Further proof that "all natural" can be one of the most meaningless product buzzwords ever.
Companies are supposed to advertise their products responsibly, but sometimes items hit store shelves backed by misleading language or unproven claims. And in the end, this hurts consumers who put their trust in these claims, in the form of their hard-earned dollar.
So who are some of the biggest offenders of this less-than-truthful marketing? Come along on our tour of the top products that have all been forced to change how they brand their products, after being sanctioned for misleading advertising — or are expected to be forced to change quite soon.
Most recently, Kellogg's was slapped with a suit against their Kashi brand. The company can no longer market Kashi products with the labels "All Natural" or "Nothing Artificial," thanks to a class action suit against the company.
This isn't the first time Kellogg's has been forced to retract advertising claims. In 2011, the company paid $5 million to settle a class action lawsuit over claims that Rice Krispies cereal could boost the immune systems of children. Additionally, the company paid $4 million to settle a similar suit against Frosted Mini-Wheats, though that case did see the company deny any wrongdoing.
3. Naked Juice
Naked Juice was in the news last year after being forced to retract their claims that their juice was "100% fruit" and "all natural." The juice company, owned by Pepsi, was actually including ascorbic acid and synthetic sources of fiber in their beverages — once again proving that "all natural" can be a fairly meaningless buzzword.
Way back in 2008, Airborne made headlines after claims that it prevented colds by enhancing your immune system were debunked. But despite their very public shaming, many people today still use this product to keep from getting sick.
5. Dreamfields Pasta
Dreamfields Pasta may not be a household name, but those who bought into the pasta's claims of low-carb living were deeply disappointed to learn that the pricey pasta wasn't any lower on the glycemic index than regular pasta. Dreamfields was forced to pay a multi-million dollar settlement, and had its main marketing angle refuted in a very public way.
Given the marked difference between the way Diane Keaton looked in a recent L'Oreal ad and the way she looked at the Golden Globes, it's not all that surprising that L'Oreal has gotten in hot water for some misleading advertising. Last year though, the company was forced to remove their "salon only" labels from certain hair products which were being sold in major retailers like Target and Kmart.
Makers of electronic cigarettes have tried to market their product as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes, but that marketing strategy might not work for much longer. A class action suit against NJOY e-cigarettes takes issue with the fact that the e-cig maker touts its product as a way to help people quit smoking regular cigarettes — while containing many of the same toxic compounds in traditional smokes.
Remember when Jamie Lee Curtis was on your TV every 15 minutes trying to get you to eat yogurt? Dannon's Activia and DanActive yogurts can no longer say that they have been "scientifically" proven to improve gastrointestinal health.
This past March, the EU proposed a ban on using "traditional" names to market cheeses produced in the United States. The Europeans argue that you shouldn't be able to call that white stuff on top of your plate of pasta "parmesan" unless it was actually made in Parma, Italy. We'll have to wait and see how this one plays out.
Why Do Companies Keep Making Dubious Claims?
"Companies do a cost/benefit analysis on rolling out dubious health benefit marketing claims," says Dee Dee Edmondson Esq., a principal at The Nor'Easter Group. "If you have $100 million dollars in sales, are you really worried about a $3 million dollar settlement? It's the cost of doing business. Consumer loyalty doesn't dip as much as people would think."
Edmonson also points out that some consumers just don't care about these false claims, as in the case of Airborne. "Products define people in our society," she explains. "What you eat, what you wear, defines you – and companies know that. People are too busy to pay attention to this blip on the PR screen about these products, or simply don't believe the dissenters about the product because it 'works' for them."
Still, there is hope for consumers, at least according to Bill Shelton, the President / CEO of Left Field Creative. "Today's consumer-powered world now takes brands to task on the slightest hint of over-promising, deception (even if only perceived) and blatant falsehoods," he says. "In today's instant media access world, the balance of power has shifted to consumers and they have fully embraced their influence to control brand marketers and force them to be genuine."
Readers, what false advertising claims have burned you in the past? Tell us what you think in the comments below!
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