This article will change your life.
That’s nonsense, of course. But in the world of online blogging, you can get away with saying anything: context and intent are key.
Brands, however, have to be extremely careful when making claims about any product. Consumer protection laws, like the statutory UK Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations, are at first glance very strict. Packaging can’t make any claim which is untrue or that misrepresents the truth. Key information must be clear and present – which means particularly heavy copy on food and drink products – and must be free from aggressive sales techniques such as overemphasis of limited time incentives.
As a result, one might expect food packaging to be a strictly visual affair, full of rich design and bland, restrained copy. Not so. Clever copywriters make crafty claims which abide by the law but still work as advertising. These claims come in four broad types: let’s take a look and see what options are available.
These claims rest on what the product doesn’t contain – “sweetcorn without a trace of pesticide, insecticide or modified growth genes!” One big example from FMCG would be Coke Zero: a product defined by its lack of added sugar. Decaffeinated drinks, zero-sodium crisps, aluminium-free deodorants – the list goes on.
These claims are true, but they relate to something of very little importance, often something subjective or abstract – ‘tastes great, less filling’, for instance. What matters is that they are aligned with the brand and its desired consumer perception. Healthy snack brands such as Kind or Eat Natural make claims like these, creating a feel-good narrative around their goods without making a concrete, provable claim about them.
On-brand, negative function
Claims like these don’t refer to the product at all – they are all about the identity and values of the brand, often supporting a narrative or myth around which the brand is based. As such, they divert attention away from the contents of an actual product. Alcoholic drinks brands often make heavy use of these claims – Jack Daniels offer a classic example. Their advertising tells a story about how the brewer, distiller or vintner got their start in eighteen-seventy-dot, and their packaging reinforces that myth with fonts, images and layouts that evoke post-WWI France, the Wild West or the glorious Australian outback. You know what they’re about, even if you have no idea what the stuff tastes like.
Inversions take a negative aspect of a product and present it as a strength. This works best for brands with a conversational tone and down-to-earth values – ironic humour shows they don’t take themselves seriously, and confronting their perceived flaws lends them credibility. Evol tackle the negative reputation of frozen convenience food as unhealthy and unpalatable by presenting themselves as out to prove conventional wisdom wrong. Their slogans directly contradict public opinion, depicting them as brave underdogs and inviting the consumer to take their side. Brand value built off product reputation – but backwards.
Like what you read here? Try our other posts for brand managers – including an introduction to design-led innovation and the merits of resight – and check back for the next post in this series.