For most marketers everyday is a blur of activity. From the January sales to the traditional Christmas gifting frenzy and all the festivals in between, it’s vital for those with retail clients to make sure your marketing and advertising activity is not misleading.
It can be all too easy to cross the line, however the rules around false or misleading advertising are there to protect consumers (and retailers), and ensure that those consumers are clear about costs, product features and benefits.
“Many companies get picked up for misleading advertising, and it’s usually because they’re not being clear about a certain product feature, price or benefit”, says Jodie Sangster, CEO of ADMA.
Putting out marketing or advertising that might create a false impression can be costly. First, the loss of customer trust can have long-term effects on your brand, especially with the prevalence of social media and online reviews.
Secondly, violation of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (CCA) and the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) could attract hefty fines and penalties.
It is important to note that the rules apply not only to advertising copy or marketing emails, but also to product packaging and statements made by the business in the media or online, such as on their website, social media channels and testimonials.
So, it begs the question, how do marketers ensure that their advertising plays by the rules?
“What you need to look at is the overall impression that your marketing or advertising is having”, Sangster suggests.
Think: will consumers understand the full price and benefits from the obvious large print? Or will they have to read through the fine print – which is where problems can arise. Clarity is key!
Here are 6 ways to make sure your marketing and advertising isn’t misleading.
1. Fine print
Make sure your fine print doesn’t contradict your overall claim of the advertising. For instance, don’t claim that your product is free and then list administration fees in the fine print, as this could be misleading.
2. Comparative advertising
If you’re going to compare your prices to other brands, make sure your comparison is accurate and provides appropriate comparisons of products. Further, if you’re planning to use ‘was/now’ pricing (e.g. Was $150 Now $100), you need to ensure the product was genuinely for sale at the earlier price for a ‘reasonable’ time prior to going on promotion.
If you’re going to promote a special sale price for a product, ensure that you’re clear about the quantity of products available at the advertised price. Businesses get in trouble when they’re aware of the limited quantity of their products, but don’t disclose this in their marketing.
4. Social media
Consumer protection laws apply to social media just like any other marketing or advertising channels. What is important to note, however, is that your company can be liable for any misleading public post or comment made by others on your social media pages. Monitoring your social media pages and addressing such issues is imperative.
5. Green claims
Make sure any claims around environmental sustainability can be substantiated. If you’re product isn’t made of 100% recycled products, don’t advertise it as such.
6. Drip pricing – online
If you have fees that need to be added on to the final price of a product at the time of an online purchase (e.g.: booking or service fee), make sure this is disclosed to the customer at the start of the purchase process, not half way through it.