For decades, the FTC and other regulators have required advertisers to provide substantiation for the claims they make in advertising. The NAD, FTC, and courts consider context and content for all claims. When ads draw comparisons and make express or implied statements, those claims must almost always be substantiated.
This blog post is an exercise in just that kind of sensory claim substantiation–but for hypothetical perception claims. Although the claims and the products aren’t real, they illustrate the type of substantiation that advertisers may require to withstand a challenge from competitors or regulators.
The Coffee Claim
The claim: Monkey Tree Coffee has a stronger aroma than Wakey Wakey Coffee.
This is a comparative perception claim that can be measured by either a panel of trained descriptive experts or a large group of consumers, in either a home use test (perhaps conducted over time) or a central location test. Some of the standards that may be applied in such a test, according to the ASTM, are:
- Both coffees must be unlabeled
- Researchers should try to eliminate or control for any carryover scent or taste
- Research should be carried out in a controlled location
- The coffees must have expiration dates that are as close as possible to one another
- The coffees must each be prepared and served in the same way, as directed by packaging
- Consumers or panelists testing the coffees must have full olfactory faculties
- Consumers or panelists testing the coffees must be coffee drinkers
If a brand did not properly substantiate this type of claim, they could face a challenge by the other brand in court or in front of a regulatory body, such as the NAD.
Body Butter Battle
The claim: Silky Smooth Body Butter gives you softer skin in 30 days than Only Soft Body Lotion.
This is an example of a comparative perception claim. To substantiate this claim, a brand may choose to employ a home use test where the following conditions should be met:
- The products should be unlabeled.
- The advertiser should conduct research prior to the test to ensure that they test the products among people with the correct demographics for gender, age, and geographic location.
- Product samples should have similar ages and formulations
- The directions for application of the lotion should be identical or consistent
- Researchers must account for certain biases
A survey conducted in a central location may not be the best choice here, because the study requires 30 days to substantiate the claim. However, a central location test may be conducted for other claims related to the body butter, such as consumer preference for its fragrance. Or, a trained panel evaluation may be used to test greasiness. As before, if claims were not properly substantiated, the advertiser may face NAD review or litigation.
Snack Food Smackdown
The claim: Cheesitaquitos are now crispier!
This non-comparative perception claim may be substantiated using a trained sensory panel or with a survey of a large group of consumers, testing the old product against the new one. Some of the conditions required in a properly conducted consumer survey include:
- Samples of the prior formulation and the new formulation must be unmarked (to “blind” the respondents and researchers)
- Production of both samples must be from the same or similar time periods
- Consumers must be past or future purchasers of the product
- Research should be conducted among consumers whose gender, age, and geographic region match those of the product’s consumers
- Products should be served the same way each time
If unsubstantiated, this claim could lead to false advertising litigation.
For a more detailed explanation of how to conduct sensory research for different types of claims, please see MMR Strategy Group’s white paper, A Taste for Claims: Overview of Sensory Claim Substantiation.
When advertising claims make comparisons or rely on consumer perception, they must be substantiated with sensory research. Designing the proper research to support these claims requires sensory research expertise–which MMR Strategy Group offers. Contact us today to discuss how we can substantiate your sensory claims.
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