Category Archives: Advertising

OfficeMax and The Cost of De-Personnel-izing Personalized Marketing Lists

OfficeMax, a photo by RetailByRyan95 on Flickr.
OfficeMax, a photo by RetailByRyan95 on Flickr.

Collecting tons of detailed information about potential customers in order to target your marketing to them seems like a good idea at the time . . . . And, it well may be. But, OfficeMax has a cautionary tale for all of us about the risks of cutting the human element out of marketing.

As reported by numerous news outlets, including  the Los Angeles Times and The Huffington Post, OfficeMax used information gleaned from a third-party provider of customer mailing lists to address an envelope to a father who had tragically lost his child with the designation “daughter killed in car crash” on the line of the address block following the father’s name. Can you imagine receiving such a letter after the heartache of losing a child?

Continue reading OfficeMax and The Cost of De-Personnel-izing Personalized Marketing Lists

It’s Official: “Natural” is Still a Meaningless Marketing Term

imageThe FDA recently reaffirmed the meaninglessness of the term “Natural” in food marketing and labeling, in its January 6 letter to 3 separate courts considering false advertising claims against food manufacturers for dubious use of the term. The FDA’s unwillingness to settle the issue has a long and storied past, as summarized below.

“Natural” is the single most frequently-used marketing claim on U.S. food products, despite the fact that it is virtually meaningless. I think its general appeal and brevity make it an enticing word for food marketers, particularly on the package label, which is prime real estate. Brevity is not only the soul of wit – it is the soul of marketing. Coupling this with a history of defying definition, the term “Natural” stands in a category by itself when it comes to ambiguous and misleading terms used on food labels.       Continue reading It’s Official: “Natural” is Still a Meaningless Marketing Term

The Cost of Careless Advertising – FTC’s “Operation Steer Clear”

false advertisingOn Thursday, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced settlements with various automobile dealers in “Operation Steer Clear,” which the FTC touts as a nationwide sweep of false advertising claims against dealers.

What standards did these auto dealers collide with?

The FTC alleged various misrepresentations in its complaints against the dealers (“alleged” because these cases were voluntarily settled, not adjudicated).  These alleged misrepresentations, inaccuracies, and false statements were found in print, Internet, and video advertisements. Wherever you advertise, accuracy and compliance with various consumer protection regulations are advisable.

Many of the alleged violations were for statements that were obviously false, like advertising the vehicle for $5,000 less than the offering price or falsely asserting that consumers had won sweepstakes prizes they could collect at the dealership. Assuming the allegations are true, these merchants had to know their statements were untrue. I’m sure none of my readers commit that type of obvious misrepresentation, so I’ll focus on the advertising violations that are perhaps a bit more subtle.auto dealer

The more subtle (alleged) violations involved requirements found in federal leasing and financing laws – i.e., the Truth in Lending Act and its implementing regulations (Regulation M for consumer leasing and Regulation Z for consumer lending). Under these laws, when certain terms are contained in advertising (so-called “triggering terms”), other terms must necessarily also be included in the ad. Continue reading The Cost of Careless Advertising – FTC’s “Operation Steer Clear”