NAD recently reiterated that a claim is a claim and even if registered and promoted as a trademark still must be supported by adequate substantiation. In this case Reckitt Benkiser, maker of dishwasher rinse Finish, challenged claims made by Envirocon Technologies competing Lemi Shine product. Lemi Shine had trademarked its catch phrase “Outshines the Competition.” The label also promised that the product “removes all your hard water spots, stains and residue” and that “‘It’s the only thing that works'” (in quotes) with a disclaimer that the claim was based on daily consumer feedback.
NAD determined there was a lot of claim cleaning up they had to do. NAD began by finding that the statement “only thing that works” was not a puff but a direct comparative performance claim that required proof. This phrase was interpreted in connection with the promise that the product removes the toughest spots. Further, even if consumers would understand the quotes used to express a testimonial, NAD found it still required support as if the advertiser made this promise itself. Similarly the “outshines competition” claim was an objectively provable superiority performance claim. However, with this claim NAD thought the phrase, if used on a standalone basis could perhaps be puffery but when viewed in the overall context of a label promising shine and spot removal, it was an unsubstantiated claim, even if a trademarked tagline. NAD also recommended discontinuing “The Better Rinse — We Promise”.
The lesson here is for marketers to step back and review claims made on a label with an overall impression lens. NAD is likely to read particular phrases on a label with reference to other statements made on the same piece of marketing real estate. And while they will pause carefully before recommending that a trade name or tagline be discontinued or modified, NAD will make such recommendations when they feel it necessary.
Lemi Shine also made a qualified natural claim, that its product had “natural active ingredients”. NAD found this was substantiated but suggested that Envirocon add “real fruit acids” and “natural citrus oils” to the claim to further clarify the basis of the claim. This represents a welcome change from prior NAD stricter stances on natural claims where NAD found a broader implied message.