Product manufacturers always want to tout new or improved product benefits. Why innovate if you can’t advertise it? NAD agrees but reminds advertisers in a recent case that when calling out product comparative benefits, you need to tell consumers the basis of the comparison. In this case, the claim being “2X Concentrated” but the question that needed answered was “than what”?
Rug Doctor made a prior generation cleaning solution sold with its rental carpet cleaning systems called Spot Blok. For years this was advertised as twice as concentrated as competing brands. In 2008, Rug Doctor launched a new product, Oxy Steam Carpet Cleaner, that was, in fact, twice as concentrated as its Spot Blok. It did not advertise this benefit, however. Rug Doctor recently refreshed the Oxy Steam product label to add “2X Concentrated”.
Bissell, the challenger, asserted that this told consumers Rug Doctor had launched a new and improved Oxy Steam Carpet Cleaner that was more concentrated than its prior version of Oxy Steam. Rug Doctor said it was just calling out a truthful claim – that Oxy Steam was twice as concentrated as its prior braded Spot Blok. Bissell said the 2X concentrated claim was akin to a “new” claim that you can only use within 6 months of a product launch and because Rug Doctor did not call out its increased concentration when it originally launched its current generation product that it could not do so now. NAD did not agree that the 2X concentrated claim was just like “new”. It agreed that Rug Doctor could call out this benefit but needed to make clear it was more concentrated than Spot Blok so as not to convey the unsubstantiated message that Oxy Steam Carpet Cleaning had been further concentrated.
This serves as a good lesson for marketers wanted to advertise product improvements to take a hard look at whether your basis of comparison is obvious and only subject to one interpretation or whether consumers need to be given more information to understand the “than what”.