Rory Sutherland delivered a TED Talk in which he discussed some of the many lessons learned as a highly sought-after “ad man”. With real world examples, Sutherland explained the real purpose of advertising and branding–that it is not to change the product itself, rather, to change the perceived value.

Now, of course, advertising and branding success is predicated on having something to back it up. But, if you have a great product, changing the public perception of it can effectively illuminate its real value.

Though this particular talk is a few years old, some truths are still, and will always be, relevant. Two examples of successful re-branding are worth noting here:

The potato

Yes. The potato. The King of Prussia knew that a second form of carbohydrates would increase price predictability for bread. Also knowing that having two crops to fall back on would help reduce the risk of famine, the King tried to get Germans to adopt the potato. He even set in place regulations to try to force people to grow them. With no success, he set out to change the perceived value of the potato. He began to call it a royal vegetable that only royals would be allowed to grow and consume.

He planted a royal potato patch and surrounded it with guards instructed to watch over it day and night. He also gave the guards secret instructions not to watch over it very well. Knowing that something worth guarding was something worth stealing, the German peasants quickly began pinching crops and soon created a massive underground potato growing operation.

Shreddies cereal

Shreddies is a square, whole grain, Canadian cereal that had lost its luster after being on the market for decades. In 2006, an advertising intern at Ogilvy Canada named Hunter Somerville was tasked with re-branding the dull antiquated breakfast meal.

Somerville created the brilliant idea of re-launching Shreddies as a new “diamond shaped” cereal. Not a thing would change about the cereal, of course–the diamond shape was simply the square cereal turned on its corner. The updated boxes touted “New Diamond Shreddies” and humorous ads were aired on television. The considerable public buzz created intangible added value that eventually led to a “Combo Pack” of Square Shreddies and Diamond Shreddies.