Today, within a matter of minutes, anyone can sign onto Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Snapchat, and even Google Ads to launch an ad campaign. It’s great. Advertising online has never been easier.
Unfortunately, as the bar for advertising online has lowered over the years, so have brands’, especially startups across every category, willingness to make accurate claims.
Don’t get me wrong, people are smart enough to consume ads with a grain of salt. Still, they can get lured by superlative subjective claims such as “delicious,” “best,” “perfect,” and even “number one,” which are often made by brands and influencers.
You don’t have to look far for a sustainability claim
Nearly every brand these days can be seen plastering sustainability onto every new product launch or initiative they are pursuing, making sustainability one of the more trendier claims.
It is a strategic move as consumers are becoming more environmentally conscious and want to associate with brands that share the same values.
Kim Kardashian recently became the latest culprit when she tried to claim her newest launch, SKKN by Kim, was eco-friendly.
Her brand’s website claims that “each product is housed inside refillable bottles and jars.”
“To further reduce our environmental impact, Refills are packaged inside recycled materials and delivered to you inside compostable kraft bags,” the site says.
However, consumers seem to think otherwise.
“Y’all, their packaging is wasteful greenwashing. It’s 100% plastic and wrapped in additional wasteful cardboard packaging. If you wanna help the environment, reduce your consumption and don’t buy from this brand,” said a concerned person on Twitter.
Another Twitter user said: “Kim has the resources to make her skincare line SKKN truly sustainable, but instead, she gave us super wasteful, mediocre greenwashing.”
It is not just Kardashian who is doing it. Some of the world’s largest fast-fashion brands have been making false sustainability claims to lure shoppers, claiming to be more environmentally conscious.
For example, ASOS, Boohoo, and Asda are being scrutinized by a U.K. regulator for misleading shoppers by making false sustainability claims. The investigation is aimed at putting a check on these brands and reigning in their bold marketing claims.
Bold marketing claims have been a thing for decades
The problem with brands making false claims is not anything new.
Back in 2012, New Balance claimed its toning shoe could help wearers burn calories. The sportswear brand ultimately settled a class-action lawsuit over those claims for $2.3 million. And in 2014, L’oreal claimed its Lancôme Génifique and Youth Code cosmetics prevented skin aging but could not support those claims when pressed. The brand later ended up settling with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Then there was Coca-Cola, which claimed its Vitaminwater products could promote healthy joints and reduce the risk of eye disease, among other health benefits, when in fact, the product contained up to 31 grams of sugar, which was anything but good for health. In the end, the company agreed to change the label on its Vitaminwater bottle.
But if bigger, more established brands, with all the resources to council, can go on to make such bold claims, what is stopping a startup from overhyping their brand? Especially if they can get an ad up and running, targeting their ideal target audience within minutes.
The value in legal council… and at the very least consumer research
Before going and claiming to be the number one health and wellness app, the best anti-aging product, or even the most delicious frozen dessert, make sure to have evidentiary support, especially if you are a startup.
Startups can totally be the number one at something, but it is much more believable if you have data to back from a census-balanced consumer survey that measures your product’s performance against some of your biggest competitors.
Even if your consumer survey features just five of your top competitors, you can probably still say you’re the number one at something, but it is still worth seeking legal counsel before making such a bold and probably unnecessary claim.
And if legal counsel is not something you can do at this point in time, conducting consumer research can be incredibly valuable to your brand as it:
- Puts your target audience first: It is an opportunity to learn exactly what your ideal customer looks for in a brand like yours.
- Keeps your brand relevant: Consumer tastes constantly fluctuate. Market research puts products, services and ideas in front of customers and helps businesses learn how to evolve to keep and gain new customers.
- Minimizes risk: You can quickly learn what is missing from your solution and what your ideal customer loves about your product or service.
- Defines your target audience: Market research helps uncover what your target audience likes, where they spend time, what motivates them, and more. This information becomes supercritical when setting up new advertising and social media campaigns.
Whatever you do, make sure whatever marketing claims you make are something you can stand by.