If you ever want to hide the truth, announce to the world what you want them to believe. Certain brands think that by making claims about their products, they can will their declarations into validity. Gone are the days of blindly accepting claims and considering associations as good as true. Coke may not be the drink of the summer, but enough people align the heat with the refreshing drink that it is a commonly accepted fact. Meanwhile, the Journal of Global Fashion and Marketing has proven that 82 percent of beauty claims are false. Competition is fierce for products and what may seem like a white lie could destroy a brand’s reputation.
The teetotaler truth
Kombucha is a fermented tea that the Chinese have touted it as a timeless health elixir. The only issue with the bottling and selling of this effervescent tea is that the process used to produce increases its alcohol level. If the alcohol content exceeds 0.5 percent at any stage, it is considered an alcoholic beverage and cannot be sold as a tea. The Kombucha crackdown may also be the result of American culture which, until recently, was convinced being a teetotaler was preferable to an evening glass of wine.
Companies love to make the claim that they are healthy. After all, Coca-Cola was first marketed as a health elixir despite containing cocaine. Vitamin Water has also come under fire for claims that it was nutritious despite the high sugar content. These deceptive claims have hurt their brands, and once consumer trust is gone, it’s difficult to regain.
Terms like “healthy” and “made in the USA” are examples of label claims that must be substantiated or companies risk the wrath of such class action lawsuits, says Greenberg Traurig attorney Justin Prochnow, who specializes in legal and regulatory issues in the food and beverage industries. “The private class action plaintiff lawyers are looking at everything you say on your label,” Prochnow said. “There are companies here right now that are currently under class action lawsuits from plaintiff lawyers over things like sugar content and alcohol content.”
An evolution of truth
The Evolution of Smooth, EOS, enjoyed the warmth of the spotlight recently until the public turned cold. A lawsuit filed at the beginning of the year has a disgruntled consumer complaining of blisters and a rash as a result of using the lip balm. An infected mouth does not advance the brand’s claim of smoothness. The American public has seen the birth of the term “lawsuit happy” and a culture where a hot cup of coffee can result in litigation rather than satisfaction. Be discerning with product claims by considering the inclusion of the qualifiers may, could, or might. “May” result in future happiness or “Might” solve all your skin problems does not have the same ring as declarations of certainty, but better wording can help avoid legal issues.
Lancome has faced an uphill battle over poor word choice as did its subsidiary L’Oreal. Lancome Genifique and L’Oreal Paris Youth Code came out a few years ago and made outrageous claims. They vowed that they had clinical proof that their products could boost genes to act as a catalyst for youth protein to reawaken in aging skin. Those in the scientific community scoffed at the notion that cosmetics could alter DNA, and the clinical studies did not verify the bogus claims. The beauty industry may be working on a way to reverse time, but it cannot invent truths.
Don’t be Icarus
Red Bull’s tagline says that the product gives you wings. It made a promise in its wording that it surpassed the effects of coffee and other caffeinated products. One could simply drink the unique liquid and be filled with unprecedented energy that, according to its commercials, science verified through extensive studies. Unfortunately, among the droves of ardent Red Bull drinkers were a few savvy consumers who eventually asked to see the studies after they were unimpressed with the product. After much hesitation, the company had to admit that the studies did not exist. Like the myth of Icarus, wings can have dire consequences.
You can make the follow claims only of they are true:
- Scientifically proven
- Clinically proven
- Boosts ____
- Proven formula
If your products cannot produce proof of the above claims, simply leave the wording vague.
- Part of a complete diet
- From the Earth
- Happy customers love the _____
- Can enhance the appearance of ____
- Beloved formula
Keep in mind that you can make any claims you want as long as there is a scientist there to verify your statements with studies and certified numbers. Consumers only grow savvier with each year, given the abundance of information available digitally. Make only the claims that you can prove to develop consumer trust.