Poop in the Pool: The Psychology of Illusions (Part 1)

Illusions are everywhere in marketing.

I'm not talking about the kind of illusions David Copperfield performs nightly. I'm talking about the things organizations do to make customers think something is true when it's not.

Because my wife and I are going to see Penn and Teller perform in Las Vegas soon, I thought I'd expose some of the most popular illusions in marketing and then identify what we can learn from them. Let's go...

Example: Poop in the Pool
A friend of mine recently told me this story from his time as a lifeguard at his neighborhood pool:
Whenever someone pooped in the pool, we cleared the area and then fished it out of the water. Then, we were trained to grab an empty two liter bottle we had on hand, go into the bathroom, fill it with water, and dump it in the area in which the poop was found. We'd wait a few minutes, and then open the pool back up.
Yikes! My friend went on to say that the pool was already treated heavily with chemicals and if they if they actually dumped more into the water, it would destroy the PH balance, causing bigger problems. They were trained to pretend like they were dumping chemicals into the water because that's what people expected them to do in order to feel like the situation had been resolved (or, perhaps... dissolved?). Boom.
 
The "We're Doing Something About This Problem" Illusion 
This illusion stems from the fact that when things go wrong, we expect them to be fixed. "Somebody needs to do something about this!" We want answers and we want action. We can quickly move on from problems if we feel like there has been an adequate response. 
 
Add This To Your To-Do List 
Problems always arise. It's our response that matters most. I'm not advocating for fake responses like dumping pretend chemicals into a pool. I'm advocating for genuine responses to making things right when they go wrong.

Often times, it's our response to bad situations that define us. The best we can do is respond quickly, honestly, and in the best interest of customers. We don't need illusions to do that.
 
There's never a lack of ideas. 

PS Special thanks to Kyle Welter for inspiring this post. 

Image: Caddyshack pool scene

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