False advertising is a dangerous thing, folks. Before diving in, let’s take a quick trip down memory lane. I want to go back to the Fall of 2009. Ah, sophomore year of high school. At a time when everyone was trying their hardest to fit in, there came a new player in the fickle fashion sense of awkward teens. Enter: Power Balance.
Now, if you don’t remember these, they were bracelets with a little holographic circle that claimed to “resonate with and respond to the natural energy field of the body” and thus increase athletic performance and ability. All for the low price of $30. Yeah, I know. Crazy. But back then, their advertising campaign worked wonders. They had videos of professional athletes trying out three “tests” with and without the bracelet. And by golly, their strength and balance really improved when they wore the bracelet! Eventually in 2010, people ran studies and discovered that the whole thing was a sham, and the company was forced to confirm this fact and filed for bankruptcy. Surprisingly, the brand was bought and transferred to another company, who STILL MAKE THESE TODAY FOR $30. I guess powerful, albeit ridiculous marketing still sells. Of course it does: fast forward to late 2015.
An Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign began to raise massive curiosity (and skepticism) when a company called Triton claimed it was developing “artificial gills” that allowed users to breathe underwater. Imagine that! You can finally live out your dreams of swimming in the ocean, unburdened by heavy scuba equipment and oxygen tanks. Of course, though this product was still in conceptual design stage, through social media marketing and extensive user engagement and sharing, it was already garnering hundreds of thousands of dollars on Indiegogo by naive investors who just wanted to believe. By March 28th, the campaign had reached $800,000 (of a $50,000 goal). This all happened despite many, many websites debunking their claims as mathematically and physically impossible.
Why was this B.S.? The device was claimed to have special micro filters in the two side rods that had pores smaller than water molecules, but large enough to let oxygen molecules through. The oxygen was supposedly stored in two removable oxygen chambers that resided in the rods. However, for unstated reasons, these oxygen chambers were one-time use and new ones were needed to be purchased for each dive. Also, dives were limited to 45 minutes, and 15 ft max depth. The device itself cost $300 and Indiegogo backers who gave this much were promised a functional device when it was ready for launch.
Mathematically, it’s very impossible to get enough H20 through the filter to produce enough oxygen at the rate necessary to breathe. So clearly, the only way this device could be possible would be for the tiny oxygen chambers to come filled with oxygen already. However, people with disposable money caught up in the hype of the campaign don’t care to learn about the reality of the product before throwing their dollars at it. But thanks to the internet, collective action was taken by the savvy to protect the naive. Reddit was key in promoting the anti-Triton movement, and had many posts trying to engage users to downvote their Youtube videos (which currently stand at ~10% like / 90% dislike) and post negative comments on their campaign page and social media pages.
About three weeks ago, the internet succeeded and Triton shut down their Indiegogo campaign and refunded all their donors. Sadly, Triton started a new campaign immediately after with slightly more truthful descriptions that involve mention of the need for new oxygen chambers each time you use it. Paired with a new Youtube video that shows someone using the product continuously underwater for 12 minutes, the campaign skyrocketed once more and currently stands at $415,257. The campaign ends in 6 days.
This shows the danger of crowdfunding campaigns and viral marketing strategies for both, companies and consumers. Will Triton go the way of Power Balance and have to file for bankruptcy once their customers receive their product and realize it’s all a sham? Hey, maybe the device will have a revolutionary new development that will allow it to function as advertised! Who knows! (I know. It’s not gonna happen.) I guess the only thing to do now is wait and see what happens. Hopefully nobody drowns.
Except for Triton.