How should marketers handle the Mandela Effect?

Patti Podnar
2 min readApr 26, 2021
Photo by Aurélia Dubois on Unsplash

Have you heard of the Mandela Effect? It’s when the public’s memory of a thing or event is different than the reality. It was named the Mandela Effect because of the number of people who insisted he died in prison in the 1980s, even though he lived until 2013. (Follow this link for a page that gives more great examples: What’s your memory of Curious George’s tail? And what’s the name of that peanut butter that starts with a J?

My recent experience of the Mandela Effect

There are a couple of little luxury soap stores in my town. It’s actually a chain, but it doesn’t look or feel like a chain. It feels like one of those shops established by a few individuals who love what they do and give it their all.

The name? Bluff City Soap. Or so I thought. A few days ago, I was looking at the sign and wondering what happened to the L. I finally had to accept that I had been Mandela’d. The name of the company is Buff City Soap.

Before I go into what something like this means for marketers, let me give some background. I live just outside of Memphis, TN — the “Bluff City” here— situated on the banks of the Mississippi River. There’s Bluff City everything. But not, apparently, Bluff City Soap.

(As an aside, a good portion of the population — at least superstitiously — believes in the Bluff Effect based on the number of snow storms that split when they hit the bluff, going north and south of us only to merge back together once they’ve passed us by. Google some weather maps if you’re interested.)

I surveyed some of my friends, and almost all of them had, at one time, thought the name was Bluff City Soap.

Now on to the fun part

What would you do if you ran this company’s social media channels? The first thing I’d do is buy www.bluffcitysoap.com and redirect it to the official site.

What would you do next?

  • Launch a marketing campaign focused on branding the company’s real name?
  • Increase the prominence of the company’s name on websites, Instagram photos, etc.?
  • Acknowledge the “Bluff City Soap” Mandela effect on social media channels and laugh about it with customers to drive further engagement?
  • Use your analytics tools to find out how many people are actually searching for Bluff City Soaps and learn more about them so you can bring them into your real soap bubble, so to speak?

Or would you just ignore the situation, concluding that it didn’t have a significant impact on your business?

So…what do my fellow marketers think should be done in this situation? I’d love to see your ideas!

Originally published on LinkedIn

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Patti Podnar

Wife, mother, and content marketing consultant. Discovering and enjoying life as a work-from-home business owner while #50ishwithafullnest.