The other day, I heard a great “attention getting ad” on the radio which began with – “What we’re about to say is illegal – UNLESS IT’S TRUE!” Believe it or not – it IS illegal in the US to lie in your advertising.
If you’re a small business owner, you may not be aware that the claims you make in your advertisements may put you in legal jeopardy. You can’t say in an advertisement – “Save 80%” unless customers can actually walk into your store and purchase an item for 80% off the retail price.
This is why you’ll frequently see “disclaimers” in ads. In some ads – you’ll see in small print the disclaimer “retail sales may or may not have been made at the full price” to let you know that the big fat huge percentage off which is advertised may be a bit exaggerated. In the ads lawyers run, you’ll frequently see the disclaimer “a non-lawyer spokesperson”. In the ads run by electronic stores – you’ll see the disclaimer which states that there may be a limited number of items available at the super discounted price at each store location.
One way “crafty” (read “deceptive”) marketing professionals have gotten AROUND these rules is to feature customer testimonials and then run the disclaimer “results may vary”. So when Jared lost a huge amount of weight by treking on foot to his local Subway sandwich store – Subway was legally able to hire him as their spokesperson and he could tell his story – so long as the disclaimer appeared “results not typical” appeared somewhere in the ad.
Well – those days are coming to an end with a new FTC regulation. According to Commercial Alert, ‘Results May Vary’ Won’t Be Enough Under New FTC Rules’
The Federal Trade Commission wants to toughen the rules for endorsements and testimonials by requiring evidence that results are likely to be typical—a move that would put pressure on purveyors of diet pills and exercise equipment, among others.
The FTC is proposing the change as part of a rewrite of its now-29-year-old guide for endorsements. In part, it’s an attempt to bring the rules up to date in order to meet some of the challenges of the internet and buzz-marketing age.
The blog The Consumerist provides this translation to the ruling in the blog post FTC To Require Advertisers Using Testimonials To Show Typical Results
Translation: Easily deceived consumers won’t buy useless products if they knew they were useless.
The thing is – I don’t believe that consumers ARE so easily deceived these days. I believe that consumers are becoming more and more jaded every day. In my recent blog post An Open Letter to a Desperate Business : You’ve officially lost my trust and therefore my business! I chronicle how my lack of trust with an unknown vendor changed my behavior and made closing the sale for the vendor in question much, much harder.
IT’S NOT A TRANSACTION, IT’S A RELATIONSHIP!!!
The trust element raised the bar significantly and changed the rules of the game. When this went from a one time sale to a long term relationship – this transaction went from being a Minor Sale to a Major Sale. (Pick up a copy of my book Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results for more on the differences in marketing the Major Sale vs the Minor Sale.)
…The path to the sale – especially a Major Sale – can be a long and complex journey. Every step in the marketing process is another opportunity to earn another deposit into the trust account with this potential consumers.
Consumers are NOT stupid – vapid ATM machines whose greatest desire is to line your pockets with gold. They are people with Goals, Desires and Problems that need solving.
It’s natural to want to create advertising messages that deliver results – however if you’re tempted to do so by stretching the truth and lying in your ads – you might want to reconsider that strategy. Not only is it illegal – but the rules are about to tighten even further.
Instead of lying – try telling the truth with your target audience’s GDP ( Goals, Desires and Problems) in mind.