False binaries, secret sauce of marketing

One of the most successful tricks in the marketing toolkit is the false binary. It is a bewildering object that actually takes over much rational thought space the moment it is injected into the collective head – and once you snap out of its false obviousness. Or, more precisely, you miss its till-then obvious pointlessness. Take the ‘Pink Atom Heart Mother’ binary doing the rounds these days: Oppenheimer vs Barbie.

Apart from the two films being released at the same time – an attribute that they share with other movies – the only other commonality between the two is that they have already made huge draws on the box office. And, yes, commonalities are the secret trap door in the marketing magic of false binaries. Using these similarities, then a BC – big contrast – is flung with aplomb: Barbie’s $775 million draw at the gates in the first 10 days of release versus Oppie‘s $400 million. And, voila! We have deep cogitations going on till the last U-235 half-lives its way into the dollhouse.

What next? Einstein vs creme brulee? MiG-21 vs Leo Messi? There will always be something common to be found in till-then seemingly random things. And, ergo, something will then be found to set them apart – and against each other – to draw in the crowds for both sides being set up to stand on either side of the ‘vs’ see-saw quickly and cleverly erected.


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