, this book doesn’t sugarcoat how hard it is to run your own business. Filled with practical wisdom from Horowitz’s business experiences, including the near failure of his own company, this is a worthwhile read for aspiring entrepreneurs and managers alike.

2. Zero to One by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters
This book came out of the notes Masters took when Thiel (founder of PayPal, Palantir, Thiel Fellows and Clarium Capital, and lead investor in Facebook) taught a Stanford University class on start-ups. The book title comes from the idea that “Doing what someone else already knows how to do takes the world from 1 to n, adding more of something familiar. But when you do something new, you go from 0 to 1.” You can read the book, or go straight to the notes if you are curious.

General business

1. Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur
The book on rethinking how businesses work. This book provides a new framework for thinking about how businesses create and capture value through an intense look at how customers, distribution channels, partners, revenue streams, costs, and a business’s core value proposition all interconnect.

2. The Essays of Warren Buffett by Warren Buffett and Lawrence A. Cunningham
Buffett has long been praised for his concise writing and easy-to-understand metaphors of complex business concepts. This book compiles and condenses the best of Buffett’s letters to investors and other writings into a single book organized thematically. Everyone can learn from this book, but I would still highly recommend investors read Buffett’s collected letters to shareholders in full; they can be found on the Berkshire Hathaway website.

Learning is the key to success

The most successful people in the world become that way by continuously learning and improving themselves. It doesn’t happen overnight. Pick one of these books and start reading, you will be surprised at how much you’ll learn.

TIME Internet

7 Incredible Viral Moments That Turned Out to Be Marketing Stunts

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Businessman sitting in front of his laptop, angry Getty Images

Social marketing schemes will break your heart

There have been a lot of questions about whether or not overnight Internet darling ‘Alex from Target‘ is a real viral sensation or a just a marketing ploy. Here are 7 other viral sensations that broke our hearts when we found out they weren’t real:

Dumb Starbucks

In February, a “Dumb Starbucks” opened its doors in Los Angeles. Not only did the Internet freak out, but people actually got out from behind their computers to line up around the block to order Dumb Espressos and buy Dumb Norah Jones CDs. Then it turned out to be part of a Comedy Central show hosted by comedian Nathan Fielder. Womp womp.

Bar for Pregnant Women

The Internet was horrified when pictures of Gestations, the self-proclaimed “first bar for pregnant women,” began making the rounds on Twitter. “It may just be a tasteless advertising gimmick,” the New York Post wrote. And it was. Gestations, soon replaced by Blackbox bar for on-duty pilots, was just a way for an app called Bartendr to drum up publicity.

Worst Twerk Fail

A YouTube video showing a girl catching on fire after attempting to twerk upside down racked up 9 million views in just six days. It was featured on The View and The Today Show. And then Jimmy Kimmel revealed it was all a stunt for his show, and the woman was a literal stunt woman.

Hoverboard was a lie

HOVERBOARDS ARE REAL (finally!) thanks to @huvrtech http://huvrtech.com #theyrehere

A video posted by Tony Hawk (@tonyhawk) on

In March, people were convinced that hoverboards were about to become a reality. And then Funny or Die released a statement declaring that the ad was fake. “Sadly, we were lying,” the liars explained.

20 Strangers Kissing

A beautiful, seemingly sincere video showing strangers — gay and straight, young and — meeting and then kissing garnered 42 million YouTube views in four days. And then the world found out that it was actually an ad for a clothing company. Love isn’t real. Trust no one.

Evan Longoria’s Bare Hand Catch

Baseball player Evan Longoria saved a reporter’s life by catching a ball speeding towards her head with his bare hand. Except he didn’t because it was a stunt for Gillette.

Ellen’s Celebrity Selfie at the Oscars

If you put the world’s most famous actors together in a picture, it’s hardly surprising that it will become the most retweeted selfie ever. But was Ellen’s “spontaneous” Oscars moment really that spontaneous? Or was it an ad for event sponsor Samsung? Ish. Samsung spent an estimated $20 million on the show, and marketing chief Todd Pendleton told Adweek that it planned to have Ellen take a selfie with Meryl Streep using a Samsung smartphone. Ellen may have upped the stakes, but it was, essentially, an ad.

TIME marketing

Lysol Scrubs Ebola-Prevention Claims From Its Website

Ebola Virus
A colorized transmission electron micrograph of the Ebola virus is seen in this CDC handout. Center for Disease Control—Getty Images

After Lysol ads appeared in Google searches for 'Ebola'

A banner image of the Ebola virus spans the homepage of Lysol.com, but the company has tempered its language and shied away from claims that its disinfectants can prevent the spread of the Ebola virus.

The cleaning product company positioned a Lysol advertisement in prime real estate above Google search results for “Ebola,” Vice Motherboard first reported on Tuesday. But as media scrutiny intensified, the ad vanished and Lysol scrubbed away some of the bolder claims from its website to “ensure there is no confusion about the role of Lysol and Ebola,” a company representative told CNN.

The headline on Lysol’s homepage, which once read, “Safeguarding Against the Spread of Ebola,” now directs readers to “Find information from the CDC.” A link to the company’s “Ebola Update” page offers Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines that sidle up to the question of which disinfectants “are likely to kill Ebola,” while cautioning that none of Lysol’s products have been specifically tested against the virus.

A company spokesperson told CNN the intent of the update was to direct customers to information from the CDC. “We are not trying to over-claim anything,” the spokesperson said.

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