Designing a Hoax — How they do?

“Wi-Fi Signals are bad for health. We should try to reduce the usage. Do you know that in one experiment, wifi radiation had stopped plant growth — Mutation….”

She was a medical professional and was talking about in medical terms how an experiment showed that wireless signals stopped plant growth. I looked at her, narrowing my eyes with an intention to listen more. She understood and went on to explain in detail about the experiment conducted by Danish School Students. The details provided by her exactly matched the conditions what you could term as a hoax news or fake news or an event to bias validation (Scientifically unproven evidence).

A few days back, I came across a message about problems with a potted house plant, — the plant is so poisonous that death can occur — in less than a minute for children and in 15 minutes for adults.

Another message — Raw ONION on the bottom of the feet to take away illness.

The list goes on — Energy Drink Having Bull Sperm

Is there any template to design a successful hoax, fake news, absurd tales? Many books have given enough information to help us in designing a successful hoax content or identifying a successful hoax/content. These contents are designed in such a way to go viral without much effort from the creators. What could we learn from them?


Yes, surprisingly hoax/rumour creators are clear and have a good understanding of their target segment. The segment is based on the education level, knowledge exposure and so on. They understand the beliefs, attitudes and behaviours of their chosen target segment. They focus on people who desire for social approval, focus on people who prefer to share their thoughts, opinions, experiences. The creators focus their content on meeting the requirements of those segments.


For the message to spread — target a belief. We all have different beliefs. Due to confirmation bias, we accept, interpret, favour information which confirms our preexisting beliefs and ignores the rest. Any content targeting the belief is easy to spread — Many believe that mobile signals are bad for the health-Easy target, Natural medicines or natural treatment is healthy.


The content has to first attract the customers — so, the Subject you choose should be important. The subject’s main message should violate people’s expectations — it should be unusual, surprising, extraordinary, worthy of notice. For interruption — You need to target some of their everyday activities/products/frequent behaviours.The wireless signals research project by 9th-grade girl(Unusual) students, Harmless house plant(shock) turning poisonous, Onions removing illness(Surprise).


Most of the content targets only one message — They are very clear. They use simpler language to communicate. 3–5 words in the main sentence so that the message could be nailed in mind. They do not combine two or more messages in one content. EM radiations are dangerous, Onions are good for treating the illness, Energy drinks with a bull sperm, Machupo virus in paracetamol.


Your main message could gain attraction by being novel. You need to keep him interested and make him go through the content so that he could pass the information.

Option 01 — Provide more details in the content -

For wireless signals experiment — details of the vessels, materials used, type of sprouts used, type of water, temperature and lighting conditions, days of monitoring, everyday updates on weight.

“Onions are known to absorb toxins. In fact, during the days of the Plague in England, folks would keep chopped onions around to absorb toxins and clean the air. This helped protect them, against getting the plague.

Onions will absorb all the toxins in the air of your refrigerator. Chop your leftover onion, put it on a plate and keep it in your kitchen as a natural air purifier. Onions are toxic absorbers. Thus why they are great internal mops for the body.

Option 02 — Knowledge Gap — To build interest, you need to make him curious — To make him curious, you need to make him aware that he lacks certain knowledge — Did you check the below message on Onion — Transdermal Delivery, anti-microbial.

The onion and garlic families are anti-microbial and anti-bacterial. Placing them on the bottom of the foot gives them access to your internal organs through meridians in your body. The onion can be directly delivered. Transdermal delivery (on the skin) is one of the best delivery mechanisms, as it will bypass the stomach acids and go directly into the blood. The bottom of the feet and the forearm are great places to put high-powered foods and essential oils into the body. Sliced garlic on the bottom of the feet will work nicely too.”


NASA, Belgium Research foundation, Center for Diseases, Dr.Ola Bakthraman — Yes, you could use some “Authority Bias” — Testimonials. Selection of Source(Expert) and Location play a major role in making people believe and spread the message.

In wireless signals article — “The experiment secured the girls the finals in the competition “Young Scientists”, but it was only the beginning. Renowned scientists from England, Holland and Sweden have since shown great interest in the girls’ project so far”.

An email -”Shipments of bananas from Costa Rica were infected with necrotizing fasciitis, otherwise known as flesh-eating bacteria. The skin infection from necrotizing fasciitis is very painful and eats 2–3 cms of flesh per hour. Amputation is likely, death is possible. FDA was reluctant to issue a global warning, fearing a nationwide panic — The message is from Manheim Research Institute

SLOW DANCE SPAM- Dr Dennis Shields, Professor, Department of Developmental and Molecular Biology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, 1300 Morris Park Avenue, Bronx, New York 10461


Stories draw us into the user’s world and we instantly empathise. Stories with an emotional element drive the content in top gear.

MONEY PLANT — “I almost lost my daughter who put a piece of the leaf of this plant in her mouth and her tongue swelled to the point of suffocation. This is one plant but there are others with the same characteristics of colouring. Those are also poisonous and we should get rid of them. Please watch out for our children. As we all leave our children home in the hands of the helpers, we should give them a safe environment where they can play.”

TIM HORTON’S SHOCKER — “A man from Arkansas came up to Canada for a visit only to find himself in the hospital after a couple of days. Doctor’s told him that he had suffered from cardiac arrest. He was allergic to Nicotine. The man did not understand why that would have happened as he does not smoke knowing full well he was allergic to Nicotine. He told the doctor that he had not done anything differently while he was on vacation other than having Tim Horton’s coffee. — The man then went back to Tim Horton’s and asked what was in their coffee. — Tim Horton’s refuses to divulge that information. After threatening legal action, Tim Horton’s finally admitted….”

ALDI Car Scam — “I was approached yesterday afternoon around 3:30 pm in my local Aldi car park by two males, asking what kind of perfume I was wearing. Then they asked if I’d like to sample some fabulous scent they were willing to sell me at a very reasonable Price. I probably would have agreed had I not received an email a couple of days ago, warning of a “wanna smell this gorgeous perfume?” scam.THIS IS NOT PERFUME — IT IS ‘ETHER’ (A POWERFUL DRUG!)!”

SLOW DANCE — “I don’t normally send these on….but this one brought a lump to my throat…..This is a poem written by a teenager with cancer. his young girl has 6 months left to live, and as her dying wish, she wanted to send a letter telling everyone to live their life to the fullest, since she never will. — — She’ll never make it to prom, graduate from high school, or get married and have a family of her own”

References: Contagious by Jonah Berger, Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath, Unconscious Branding by Douglas Van Praet,



Author -Boil The Ocean. Business Strategy Consultant, Design Thinker.

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