Advertising Claims: Claims Substantiation and Consumer Perception

When planning claim substantiation research to evaluate support for a new advertising claim, it’s important to look beyond “literal” claim substantiation and also consider the messages that consumers will take away from the claim in the context of your advertising. Over the next several weeks we will be discussing ways to ensure that your claim substantiation research and your advertising claim are a good fit:

Be careful when using “up to” claims
Despite the addition of an “up to” qualifier, consumers may assume that your advertising claim reflects the typical product performance. Consider an air freshener product that advertises fragrance that “lasts up to 6 weeks.” What if the substantiation study revealed a lot of variability in the duration of the fragrance, with six weeks as the maximum time at which the fragrance was still detectable? Does this data substantiate the claim? Remember, advertisers are responsible for all reasonable interpretations of their claims. Companies should consider whether the maximum benefit advertised represents something achievable by a substantial group of customers or whether this result is an outlier. The advertiser risks losing a challenge from a competitor if the messages consumers take away from the advertisement (e.g., the fragrance will last for six weeks for a majority of customers) do not match up with the product claim substantiation research findings (e.g., fragrance duration of six weeks was an outlier).

Clearly specify the products to which the claim refers
Imagine that the maker of a line of beauty products wants to launch an advertising campaign around a new organic skincare product. Unless the “organic” claim applies to all of the products sold under the brand name, the advertiser must make it as clear as possible the specific product or products to which the “organic” claim refers. Keeping with the beauty product example, things can get even trickier for an advertiser if the claim at issue applies to only certain products in an otherwise homogeneous product line. An advertiser who wants to claim, “Lasts all day” for the three darkest lipstick colors in a line of 10 colors runs the risk that consumers will mistakenly take away the message that all of the lip colors in the line last all day. Avoiding broad brand references in the ad, using text to clarify the referenced products, and ensuring that there are no photos of products to which the claim does not apply can help mitigate risks. We advise that companies who are uncertain about the messages communicated by the advertisement engage in pilot-testing prior to launch to obtain data on consumer perceptions.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more consumer perception issues to take into consideration when conducting claim substantiation market research. Subscribe to our blog to receive updates straight to your inbox when new blog posts are published.

Register for our webinar, Make a Statement (PART 1): Finding an edge in your claim substantiation research.