You may have heard that we are now living in a “post-truth” world, meaning that facts and provable figures no longer matter while distortions and outright lies are par for the course. This leads to a host of questions for companies like, “How do you show your product is superior or refute false claims if facts don’t matter?” and, “Are you better off just making positive-sounding claims of your own and see if anyone calls you on it?”
The first thing to consider is that much of the “post-truth” reporting comes from the political world, where the rules are much different. Politicians only need to convince consumers to make one big purchase, that is, cast their vote. Buyer’s remorse is rarely a consideration as there is a strict no returns policy in politics. If your country is leaving the EU or a man with no governmental experience is the President of the United States—you’re stuck with the results, like it or not.
Your consumers, on the other hand, never have to live with the results. They can return products, demand refunds and trash your company on social media if they aren’t satisfied. This means that even in a post-truth landscape your mother was right, it is always better to tell the truth.
Remember that any marketing claims you make about your products and services are still subject to the rules and regulations of the Federal Trade Commission. Blatantly false claims are guaranteed to land you in hot water, especially if you’re badmouthing your competition in the process. When it comes to quantifiable claims about how your product or service performs, including claims of biggest, fastest, best, etc., you should always be able to back up what you say with facts.
That said, be cautious about how you use those facts. McDonald's famously branded their french fries as “America’s Favorite Fries” with a big asterisk that revealed this claim was “based on sales.” Burger King immediately jumped on this and showed how they had the best fries based on taste tests and began to run full page ads with the headline, “The taste that beat McDonald’s fries.”
Bottom line: If you think the current “truth-challenged” environment offers carte blanche to make HUGE (and questionably true) claims about your product or service—think again. Your customers will discover claims that are weak or exaggerated, and make you pay for it with returns, refunds and bad press.
You’re always better off focusing on the core aspects of what makes your brand special and the unique benefits your products and services offer your customers. And that’s no lie.