Now, we all know advertisements are meant to entice consumers. We are well aware of their potential and power. But wait, pause for a moment and try and think of a few recent ads. While one soap brand promises “100%” results, a toothpaste brand promises to offer “102% better” results. One energy drink boasts of increasing a child’s height by two inches, while another one promises to boost a child’s stamina four fold. All these brands are playing a number game – with a single objective. Creating an exclusive space in the consumers’ psyche. Here, we look at four products commonly used in millions of Indian households to check the credentials of their claims. Are they too good to be true?
Claim: It can increase a child’s height by two inches if consumed regularly.
The Association for Consumers' Action on Safety & Health (ACASH), along with Mumbai based paediat - rician Dr R K Anand disputed this claim in 2010.
According to Heinz, the company that makes Complan, a study was conducted and children were divided in three groups. The first group of children was put on a normal diet. The second group was given Complan mixed in water, in addition to the normal diet. The third group was given Complan mixed in milk, in addition to the normal diet. The company claims that children in the third group grew the fastest.
However, according to Dr Anand, the study did not include a group that was given the usual diet plus plain milk. He said that any child who ate a normal, balanced diet including nutritious food, milk and fruit, would be just as healthy.
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Subsequently, Maharashtra’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decided that Heinz had flouted the norms of Prevention of Food Adulteration Act and issued a charge sheet against the company. Heinz, however, maintains that is not aware of any such complaint. It insists on the accurate and flawless nature of its study and claim.
Claim: Hindustan Lever Limited (HLL), the company that makes Pepsodent, claimed that it was ‘102% better than leading toothpastes.’
Rival company Colgate Palmolive took the case to the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC) stating that the claim was utterly false, without any substantial studies to prove otherwise. Colgate Palmolive also complained that the ‘better than leading toothpastes’ claim was disparaging all the other toothpaste brands in the market.
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The MRTPC ordered HLL to discontinue the ad within a week’s time.
Claim: “Lose 2.5 kg in two weeks” is the claim that Kellogg’s Special K makes. The brand, specially introduced for women, even presented substantial studies proving the claim.
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While on the ‘Kellogg’s Special K meal’ – this means eating the cereal for two meals in a day – women massively cut down their calorie intake. Instead of the usual 2200 kcals every day, they consume only 640 kcals.
More importantly, they lose these calories from fat. And over two weeks, this “diet” translates into a loss of 2.5 kg!
Claim: A 2007 Dettol ad claimed that it eliminates bacteria “10 times faster than an ordinary soap”.
According to the ad, Dettol is approved by the Indian Medical Association (IMA) for eliminating organisms that cause gastrointestinal diseases. The Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) stated that these claims were not substantiated, forcing Dettol to change its advertisement.
‘Be 100% sure’ is another famous tagline of the brand. This was challenged by Colgate Palmolive in South Africa in 2004. Palmolive said that ‘Be 100% sure’ indicated that Dettol could make consumers 100 per cent germ-free (or free of other illnesses).
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Reckitt-Benckiser, the company that owns Dettol, said that the tagline meant that a consumer can be ‘100% sure’ that Dettol works, and not that it removes ‘100% germs’. Now that’s what we call the power of words! Having said that, Dettol remains one of the most trusted brands globally, having substantiated its many health claims.
So the next time you get allured by a brand, think. And don’t hesitate to check the credentials behind the catchy claims made by brands. Decide what you want and why. Be a brand buster!