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When it comes to developing innovation and marketing communications, one of the areas that seems to cause the most confusion is claims. And if you’ve ever been in a concept development workshop or in a meeting with lawyers seeking their approval for your advertising, I’m sure you can relate.
Depending who’s in the conversation, they might use the term claim to refer to scientific claims, puffery, benefits, reasons to believe (RTBs) or something else entirely.
It’s important to have a clear understanding of the nuances of different claim types when developing and testing innovation, writing a brand positioning statement or even advertising copy. You’ll write better and minimize surprises later in the process. So, let’s clear a few things up.
What are Marketing Claims?
I’m using the term marketing claim to refer to any and all of the aforementioned examples. A single high-level definition captures them all and can apply to both innovation and advertising.
Marketing Claim: Any statement made about a product/service or its performance that you (the brand or company) assert to be true
Product concepts and advertising communications are often full of claims—more than you often notice or realize. Here are number of examples:
- Works great
- Contains aloe
- Tastes so good, it will rock your world
- Faster than the competition
- Coolest in the universe
- Lasts for 8 hours
- Unbelievable results
- Makes you the life of the party
- Preferred 2 to 1
Objective Versus Subjective Marketing Claims
One of the biggest points of confusion arises when trying to determine which claims require proof (substantiation) and which ones don’t. I’ve found the best way to think about it is to place claims into one of two groups:
- Objective claims: any claim that a customer or consumer would reasonably expect you to be able to prove
- Subjective claims: claims that no reasonable person would expect you to be able to prove or disprove; also known as puffery
Using the same list of claims from above, we can identify each one as objective versus subjective (puffery):
- Works great (puffery)
- Contains aloe (objective)
- Tastes so good, it will rock your world (puffery)
- Faster than the competition (objective)
- Coolest in the universe (puffery)
- Lasts for 8 hours (objective)
- Unbelievable results (puffery)
- Hypoallergenic (objective)
- Makes you the life of the party (puffery)
- Preferred 2 to 1 (objective)
Benefits Versus Reasons to Believe
I’ve seen many marketers and innovators get tripped up here when writing brand positioning as well as new product/service concepts for testing. Some say claims are benefits. Some use the terms RTB (reason to believe) and claim interchangeably.
Make no mistake, both benefits and RTBs are claims.
Functional benefits are what the product does for the customer/consumer. Emotional benefits are how the product/service makes the customer/consumer feel. RTBs are the specific product attributes or features that make the benefit believable. But they are all statements about the product/service that you assert to be true and are, therefore, claims.
So, all benefits and RTBs are claims. But not all claims are benefits. And similarly, not all claims are RTBs.
A Simple Matrix to Keep it All Straight
If it all still seems confusing, do not fret. Here is a matrix to help you keep things straight. To be fair, there will always be instances where you could argue that a claim be placed in one box over another or vice versa. But, generally speaking, you should be able to place any claim into one of these four boxes.
I hope this article gives you a better sense of how to think about marketing claims in your own innovation and communication efforts. A better understanding of claims should help your ideation efforts in general, and also keep you informed and prepared for any related legal conversations.
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Kevin Namaky is CEO at the Gurulocity Brand Management Institute, a marketing education company that trains and consults for notable brand teams including Kimberly-Clark, Scotts Miracle-Gro, Bolthouse Farms and Gorilla Brands. Kevin is a featured instructor for the American Marketing Association, lectures at the IU Kelley School of business, and has been featured in Ad Age, Forbes, Fast Company and the CMO Council. Previously Kevin worked for 20 years in the corporate and agency world growing notable brands. Follow/connect with Kevin on LinkedIn, TikTok and Twitter.