Decoding the FTC New Rules on Testimonials

Updated: January 12, 2010

"I lost 50 pounds in six months with WeightAway." What's wrong with this statement? Well, the FTC says it could be misleading because there's no way to tell if this particular result was typical. To remedy this situation, the FTC says testimonials need to provide context for the claim -- in this case, a description of all the factors contributing to the weight loss. Thus it suggests the following re-write:
"Every day, I drank two WeightAway shakes, ate only raw vegetables, and exercised vigorously for six hours at the gym. By the end of six months, I had gone from 250 pounds to 140 pounds." What does all this mean for high tech marketers? We're not lawyers -- and we're not offering legal advice here -- but our guess is there's no need to panic. According to Michael Fortin in his excellent blog, it may just mean that you should "make sure that you accurately portray the steps that led to success -- which may be more than just your solution." You may also want to tighten up some your publication processes. For example, Richard Cleland, assistant director of advertising practices at the FTC, said in a webinar that companies should consider asking customers to sign an affidavit to vouch for the accuracy of their testimonials. And he advises companies to update their customer endorsements regularly. In the short term, though, we think the FTC's main targets are likely to be business-to-consumer firms -- like weight loss product manufacturers -- rather than B2B companies, which will probably have more time to adjust to the rules. What's more, penalties for first offenders is light: you get a warning and a chance to fix the issue.
On the upside, the new rules are likely to benefit companies that make a point of backing their customer stories with hard numbers and supporting detail. It may even breathe new life into an old art form: the customer case study. "Case studies are more powerful than blatant testimonials," Fortin says. "They give testimonials clarity, context, measurability, and weight. And best of all, case studies make testimonials more believable and concrete, which may even boost your sales."

Featured Research
  • How VoIP is Transforming the Healthcare Industry

    The healthcare industry, like many industries, is in the midst of an era of rising costs and an ever increasing pressure to drive down expenses. Now, what if we were to tell you that there was a simple solution to these problems? The answer is VoIP. And to make it sweeter, it allows for your hospital staff to utilize modern mobile devices as resources instead of antiquated phone systems. more

  • Don't Make These 10 CRM Mistakes

    Finding and buying a CRM is exciting. It is also quite daunting as you want to be as prepared as possible so as to avoid making a costly mistake. We have seen that many businesses fail when implementing a CRM, as they repeatedly make the same errors over and over again. more

  • Video Conferencing Goes to Court

    Think technology can’t be utilized in the courtroom? Think again. Video Conferencing within the court system can be extremely cost-effective, efficient, and time-saving. Courtrooms can benefit greatly by video conferencing in expert testimonies, translators, witness testimonies, and much more. more

  • Can Gamification Improve Contact Center Performance

    We have all heard the phrase "all work and no play". Well, would you believe us if we were to tell you that by implementing gamification you can INCREASE contact center engagement, morale, and overall performance? Spoiler alert: 89% of contact center employees believe that a point system within their contact center would boost their engagement! more

  • [Infographic] 8 Common Pain Points UC Eliminates

    Every company has moments of frustration, it is when these moments become extended periods of inefficiency, or pain points, where we start to see loss in productivity and employee morale. What truly sets a successful business apart from those of its competitors, is how they take these pain points and use them as opportunities to improve upon procedures and systems to eliminate pain points and move beyond what was the status quo. more