Demonstrating thinking styles via urinal marketing

Depending on your restroom preference (and for North Carolina residents, the latest workings of your state legistlature) the image on this post will be either highly familar or completely foreign.

For the image impaired, the inscription reads “The Pint: Saves 88% more water than a one-gallon urinal” After the motion detector notices someone standing in front of it for a certain amount of time, after they move away it will automatically flush. Apparently with a lot less water than the earlier generation of fixtures.

But the more you think about this inscription, the less sense it makes. It saves 88% more than a standard one-gallon model? So how much exactly does a that older model save?

Am I overthinking this? Definitely yes.

I imagine at some point a discussion like this ensued:

Engineer: Everything’s finally working perfectly. We did it! At last my team modeled the hydrodynamic flows to use only 12.5% as much water as our previous model, unimaginatively named The Gallon.

Marketing consultant: Twelve-and-a-half percent? That sounds small. People respond to big numbers.

Engineer: Um, no. When you’re talking about usage, smaller is better.

Marketing consultant: (gesturing grandiosely) It doesn’t use 12.5% as much. It saves 87.5% more! And I can round that up to 88!

Engineer: (growing irritated) that doesn’t even make sense. The previous model doesn’t save any water at all. If you want big numbers, that just say that this one saves infinitely more water than the previous generation.

Marketing consultant: (ignoring engineer) This is going to be great. Buyers are going to eat this up. (begins dialing phone)

Engineer: C’mon! The Pint saves “88% more” water than The Gallon… I can do the math on that. That’s obviously in reference to the 7 pints difference between models. 88% more is the same as 188%, so you’re literally saying those 7 pints equals 188% of the savings you’d find in The Gallon. Working backward, 7 divided by 1.88 brings you to 3.7234 pints. That’s what you’re actually claiming that The Gallon saves. Can’t you see now nonsensical you are being?

Marketing consultant: (speaking on phone) Yeah, 88! Send me the proofs in the morning.

In this example, our engineer has a literal mindset to a fault, with a focus on pedantic accuracy. Something that’s generally considered a good quality in engineers! In a sense, these two players aren’t even speaking the same language.

Do you notice interactions like this in yourself or in others around you? Comment below.

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