In today’s marketplace, anyone can claim anything about a product or service – and many brands do just that. Unfortunately, this means that customers have grown more skeptical than ever. Self-declared marketing claims may not seem as credible to potential buyers, and even the most groundbreaking and innovative product or service needs to be backed by reliable information and proof that it delivers on its promises.
As a marketing or brand leader, you need your customers and prospective customers to trust you. Stating facts without supporting evidence can damage your credibility and harm your brand. Yet from a customer perspective, credibility can be extremely difficult to establish. So what makes buyers believe one brand over another, even when their claims are similar?
Buyers are doing their homework
The proliferation of online review sites and social media makes it easy for buyers to conduct extensive research before they ever visit a store or brand website. Not surprisingly, online research is particularly popular for durable and higher-priced product categories. The majority of consumers in the Nielsen Global Connected Commerce survey conducted research online prior to buying, including 60 percent of consumer electronics shoppers. Respondents also reported doing research on products in consumable categories like fresh groceries (38%) and beauty/personal care products (54%) before purchase.
Customers who encounter vague or unsubstantiated marketing claims will move on to other brands that do a better job of earning their confidence and trust. Here are seven steps every brand owner can take to improve marketing credibility and assure prospective buyers their products will meet expectations.
- Substitute specific facts for generic descriptions. Concrete details make your messages more credible. Generic statements – like “Acme Corporation is the leading provider of widgets in the United States” – sound like marketing speak. A specific statement sounds more believable: 1.35 million people enjoy using our widgets.
- Review environmental claims to ensure they are not misleading. If you state that your product packaging is 60 percent recycled, make sure that statistic is accurate and be prepared to provide evidence to back it up. Likewise, marketers who claim that their product is safe for the environment need competent and reliable scientific evidence to back up their statements.
- Support health-related claims with science. For example, in the United States, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) states that it is unlawful to advertise that a product causes weight loss unless you possess human clinical studies of the product substantiating that the claims are true. In the European Union, the European Commission is charged with enforcing similar mandates.
- Be careful when using words such as “proven” when describing benefits or results. Marketers who assert that the benefits or the product are “proven” (such as for a supplement or a cosmetic) are required by the FTC to have clinical trials to back up their claims.
- Make sure any necessary disclaimers or disclosures are obvious. That means they should not be hidden in a footnote or at the end of the website in terms and conditions, or written in six- point font.
- Don’t make claims that exceed scientific evidence. A popular brain training app was ordered to pay $2 million to settle accusations that it misled customers about the benefits of its software. The FTC said ads wrongly suggested that playing the app a few times a week could improve work and school performance and even fight dementia, but the science didn't back that up.
- Showcase badges or certifications. Certifications, badges and seals can provide evidence of a product’s key features or performance. Many companies choose to have their marketing claims evaluated and verified by an independent third party, a strategy that can offer significant competitive advantage.
Gain instant integrity
Not all products are created equal, but it can certainly seem that way to potential buyers navigating a crowded market. Brands that back their marketing messages with visible, verifiable proof will have a distinct edge over companies relying solely on self-declared claims.
A scientific assessment of your marketing claims can be a highly effective approach to emphasize a unique benefit or feature of your brand and to assure skeptical or first-time buyers that they are getting what they paid for.