A recent NAD decision serves as a good reminder of the basics of clearly defining your comparative claims. Are you comparing to your own previous generation product? To a competitor’s line or specific product? To other leading brands? Or the whole market? The broader the claim, the more powerful it may be seen by consumers. Some companies think it is riskier to name a specific competing product but as long as you have the right support for the claim, better to get specific than face a recommendation to discontinue an unintentionally broad claim. Claiming superiority (or parity) to “those other brands” likely means you have to prove your performance bests (or meets) at least 85% of the market. Of late, NAD has been suggesting that the basis of the comparison be called out clearly within the main claim itself and not reserved for the smaller print disclaimers. So toot your own horn (with the right substantiation of course) but do it with specificity.
In a recent case between glass cleaner companies, Stoner promised its Invisible Glass Window, Windshield & Mirror Cleaner offered “superior clarity” and that it was “more powerful than blue water glass cleaners” or even “than any other glass cleaner on the market”. S.C. Johnson said these promises meant Invisible Glass had to prove it was superior to “all or a significant portion of competitive products on the marketplace”, typically 85% of the glass cleaner market, and certainly superior to all of Windex’s products. Stoner did some testing, but setting aside the reliability, it was only testing against Windex Original. Even if this was the clear market leader, the claim was too broad to be supported by the more limited testing.
NAD said that claims like “superior clarity” can be a noncomparative expression of a product’s excellence. “NAD considers two factors: whether the claim contains a provable quantifiable attribute and, if so, whether the overall context in which the claim appears is monadic or comparative.” In this case because the overall ad was comparative, this claim was also found to be comparative and require reliable head-to-head product testing as support.