Top 10 Brand Urban Legends

Did you guys hear about how the original Malboro Man died of lung cancer? I mean, that comes as no surprise; we’ve known about the dangers of smoking for years. But there are a ton of other rumors that have been plaguing companies for years, regardless of whether or not they’re actually true. Like the rumor going around the schoolyard that Janie kissed Johnny under the monkey bars yesterday, these urban legends have gained so much ground that, in many circles, they’re regarded as fact with no questions asked.

1. Mountain Dew Lowers Your Sperm Count

I remember hearing this one when I was about 10 years old, quite possibly before I even knew what sperm was. It’s not exactly known how this rumor came about, but it didn’t take long for children and young adults to spread the notion that the neon colored soda, adored by extreme sports enthusiasts, reduced the amount of sperm in a male’s testicles. And, every time the rumor was stated, the gossiper invariably pointed to one ingredient: Yellow #5. Of course, this artificial ingredient is used in other foods as well, not just Mountain Dew, so the idea that only one product out of the many containing the apparent culprit affects a man’s sperm count is just silly. Furthermore, Yellow #5 is approved by the FDA, so it must be safe, right?

2. Coca-Cola's Hidden Message

The Coca-Cola signature logo is about as recognizable, in America, as Santa Claus. But some people have pointed out an apparent hidden message in the cursive writing that, when looked at in a mirror from left to right, states “No Mohammad, No Mecca.” While the resulting image might bear a passing resemblance to the actual translation of this anti-Islamic phrase to those who don’t hold the slightest knowledge of how to read Arabic, this rumor is simply not true. In fact, it’s been dispelled by Sheikh Nasr Farid Wassel, the Grand Mufti of Al-Azhar. But don’t let someone with actual knowledge of the Arabic language stop you from believing your friend of a friend from Oklahoma.

3. Little Mikey Died From Ingesting Pop Rocks and Coca-Cola

Okay, seriously: who’s the guy trying to take out Coca-Cola by spreading the most random gossip about the company they possibly can? This urban legend started making its rounds in the late 70s, when parents started to worry about whether or not these new Pop Rocks were actually safe for their kids to eat. The rumor was spread like wildfire, causing General Foods to actually release advertisements and full press releases denouncing it as false. Unfortunately for children across America, General Foods stopped selling Pop Rocks in 1983. However, the brand name was picked back up by Kraft in 1985, and I’m glad it did. Otherwise, we probably wouldn’t have been presented with this little gem of entertainment.

4. Coca-Cola Used to Contain Cocaine

Well, whoever that Coca-Cola hater is, he can’t be blamed for this one. Invented in 1885, Coca-Cola originally included two main ingredients: coca leaves and cola nuts. Cocaine was not made illegal in the US until the 1920s. When those two statements are juxtaposed as such, it might be easy to jump to the conclusion that Coca-Cola was made to be incredibly intoxicating and addicting in an attempt to build an empire akin to Walter White’s meth kingdom. But that simply isn’t the case. Although Coke did include cocaine in its original recipe, the amount was so trace that it couldn’t possibly result in intoxication. You’d probably find the same amount of cocaine in an old bottle of Coca-Cola as you would on any of the dollar bills you have in your wallet.

5. Liz Claiborne or Tommy Hilfiger Made Racist Comments

Depending on what time period you lived through, you probably heard the rumors that Liz Claiborne said Black people’s “hips are too big” for her clothes, or that Tommy Hilfiger never intended Black or Asian people to wear his jeans. And what better place to voice these opinions than on the television show of one of the most prevalent African-American women in our country? Neither Claiborne nor Hilfiger had actually appeared on Oprah’s show when these rumors were abound; in fact, Hilfiger appeared on Oprah in 2007 and actually addressed the long-running piece of misinformation. In his case, he was able to track the rumor back to a single college campus, but couldn’t finger the actual culprit who got the ball rolling.

6. KFC Uses Genetically Modified Chicken

Before 1991, KFC was known by its full name: Kentucky Fried Chicken. After the company decided to change the restaurant’s name, rumors began swirling that it had been told by the FDA that it could not use the word “chicken” in its name because the animals used were not, in fact, chickens. The foundation of this rumor is the assumption that KFC actually raises its own animals, rather than purchasing the meat from an outside source. In fact, KFC is part of Yum! Brands, which also includes Taco Bell and Pizza Hut. None of these restaurants produce their own food; they simply get the meat from a supplier and prepare it using their own recipes. The name change, in actuality, was an aesthetic change, much like IHOP- which also sells genetically modified pancakes, right?

7. Snapple and Starbucks Drinks Contain Insects

Girl drinking starbucks

I’m sure you’ve heard this one and either: shrugged it off as silly gossip, or said “Who cares?” and took another gulp of “the best stuff on Earth.” Well, for once, those being skeptical about something that sounds so absurd are actually in the wrong. The female Dactylopius coccus has been used in creation of red dye for centuries, dating back to the Aztecs. Nowadays, it’s used to color shampoos and cosmetics, as well as some fruit juices. Honestly, though, at least it’s a natural source of color. Better than using Red #40; I can’t imagine what rumors we’d start spreading about that artificial ingredient.

8. Post-it Notes Were Invented by Accident

The invention of the sticky stuff on a Post-it was no accident, but its usefulness was doubted for years after its creation. In 1968, 3M researcher Dr. Spence Silver created a glue that would stick to surfaces initially, but was not strong enough to be used as an actual adhesive. The creation was shelved until 1974, when Art Fry, another 3M employee, had realized he needed a bookmark that would actually stick to pages and also be removable and reusable. It took until 1977 for 3M to run a user-testing trial for the new product, during which a group of secretaries discovered dozens of uses for what would come to be known as the Post-it.

9. Doritos-Flavored Mountain Dew

Yes, you read that right. And, unfortunately, yes, it does exist. In 2014, Pepsi announced they’d be trial-testing a bunch of flavors from its “flavor vault,” one of which was aptly named “Dewitos.” A Reddit user from Kent State happened upon a tasting booth that had been set up on campus, and snapped a photo of the orange concoction. I guess Pepsi took the image of a basement-dwelling video gamer with cheese dust-covered fingers and empty Mountain Dew bottles strewn about and decided “We want to market specifically to this person.” Something tells me such a client probably doesn’t have to worry about the Yellow #5 rumors.

10. McDonald’s Spoons Have Been Used for Illegal Purposes

As the story of the Post-it will tell you, necessity is the mother of invention. But that’s not always a good thing. During the 1970s, McDonald’s coffees came with a stirring spoon that, many cocaine users realized, was just the right size for a bump of the white stuff. Drug dealers took note of this, and even began selling the drug along with packets of coffee spoons.  Dealers began marketing their product with a blatant disregard for McDonald’s intellectual property rights of the McSpoon. The use of the spoon became so prevalent that the restaurant redesigned their coffee-stirring apparatus in the 1980s into a simple flat-headed stick. When faced with what to do with the leftover spoons, McDonald’s shipped them to their overseas franchises…where the problem immediately picked right back up again.

See Also: 4 Most Guarded Secrets of Coca Cola

The funny thing about urban legends is the ones that end up being true are the ones that end up being forgotten. I imagine, it’s due to the closure that comes when a person gets the actual truth behind a long-standing rumor. On the other hand, the ones that end up being false are the ones that carry on for eternity. I’m sure Dewitos will most likely fade into oblivion soon enough; but I honestly have never seen a person eat a bowl of Life cereal, but I guarantee most of the country has heard of Little Mikey and his untimely (yet fictional) demise.

The McDonald's Cocaine Spoon Fiasco