Happy New Year!  It’s time, once again, to reflect on last year and lay out our plans for the year ahead.  If you are a marketer, your future plans likely include decisions around how best to use advertising to support your brand strategy. Further, you may consider using some form of an ad claim to set your brand apart as a part of your advertising strategy. That could mean:

  • highlighting a product benefit (“Our brand” comes in biodegradable packaging),
  • comparing your product to a “gold standard” (“Our brand” tastes like fresh brewed) or
  • claiming superiority over a competitor (Customers prefer “our brand” over our “competitor’s brand”).

While choosing and executing any type of claim in your advertising, we suggest you keep these seven “resolutions” in mind:

  1. Ensure that all claims are truthful, accurate and narrowly drawn. The NAD (National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau) states that an “advertiser is free to tout product distinctions and highlight the benefits of its product, provided the advertiser does so accurately and that all its claims are adequately substantiated”. Further, the advertiser “must be able to support all reasonable interpretations of its advertising claims, not simply the messages it intended to convey.”
  2. Make competitive claims that bolster your brand without unfairly disparaging the competitor. For example, you don’t want to suggest that your competitor is “trying to fool” consumers, or that the competitive brand is unhealthy if, in fact, it is not.
  3. Craft ads and marketing materials that very closely reflect the claim being made – execution matters. For example, if you only have proof that consumers prefer the taste of your “original” variety over a competitor’s “original” variety, your ads should communicate and show only that one variety, not your (or their) entire product line.
  4. Do not overstate environmental or green benefits of your product. For example, if your packaging is compostable, but only in industrial facilities (not backyard composts), and you still want to communicate “compostability”, you must make it clear that the packaging is not compostable at home; this limitation must be clearly visible and in close proximity to the main message. Click here for more about the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines on “green” claims.
  5. Similar to advice for environmental/green claims, when making a health-related claim you should take care to claim only what you can specifically support. Highlight specific benefits (i.e., that the product contains no artificial colors) without conveying broader all-natural messaging if the broader assertion is not supported with strong evidence. As noted above, execution matters – you may not make an explicit “all natural” claim in your ad, but the way the ad is executed may imply this message. Click here for more about the FTC’s guidelines on health and fitness claims.
  6. Be the consumer. Think about all the ways that a “reasonable consumer” might interpret the claim you’re making. Advertisers must support all reasonable interpretations of ad claims, not simply the messages they intended to convey.
  7. Work with a marketing research company (like RTi, of course!) who can help you assess and mitigate the risks inherent in making advertising claims and design/execute research to substantiate your ad claims. At RTi, we have over 35 years of experience helping some of the world’s best known brands to design, execute and advise on ad claims and how best to substantiate them.

Hope 2018 is your best year ever!