40 Deceptive Brands That Tried to Fool Their Customers


For as long as consumers are willing enough to trust what they see, facts are not a priority. In the marketing world, the ‘truth’ is a term tossed around lightly, which we can see in these crafty cases of deceptive packaging and branding.

Sneaky, Sneaky

Some packaging intentionally creates the impression that a product provides more than it does. So, whether the packaging physically makes a product look larger than it is, or your copy makes promises the product won’t deliver, dishonesty of any kind is always a bad idea.

Sneaky, Sneaky

When Bigger Isn’t Really Better

While just plain lying about the weight of their packaging is one way to do it, there are some sneakier ways that manufacturers go about this. They say fine print is how lawyers and cell phone service providers make money so be careful of this next ruse, and always read the fine print! The Doritos bag proclaims there’s “more to share,” but a quick peek at the teeny tiny text it says that it contains the same amount as the standard bag.

When Bigger Isn’t Really Better

Just Kidding

What makes Skittles so irresistible? Is it the sensation of biting through the hard candy shell into that chewy, fruity, sugary center? Is it a variety of colors and flavors? We can’t be sure exactly but this old trick will make us think twice before tasting the rainbow from the box. Clearly, they knew exactly what they were doing so shame on you, manufacturers! The portion is much smaller than expected, and consumers can’t be blamed for believing how the packaging presents the candy.

Just Kidding

Less is More

They didn’t promise anything, so it’s entirely our fault for thinking there would be chocolates in the whole box because this is a completely normal way to configure a chocolate box. OR, are you just as disgusted as we are by this treachery??? Incidentally, this ‘what you see is what you get’ kind of strategy is a great way to ensure few repeat customers. We wonder when companies deceive customers like this, do they think they’re building a loyal customer base?

Less is More

Tacky

When an advertisement is disguised as an emergency alert, we can’t help but be unimpressed with their petty tactics. Getting people to look at your ad through deceptive tricks about an emergency is incredibly tacky. But people are getting smarter about the way the advertisers work and because of that, these tricks that certain companies use to convince consumers that they should buy or sign up for something doesn’t always work and as consumers, we are all the more wary.

Tacky

Optical Illusions

A tasty pepperoni pizza for dinner can be a real treat. That is until we open it only to discover that those three pepperonis peeking through the window were literally the only ones on it. Oh, the frustration of realizing that we’ve been tricked out of our hard-earned money! But corporate greed is to blame for the lack of pepperonis on this pizza, and seeing as they are so shameless, we are here to expose their deceptive ways for what they are…

Optical Illusions

The Shady Side of M&M’s

So what is the story behind this old trick? To most of us, M&Ms are a delicious snack we’ve enjoyed since childhood but to the internet, this kind of trickery is oh-so-much more. So why the box and the bag? M&M’s decision to put a bag inside a box seems really silly because we were expecting more M&M’s – not just a regular bag of M&Ms! Not only is this disappointing, but it’s such a waste of packaging. Come on, M&Ms, be better!

What a Waste

Gotcha!

Oh well, just look at that little asterisk that’s there to let us know the truth. So there are only three sausage rolls in this package, but if you cut them into fours, then you have twelve mini rolls. So, really, this package could have 18 rolls, or, even 24 rolls! If manufacturing companies find themselves wanting to take extreme measures to make amends for their product, they probably need to go back to the drawing board and fix it. When they have products they can be proud of, there’s no need to misrepresent anything.

Gotcha!

Fast Food Fails

Have you ever been watching TV and see a tasty ad that made a burger look like the best idea ever? But then you arrive at the restaurant, and you’re served with fast food that doesn’t look anything like what you expected? It’s happened to everyone, generally during a moment of intense hunger. As we can see from this selection of unappetizing fast food stacked up against the burger as it was advertised, it seems models aren’t the only ones guilty of a little airbrushing.

Fast Food Fails

The Dart of Illusion

Wow! There are a lot of darts in this Nerf pack. Who didn’t love to have a safety-conscious shootout with friends with these classic toys back in the day? We know we did! It was between that or a super soaker. While it does look like a lot of darts, it’s actually not as many darts as you’d expect from this pack, as you can see in this split image. It seems like the manufacturer created the illusion by stacking the ones at the back.

The Dart of Illusion

All Eyes on This One

We never quite got what all the fuss was about googly eyes. Maybe kids love them because they can stick them on their arts and crafts pieces. They certainly breathe a lot of life into what are otherwise mundane animal drawings and figures. As you can see from this photo, you’d expect the jar to have a copious amount of googly eyes inside. However, when you take a look at the bottom of it, you can see that a plastic tube is lodged in the middle…

All Eyes on This One

Kellogg’s

The term ‘truth’ doesn’t seem to exist in the advertising world, which we can see in cases of deceptive packaging. Approximately five years ago, Kellogg’s declared that eating a bowl of their Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal for breakfast has clinically shown to improve attentiveness by nearly 20%. Obviously, this was a false claim, and while Kellogg’s did not admit to false advertising, it did create a $4 million fund last year to reimburse misled customers who bought the cereal between January 2008 and October 2009.

Kellogg’s

Panera Bread

Panera Bread has also done its fair share when it comes to manipulating its customers. While it is true that the crew at Panera does bake their bread on-site, the dough isn’t made from scratch at that same dine-in location. The prepared dough arrives every day via truck from a source close to the restaurant, and it may or may not be frozen. That’s about as fresh as you can get for bread at a restaurant like this… just not completely fresh.

Panera Bread

Unacceptable

This ad is a roller coaster of emotions. At first, you’re mad because you think it’s a parking ticket, then you’re glad it’s not a real parking ticket, and then when you have regained some of your composure, you are ready to hit the person who thought of this over the head. How is this an acceptable marketing technique? First of all, this is not funny and secondly, this is a perfect way to make all prospective customers ticked off!

Unacceptable

Cheesed Off!

Pizza Hut, the first pizza chain in America, opened up in 1958, but it turns our these pizza chains can’t always be trusted. For many, the gooey, melted cheese is the best part of a pizza. When health inspectors from the UK standards department tested fast-food pizzas for authenticity (including Pizza Hut), they discovered that 19 out of 20 pizzas samples were made with imitation cheese. Without cheese, what is pizza but a lowly flatbread? So finding out that the cheese they use isn’t real cheese feels like nothing short of betrayal.

Cheesed Off!

Labels

In the European Union, organic farming, production, and labeling have been regulated since 1991, and this kind of packaging would be banned. But in the United States, the organic food industry makes more money every year, even though organic food is more expensive than conventional food. Take this package, for example, they decided to label it as organic and gluten-free when, in fact, it isn’t! Gluten is a serious health hazard for the people who have coeliac disease or a wheat allergy.

Labels

Footlong Subs

The footlong sub was never really a foot long, in fact, when measured, it came to be only 11 inches. Subway has said that their ‘Footlong sub’ is a registered trademark as a descriptive name for the sub sold in Subway Restaurants and not intended to be a measurement of length. Considering the recent jump in the cost of Subway’s famed footlong sandwich promo from $5 to $6, those things had better damn well be the advertised size.

Footlong Subs

Pumpkin Spiced Latte

If there’s one deliciously-sweet latte Starbucks is most well-known for, it’s the Pumpkin Spice Latte that comes around every fall. At first, it seemed that their new drink could do no wrong: it became a favorite and garnered a cult-like following. But in 2015, a food blogger called Vani Hari, also known as Food Babe, wrote a post revealing there was no actual pumpkin in the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte! So basically it had many other ingredients, except pumpkin, exposing just how unhealthy their drink is.

Pumpkin Spiced Latte

Environmentally Friendly?

Brands like Calavo really need to get it together. As a company, they pride themselves on sustainability and environmentally sound practices, but it’s as if they didn’t realize that avocados already came in their own natural and compostable packaging because when we think about it, peeled avocado halves are the convenience food we never needed. This avocado has been precut, then wrapped in plastic and cardboard. Adding packaging to avocado is strange, and consumers were left dumbfounded by this post as it went viral on Instagram.

Environmentally Friendly?

All Natural

Ever wonder what those labels that say “natural” really mean? Not much. This label can be applied to anything, really, as long as it doesn’t contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances. These labels seem like just another marketing tool. Food products touted as ‘natural’ are just trying to entice consumers to pay more for products that are no better for them. ‘Natural’ doesn’t apply to the use of pesticides, hormones, or antibiotics, and foods containing natural flavors and sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup can even be labeled as ‘natural.’

All Natural

But Not Really

This kind of packaging is why we have trust issues and quite frankly, should be punishable by law. This has got to be the ultimate disappointment, buying a nice big snickers bar, expecting it to be twice as satiating, only to find that it’s nowhere near as much as it is advertised. And apparently, Snickers didn’t think anybody would be bothered to do a size comparison. Obviously, we won’t be falling for this offensive display of false marketing anymore!

But Not Really

Extra Other Oil

Head to the grocery store, and you’ll be confronted with an overwhelming number of choices when it comes to cooking oils. If you saw this oil on the shelf in the grocery store, would you notice the very faint words that clarify it as mostly sunflower oil? The words “sunflower oil” are cleverly hidden, so you don’t know you’re only getting 10% olive oil. It is 90% sunflower oil, but the words “olive oil” are 90% more visible. That was not an accident.

Extra Other Oil

Just Like the Real Stanley Cup!

There’s probably no one in North America who hasn’t had a Hershey product of one kind or another, and as a result, the name Hershey has become synonymous with chocolate. So we expected more when it comes to Hershey products, like this solid milk chocolate Stanley Cup. Why would we have only expected half of one? Now, this has made us very curious, is the actual Stanley Cup trophy also only half? But we highly doubt that, and it would have been better if they had just made the chocolate cup hollow.

Just Like the Real Stanley Cup!

Trying to Hide

Known as a delicacy around the world, but very few people actually encounter pâté in their everyday life. For some people, the taste of liver is, well, how do we put this lightly? Disgusting. But for others, pâté has many delicious, complex flavors from the herbs and spices, richness, sweetness. So if you love pâté, you’re in for a surprise… The surprise is that you don’t get as nearly much as you thought you were getting. But whether you like liver pâté or not, this kind of packaging is also disgusting!

Trying to Hide

Oh the Injustice!

We all know the feeling, once we pick up a bag of our favorite kind of chips, we excitedly wait for the chance to eat them in peace. But when we tear into them, that giant bag we were going to split with our other half is only about half full. With a great, big sigh of disbelief, we become so frustrated with this injustice that we start to wonder whether or not it’s time to give the single life a try.

Oh the Injustice!

HP Touchpad

In 2011, HP learned the hard way that you shouldn’t do things haphazardly in an attempt to rival the Apple iPad. The problems they faced were rushing production for another company’s idea, so not only were they unoriginal, but they were in a hurry to get it off the ground, which they never really did. With its faulty software, lousy marketing, along with many other disappointing factors, the Touchpad is an example of how not to create and release a tech product.

HP Touchpad

3D Television

3D television may have seemed like a good idea, the first time, but with several companies trying and failing, it doesn’t seem to be a worthwhile venture. Its high price and mediocre performance make for a disastrous combination. It really feels as if the whole thing was a ploy to get people to buy more expensive TVs with no real justification, as the results were so disappointing. But people weren’t fooled by the marketing and just didn’t seem to want it. With virtual reality catching on, we might end up skipping 3D TV entirely and going to VR headsets within a few years.

3D Television

Supplemental

Bigger isn’t always better, as we can clearly see with these two bottles. The manufacturer realized that they don’t need to waste money on packaging when customers can read how many pills are in it, which is the only reasonable explanation of why the bigger bottle has a smaller number of tablets than its smaller shelf-mate. Any other reason wouldn’t make much sense, although it wouldn’t be the first time seeing corporate greediness trying to convince consumers they’re getting something that they really aren’t.

Supplemental

Kylie Shamefaced

Before her product even launched in 2019, Kylie Jenner’s “Kylie Skin” skincare line was raising eyebrows and not in a good way. People were a bit weirded out that Kylie Jenner released a walnut scrub in her new skincare line as Dermatologists had concerns about the ingredients. First off, manual exfoliants are out, and chemical exfoliants are totally in now. And secondly, crushed walnuts, which are the main ingredient in her product, have been proven to cause more damage to the skin, EEK!

Kylie Shamefaced

Nike’s Defueled Band

Nowadays, the world is saturated with fitness devices, and that includes all the Fitbits, Apple Watches, and Garmins. Nike also wanted to dabble in the world of gadget with its FuelBand, actually pioneering the concept to a degree. But the Nike Fuel score was worthless to anyone who didn’t have a Nike+ product, a fact that wasn’t heavily advertised… The FuelBand lasted a while but was laid to rest after four years. The fitness tracker arena proved to be too crowded, and no one was buying it, ultimately leading to its inevitable demise.

Nike’s Defueled Band

We All Screamed

If an ice cream shop genuinely cared about their customers and the future of their business, a trick like this one may not be the best idea to use. Filling up a cup from top to bottom is simply something every customer expects, and rightfully so. This gelateria in central London should have known better when they decided to put a small ice cream cup into a larger one to make it look more attractive. Still, we’re pretty sure that their customers won’t appreciate this crafty packaging illusion.

We All Screamed

Cheeri-No

We have all noticed that lots of food and consumer goods manufacturers are continually decreasing the weight and volume of their products. What used to be packed in 100 grams (3.5 ounces) is now reduced to 90 grams (3.17 ounces), but Cheerios went too far this time with this ruse. The “large size” Cheerios box weighs less than the standard size box: 15.4 ounces versus 17 ounces found in the usual offering. Cheerios, we expected more from you.

Cheeri-No

Grande Ice Cup

People have been complaining about the business practices of Starbucks for years, and many have even gotten the courts involved. Starbucks is probably scamming you, but it’s perhaps not that much worse than any other mega-corporation out there. How they’re doing it, though, might surprise you. Pay attention to the ice in your Starbucks cup; perhaps your best bet is to order that iced coffee drink with no ice, and ask for a cup of ice on the side so you can add it yourself.

Grande Ice Cup

Choke Central

Scandals may come and go, yet one thing remains: people still love their fast food. In 2013, a video shot in a KFC kitchen showcased an employee taking mac-and-cheese and green beans he says “have been there three or four days” and repackaging the food to be served to customers the next day. The video went viral again in 2017, several years after it was initially posted on YouTube. KFC had no choice but to state and reassure customers that their policies and practices have improved since the filming.

Choke Central

Just One Cookie?

Is one cookie better than no cookie? We’re pretty sure that the company which produces these shamefully packed treats has some “reasonable” explanation of why some portions of their containers are so tiny that they fit only a single cookie. We cannot help but sympathize with whoever bought these cookies as a treat. Even if the weight on the packaging is correct and technically following consumer law, it’s still disappointing to see brands feeling the need to do such things.

Just One Cookie?

Bamboo Fiasco

Sears agreed to pay $475,000 for advertising that products they alleged were “100% pure bamboo,” even though this was not the case. They were made of rayon, a semi-synthetic fabric made from cellulose. Certainly, rayon can be made from bamboo, but it ceases to be “100% pure bamboo” from that time on. The process by which rayon is produced also makes toxic chemicals as a byproduct. Despite being warned by the Fair Trade Commission (FTC), along with Amazon and Macy’s, Sears ignored the warnings and paid the price.

Bamboo Fiasco

Vibram FiveFinger

Vibram’s FiveFinger shoes didn’t sell very many of their minimalist shoes, which are supposed to mimic running barefoot. However, once Christopher McDougall’s barefoot running bestseller, Born to Run, was published, people flocked to shoestores to get a pair of the FiveFingers. The supposed benefits of running barefoot (and which were reproduced with the FiveFingers) included strengthening feet, prevent injuries, and more. Vibram was sued and, in the settlement, agreed to refund customers who bought the shoes, although they admitted no wrongdoing.

Vibram FiveFinger

Snapchat

Snapchat, for those who don’t know, is an application on smartphones that allows users to send to each other photos that disappear, or “snaps,” as the company calls them. The Fair Trade Commission sued them because these actually don’t disappear forever. There are many different ways to save these images, but that wasn’t the only problem with Snapchat. They also misrepresented what information is collected about users, particularly their location on the planet, which the FTC found issue with.

Snapchat

Nissan Frontier

Car commercials are known for being ridiculous at times, but they can go too far. Illegally so, if you are Nissan. Their Frontier pickup truck was shown in a North American ad campaign pushing a dune buggy up and over a sand dune in the desert. The advertising agency admitted that it was altered to be steeper than possible for the car. The Fair Trade Commission found that this as in gross violation of false advertising, as it implied that this was an indication of what the vehicle was capable of.

Nissan Frontier

Made in the USA (NOT!!)

In the U.S., many companies use “Made in the U.S.” labels to boost sales, as many Americans would be more prone to dish out an extra buck or two if they knew it went to their fellow countryman instead of someone abroad. E.K. Ekcessories used this exact same branding — “Truly Made in the U.S.A.,” one ad read. “Our source of pride and satisfaction abounds from a true made in the U.S.A. product.” Too bad this was a complete lie, as many of the products stocked by the store are made abroad.

Made in the USA (NOT!!)

Sensa Skinny

Diet products make a lot of claims, but not all of these are founded. Companies such as Sense have learned the hard way not to make unfounded claims, and they had to pay $26.5 million to the Fair Trade Commission so refunds could be paid to their customers. Sensa said all you need to do to lose weight is sprinkle their product on their food — “Shake, eat, and lose weight,” as customers were told. Sensa now has a new formula, but there are so many ways of slimming down that are probably healthier.

Sensa Skinny

Not-So-Naked Juice

Naked Juice, a subsidiary of Pepsico, found itself in hot water when it was slapped by a class-action lawsuit for using words like “100% Fruit,” “All Natural Fruit,” “All Natural Fruit,” and “Non-GMO.” Allegedly, Pepsico added synthetic vitamins to their Naked Juice, which would make it not so natural. Pepsico had to pay $9 million and took off the “All Natural” labels from its Naked Juice products. The company insisted that the “All Natural” claims referred to the fruits that sourced the juice, but the “Non-GMO” label has remained.

Not-So-Naked Juice 

(Fake) Fruit Roll-Ups

Back in 2012, a health advocacy group called the Center for Science in the Public Interest took General Mills to court over Fruit Roll-Ups, which it claimed were neither “Naturally Flavored” nor “Strawberry.” It claimed only two percent natural ingredients, all in all, while the rest were processed sugars. “We disagreed with the plaintiff on the merit of the case, and the substance, but we agreed to resolve the matter to avoid further litigation. We stand behind our products, and the accuracy of our label.”

(Fake) Fruit Roll-Ups

Sketchers Shape-Up

Remember Shape-Ups? Along with employing celebrity spokespeople, Sketchers claimed that these shoes would help consumers with each spet burn more calories and tighten their thighs more than would be accomplished by walking in normal shoes. For people desperately wanting to get into shape, Sketchers was apparently offering them a way to get fit without doing any strenuous exercise. In fact, all that happens is you adopt a walk as silly-looking as the shoe itself. The company had to pay $40 million in a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission.

Sketchers Shape-Up

Eclipse Gum

Despite what Wrigley’s Eclipse gum advertised when it introduced a new ingredient, claims the magnolia bark extract they added had germ-killing properties were unfounded. Although there is some scientific research that indicates chewing such gum may help get rid of oral bacteria, it’s by no means an established connection. Consumers sued the company together in a class-action suit, and a judge ordered the gum giant pays over $6 million into a fund in 2010. This gave each plaintiff $10 for being misled.

Eclipse Gum

Apparently Not

So there’s one fresh breath strip pack for you and another pack for…nobody else, apparently just one for you. Listerine wasn’t trying to trick you into thinking there were two packs in there. Apparently, it’s just that breath strips are very, very breakable, and they need lots of protection and wrapping. Beyond the terrible design, this kind of packaging is just wasteful. Surely they could have designed a smaller package, but no, that would mean being more honest with their customers and why would they want to do that?

Apparently Not

Real World Education

It’s never too early to start teaching your children that the world will only disappoint them, one nail sticker at a time. How can you “be happy” with only one-third of your promised nail decals? Luckily children are known for being incredibly understanding and reasonable. They will definitely not make a big deal out of this unfairly packaged gift because they fully comprehend the concept of economics and that nothing comes before profit, not even the consumer, no matter how young and innocent they may be.

Real World Education

We Guess it Had None Before

We were all probably young children the first time we bit into a pop-tart, but that single bite rocked our world. The taste of the biscuity pastry with a sweet frosting and delicious filling no doubt left an impression on our taste buds. One of those nostalgic childhood foods we still can’t get enough of, Pop-Tarts has been winning over the hearts of eaters since they were first introduced to the American public. But when we look at this photo, we wonder how much frosting was there before?!

We Guess it Had None Before

Hilarious but Still Enraging

If you’ve come this far in the article, you should know what to expect by now. When we first saw this we thought it was hilarious but then we became enraged! Those shrimps did look suspiciously long but it comes as no surprise that this kind of deception would occur yet again! We all know the saying, “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” So hopefully, after all the trickery that we have seen, we are all the wiser.

Hilarious but Still Enraging

Those Darn Ads

When we first see this email, it would seem to imply that we’ve missed a flight. So either we open it up thinking someone stole our credit card and bought a plane ticket or we completely forgot about a trip we were going to take. But don’t worry, Spirit was just kidding! It’s actually just an ad! So now you can stop hyperventilating, and let the hilarity wash over you as you realize it was just a shady ad to catch your attention!

Those Darn Ads