Marketing Viagra

Barf Bags & Viagra: A Marketing Secret In Common

Foregone Conclusions. I have a penchant for cinema. Add a genuine villain into the mix and you’ve got my money for a ticket. Anyone who knows me or has visited my Supervillainous Lair would draw a foregone conclusion that my favorite genre of film is horror. We all know that the best villains reside there.


As I was dusting off the pristine collection of horror props and mementos in my supervillain lair, I came across a relic from drive-in days gone by, a genuine promotional vomit bag. This item was handed out free with any ticket purchased for Herschel Gordon Lewis’ masterpiece “Blood Feast” from 1963.

Aside from the freebie being a genius and cost-effective way to build buzz around the low-budget splatter fest, it set the tone for a much deeper method of marketing mischief that is responsible for helping one product amass close to $2 billion dollars in revenue.


The free vomit bag, which was handed out with your ticket purchase, implanted the notion that this movie was going to be so violent and gory, it would surpass anything you had seen before. It placed audiences in a completely different mindset.

While traditional moviegoers, parting with their money and free time, would wonder if a movie was going to deliver at all, the daring vomit bag holders of Blood Feast drew a foregone conclusion that the movie was absolutely going to deliver. The only question they were left to ponder was; could they withstand the onslaught of gore?

Would it truly turn their stomach as the imprint on the bag implied? Would it ruin their evening? Or would they survive and live to joke about it to their friends later?

This is a prime example of overpromising in marketing, a bonafide method of marketing mischief.

Flash forward forty years to 2003. When the marketers at Pfizer came up with their “almost too good to be true” miracle cure for erectile dysfunction, Viagra™, they knew they would also be met with some skepticism. Taking a page from the Grandfather of Gore’s book they decided to put a warning in all of the ads:

“If you experience an erection lasting more than four hours please consult a physician.”
Most men quickly went from thinking “does this stuff work?” to thinking “this could give me an erection for four hours!” The question of it working quickly became a forgone conclusion and the thinking shifted to I wonder how well could it work for me?

viagra meme 

 This line of thinking subliminally implanted into the minds of viewers, quickly helped the little blue pill reach total revenues of close to two billion dollars.

While the Blood Feast Barf Bag passively planted the seed in viewers that the movie in question was so brutal it would ruin their evening, Pfizer’s iconic extreme case study challenged customers that it could enhance their night so much that a trained medical professional might be required.

Two diametrically opposed angles utilizing the same overpromising tactic for monumental results. While Blood Feast soaked drive-in screens with gore starting in 1963, the recorded incidents of moviegoers actually utilizing the souvenir sick bags due to the extreme content have migrated from factual statistic to cinematic folklore over the years the movie continues to screen at Cult Midnight Theaters often across the country.

Similarly, due to HIPPA laws we don’t know for sure how many people have called their general practitioners in a panic after over four hours of bedroom fun, we do know that Pfizer has amassed a multi-billion-dollar fortune off the back of their little blue pill and over-promising.

Does the thought of implementing overpromising in your marketing seem like a foregone conclusion? Contact Me Here.

Jesse James Wroblewski

Differentiation Consultant

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