Many of the ethical issues of advertisement border on and interact with both the social and legal considerations of the advertising process. Ethics are moral canons and values against which conduct is judged. Honesty, integrity, fairness, and sensitivity are all included in a broad definition of ethics.One such concept in marketing is puffery.Puffery is defined as mere exaggeration of a product’s qualities and is considered to be offered and understand as an expression of the seller’s opinion only and is not to be relied on by the buyer. The use of hyperbole like the best, fantastic, and amazing are assumed to be harmless and carry with them no liability because of their subjective nature (Scheinbaum, Semenik, Allen, & O’Guinn, 2014).
Puffery is a term used to describe statements that are not outright lies, but merely exaggerations (Goree & Bredeson, 2011). It is defined as marketing or other sales representations which praise an item to be sold with subjective opinions, superlatives, or exaggerations, vaguely and generally, stating no specific facts. It is an exaggerated fantastical or impossible claims. The claims are usually meant to appeal to some hidden psychological need. By legal definition, puffery claims praise the advertised items by using subjective terms, stating no fact explicitly, and thus representing no factual content to consumers and thereforeestablishingno basis for the consumers to be certain of anything about the good that would influence their decision to purchase an item.It is a form of falsity that the law says produces no deception, along with other falsities such as social-psychological misrepresentations, literally miss-descriptive names and mock-ups.It is a legal and generally a successful ad technique.
WhyThis Marketing Strategy Could Be Considered an Issue of Ethics
While in many ways it is considered as an unethical practice in advertising, the FTC allows puffery. For an advertisement to be considered puffery and not false advertising, the average consumer must be able to see that the claim is an overstatement.Most people are not too put off by puffery, because the claims are so general and so frequent that any consumer would know that the firm is exaggerating and simply doing what many do by claiming their products is the best. However, puffery is considered an issue of ethics for the reason that the exaggerated product claims: prompt consumers to purchase items that are not beneficial; second, it results in loss of advertising efficiency as companies are forced to match puffery with puffery; third, it drives out good advertisement; and finally, it generally results in consumers losing faith in the system because they get so used to companies making claims that exceed their products capabilities.Puffery is also considered unethical for the reason that it is an exaggerated claim that misleads people by overstating the benefits and value of anitemand service. Exaggerated claims are claims that cannot be substantiated by any kind of evidence.
Case Study of this Marketing Strategy and what Happened as a Result
A company that has employed the use of puffery as a marketing strategy is energy drinks giant Redbull GmbH. Its marketing strategy for its main product the Redbull drink involved the use of the slogan “RedbullGives You Wings” which was launched in 2000.However, in 2014, in a highly publicized law suit, the giant company was sued by a consumer, Benjamin Careathers, who sued the company for false advertising. He argued that after 10 years of consuming the drink he neither had wings nor any of his athletic and intellectual performance enhanced.This law suit was backed by research findings published in the European Food Safety Authority Journal that foundthe energy drink to only have caffeine as its only active ingredient, and therefore, it had no performance enhancing properties. The suit statedthat Redbulls’marketing and advertising is not only puffery but also deceptive and fraudulent.Redbull settled the lawsuit by paying $13m to its estimated 1.4 million consumers.
Goree, K., & Bredeson, D. (2011). Ethics in the Workplace (3 ed.). Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.
Scheinbaum, A. C., Semenik, R., Allen, C., & O’Guinn, T. (2014). Advertising and Integrated Brand Promotion (7 ed.). Cengage Learning.
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