The Mandela Effect And Why It Matters In Business

The Mandela effect is a phenomenon where a large group of people remembers an event differently from how it occurred. The Mandela effect was first described in relation to Fiona Broome, who believed that former South African President Nelson Mandela died in prison during the 1980s. While Mandela was released from prison in 1990 and died 23 years later, Broome remembered news coverage of his death in prison and even a speech from his widow. Of course, neither event occurred in reality. But Broome was later to discover that she was not the only one with the same recollection of events.

Causes of the Mandela effect

Opinion is divided on the exact cause of the Mandela effect, but some doctors believe it is a form of confabulation – or “honest lying”.

Here, a person creates a false memory to fill in gaps in their memory. They are not, as some believe, creating memories to lie or deceive.

Some researchers posit that individuals use confabulation to piece together what they believe is the most likely sequence of events. This is because the events described in many Mandela effect cases are quite close to what actually transpired.

False memories

A simpler explanation for the effect lies in a person’s inability to remember events accurately. 

This may occur when facts become distorted because of the passage of time. Crime eyewitnesses are often unable to recall certain subtle details of a crime, which may lead to gap-filling.

The “memefication” of the internet is also a contributor. Users are free to alter sayings, logos, or images and then harness the ability of the internet to spread misinformation rapidly. 

Examples of the Mandela effect

The frowning Mona Lisa

Many art admirers insist that the subject of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting is frowning, even though she is clearly smirking. 

Researchers believe that the tendency for artworks of that period to feature frowning subjects has led people to form inaccurate memories.

Monopoly Man

The mascot of the popular board game Monopoly is often thought to be wearing a monocle.

Upon closer inspection, however, the mascot is not wearing a monocle. It is thought that people confuse the Monopoly mascot with the Planters peanut company mascot, Mr. Peanut.

Life is like a box of chocolates

In the oft-quoted movie Forrest Gump, many assume that Tom Hanks utters the line “Life is like a box of chocolates.”

However, the actual line is “Life was like a box of chocolates.” Emphasis added. 

Tank man 

During the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, it is sometimes assumed that the unidentified man who stands in front of a tank was run over and killed.

This is despite video evidence to the contrary showing the man being detained and led away from the scene after a brief confrontation.

Froot Loops

The sugary breakfast cereal made by Kellogg’s first hit supermarket shelves in 1963. On the front of the box, four of the colorful circular cereal pieces were substituted for the letter “O” to spell the words “Froot Loops”. 

However, despite the brand having been spelled this way for over 60 years, many consumers still believe it to be “Fruit Loops”.

Adding to the Mandela effect is the fact that the cereal is loaded with sugar and does not contain any fruit whatsoever.

Kit Kat

The popular Nestlé chocolate bar brand has never been spelled “Kit-Kat” with a dash.

It was named the Kit Kat Chocolate Crisp by original owner Rowntree’s in 1937 and was then shortened to Kit Kat after the Second World War.

When Nestlé acquired Rowntree’s in 1987, the name remain unchanged.

Jif peanut butter

Jif is an American peanut butter brand founded in 1956 that was purchased by multinational company Proctor & Gamble in 2001.

Jif has been the largest such brand in the United States since 1981, but consumers believe the brand is called “Jiffy”.

The Mandela effect in this case may stem from confusion caused by unrelated brands with a similar name.

One source of confusion could be Jiffy Pop popcorn, while another is the popular Jiffy brand of all-purpose baking mix.

There is also the potential that consumers are mixed up with the name of Jif’s main competitor, Skippy. 

Coca-Cola Zero Sugar

Coca-Cola is one of the most recognizable brands in the world and has released numerous variations of its original cola-based beverage. 

Many Coca-Cola fanatics believe that the company’s sugar-free cola drink is called “Coke Zero”. In actuality, every such drink is labeled as “Coca-Cola Zero Sugar” or “Coca-Cola Zero”. 

There are two possible causes in this case. The first is that a small “Coke Zero” logo was printed on the back of the bottle where ingredients were listed.

The second is that the name was a sponsor of NASCAR and Daytona races in the United States, but “Coke Zero” was used in this case because it was recognizable to consumers.


Skechers is the third largest footwear company in America, but many add a “t” to the name and call it “Sketchers”.

This confusion likely arises because consumers default to someone who draws when they hear the brand name pronounced.

The company was even referenced as “Sketchers” in this 2015 TheStreet article about whether it could double its business over the next five years. 

Oscar Mayer

Oscar Mayer is an American company that manufactures a range of processed meats.

Founded in 1883 and acquired by Kraft Heinz around a century later, consumers for some reason think the brand is spelled “Oscar Meyer”.

This example of the Mandela effect can be attributed to the way the company pronounced the brand with an “a” sound in its marketing campaigns.

To clear up the mispronunciation among consumers, Oscar Meyer even released an advertisement featuring a child who spelled out each letter of both words to a jingle.

Key takeaways

  • The Mandela effect refers to a scenario where a large group of people believes an event occurred when it did not.
  • The Mandela effect may be caused by several factors. The most likely is the process of confabulation, where an individual harmlessly fabricates information to fill gaps in their memory.
  • The Mandela effect was named after a mistaken belief that Nelson Mandela had died in prison. Today, the effect has been described in everything from movie lines to company mascots and world events.

Connected Thinking Frameworks

Convergent vs. Divergent Thinking

Convergent thinking occurs when the solution to a problem can be found by applying established rules and logical reasoning. Whereas divergent thinking is an unstructured problem-solving method where participants are encouraged to develop many innovative ideas or solutions to a given problem. Where convergent thinking might work for larger, mature organizations where divergent thinking is more suited for startups and innovative companies.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking involves analyzing observations, facts, evidence, and arguments to form a judgment about what someone reads, hears, says, or writes.

Systems Thinking

Systems thinking is a holistic means of investigating the factors and interactions that could contribute to a potential outcome. It is about thinking non-linearly, and understanding the second-order consequences of actions and input into the system.

Vertical Thinking

Vertical thinking, on the other hand, is a problem-solving approach that favors a selective, analytical, structured, and sequential mindset. The focus of vertical thinking is to arrive at a reasoned, defined solution.

Maslow’s Hammer

Maslow’s Hammer, otherwise known as the law of the instrument or the Einstellung effect, is a cognitive bias causing an over-reliance on a familiar tool. This can be expressed as the tendency to overuse a known tool (perhaps a hammer) to solve issues that might require a different tool. This problem is persistent in the business world where perhaps known tools or frameworks might be used in the wrong context (like business plans used as planning tools instead of only investors’ pitches).

Peter Principle

The Peter Principle was first described by Canadian sociologist Lawrence J. Peter in his 1969 book The Peter Principle. The Peter Principle states that people are continually promoted within an organization until they reach their level of incompetence.

Straw Man Fallacy

The straw man fallacy describes an argument that misrepresents an opponent’s stance to make rebuttal more convenient. The straw man fallacy is a type of informal logical fallacy, defined as a flaw in the structure of an argument that renders it invalid.

Streisand Effect

The Streisand Effect is a paradoxical phenomenon where the act of suppressing information to reduce visibility causes it to become more visible. In 2003, Streisand attempted to suppress aerial photographs of her Californian home by suing photographer Kenneth Adelman for an invasion of privacy. Adelman, who Streisand assumed was paparazzi, was instead taking photographs to document and study coastal erosion. In her quest for more privacy, Streisand’s efforts had the opposite effect.


As highlighted by German psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer in the paper “Heuristic Decision Making,” the term heuristic is of Greek origin, meaning “serving to find out or discover.” More precisely, a heuristic is a fast and accurate way to make decisions in the real world, which is driven by uncertainty.

Recognition Heuristic

The recognition heuristic is a psychological model of judgment and decision making. It is part of a suite of simple and economical heuristics proposed by psychologists Daniel Goldstein and Gerd Gigerenzer. The recognition heuristic argues that inferences are made about an object based on whether it is recognized or not.

Representativeness Heuristic

The representativeness heuristic was first described by psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. The representativeness heuristic judges the probability of an event according to the degree to which that event resembles a broader class. When queried, most will choose the first option because the description of John matches the stereotype we may hold for an archaeologist.

Take-The-Best Heuristic

The take-the-best heuristic is a decision-making shortcut that helps an individual choose between several alternatives. The take-the-best (TTB) heuristic decides between two or more alternatives based on a single good attribute, otherwise known as a cue. In the process, less desirable attributes are ignored.


The concept of cognitive biases was introduced and popularized by the work of Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman in 1972. Biases are seen as systematic errors and flaws that make humans deviate from the standards of rationality, thus making us inept at making good decisions under uncertainty.

Bundling Bias

The bundling bias is a cognitive bias in e-commerce where a consumer tends not to use all of the products bought as a group, or bundle. Bundling occurs when individual products or services are sold together as a bundle. Common examples are tickets and experiences. The bundling bias dictates that consumers are less likely to use each item in the bundle. This means that the value of the bundle and indeed the value of each item in the bundle is decreased.

Barnum Effect

The Barnum Effect is a cognitive bias where individuals believe that generic information – which applies to most people – is specifically tailored for themselves.

First-Principles Thinking

First-principles thinking – sometimes called reasoning from first principles – is used to reverse-engineer complex problems and encourage creativity. It involves breaking down problems into basic elements and reassembling them from the ground up. Elon Musk is among the strongest proponents of this way of thinking.

Ladder Of Inference

The ladder of inference is a conscious or subconscious thinking process where an individual moves from a fact to a decision or action. The ladder of inference was created by academic Chris Argyris to illustrate how people form and then use mental models to make decisions.

Six Thinking Hats Model

The Six Thinking Hats model was created by psychologist Edward de Bono in 1986, who noted that personality type was a key driver of how people approached problem-solving. For example, optimists view situations differently from pessimists. Analytical individuals may generate ideas that a more emotional person would not, and vice versa.

Second-Order Thinking

Second-order thinking is a means of assessing the implications of our decisions by considering future consequences. Second-order thinking is a mental model that considers all future possibilities. It encourages individuals to think outside of the box so that they can prepare for every and eventuality. It also discourages the tendency for individuals to default to the most obvious choice.

Lateral Thinking

Lateral thinking is a business strategy that involves approaching a problem from a different direction. The strategy attempts to remove traditionally formulaic and routine approaches to problem-solving by advocating creative thinking, therefore finding unconventional ways to solve a known problem. This sort of non-linear approach to problem-solving, can at times, create a big impact.

Bounded Rationality

Bounded rationality is a concept attributed to Herbert Simon, an economist and political scientist interested in decision-making and how we make decisions in the real world. In fact, he believed that rather than optimizing (which was the mainstream view in the past decades) humans follow what he called satisficing.

Dunning-Kruger Effect

The Dunning-Kruger effect describes a cognitive bias where people with low ability in a task overestimate their ability to perform that task well. Consumers or businesses that do not possess the requisite knowledge make bad decisions. What’s more, knowledge gaps prevent the person or business from seeing their mistakes.

Occam’s Razor

Occam’s Razor states that one should not increase (beyond reason) the number of entities required to explain anything. All things being equal, the simplest solution is often the best one. The principle is attributed to 14th-century English theologian William of Ockham.

Mandela Effect

The Mandela effect is a phenomenon where a large group of people remembers an event differently from how it occurred. The Mandela effect was first described in relation to Fiona Broome, who believed that former South African President Nelson Mandela died in prison during the 1980s. While Mandela was released from prison in 1990 and died 23 years later, Broome remembered news coverage of his death in prison and even a speech from his widow. Of course, neither event occurred in reality. But Broome was later to discover that she was not the only one with the same recollection of events.

Crowding-Out Effect

The crowding-out effect occurs when public sector spending reduces spending in the private sector.

Bandwagon Effect

The bandwagon effect tells us that the more a belief or idea has been adopted by more people within a group, the more the individual adoption of that idea might increase within the same group. This is the psychological effect that leads to herd mentality. What in marketing can be associated with social proof.

Read Next: BiasesBounded RationalityMandela EffectDunning-Kruger EffectLindy EffectCrowding Out EffectBandwagon Effect.

Read Next: BCG MatrixGE McKinsey Matrix, Ansoff Matrix.

Related Strategy Concepts: Go-To-Market StrategyMarketing StrategyBusiness ModelsTech Business ModelsJobs-To-Be DoneDesign ThinkingLean Startup CanvasValue ChainValue Proposition CanvasBalanced ScorecardBusiness Model CanvasSWOT AnalysisGrowth HackingBundlingUnbundlingBootstrappingVenture CapitalPorter’s Five ForcesPorter’s Generic Strategies, Porter’s Five ForcesPESTEL AnalysisSWOTPorter’s Diamond ModelAnsoffTechnology Adoption CurveTOWSSOARBalanced ScorecardOKRAgile MethodologyValue PropositionVTDF Framework.

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