Puffery in Marketing: Leverage on Attention or False Advertising?

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Puffery is both a legal and advertising term that means largely how it sounds: the act of using positive language to puff up a product or service to increase attention. And puffery can be quite powerful when used properly. It has the power to unite your marketing and sales team to rake in new business, but it must be used carefully and with restraint. And though it is legal, puffery is on a spectrum of deception. At what point does it cross the line into false advertising?

Be Proud, But Not Prideful

Which slogan is most appealing to you?

Sally’s Subs – A good place for a sandwich.
Sally’s Subs – Sandwiches with Style.
Sally’s Subs – Once you have ours, sandwiches will be ruined for you.

I’m going to guess it’s Sandwiches with Style. This statement takes pride in how Sally’s Subs look but doesn’t oversell. Puffery is a great way to show off what makes your business stand out, but overstated claims make it hard for customers to believe. These kinds of statements are likely to let your customers down and invite criticism. Puffery can be a good thing when it is tempered and highlights truth in advertising. Just don’t let it get away from you and set outlandish standards.

Don’t Falsify Quantifiable Claims

Puffery is used to amplify the experience of a product in advertising, but using puffery to make promises on measurable results can be dangerous, fine line to cross. Promoting a manufactured steel by calling it “the best” isn’t the same as calling it “stronger than the rest.” Touting your products’ strength creates a possibility for third parties to test that claim and opens up liability if it isn’t true. If you’re going to make verifiable statements, you should be ready to back them up with unbiased data to prove it.

Familiarity Trounces Trumped-Up Remarks

By its nature of being generalized positive statements, consumers with more knowledge about your products are likely to see through puffery. Though it is likely to grab the attention of first-time buyers for an industry or product, the more specialized your offering, the more likely you are to turn away prospective clients with puffery.

Tactics to Avoid Puffery

Though puffery is a highly effective tool used surgically to increase the effectiveness of a marketing campaign, it’s often an excuse for lazy messaging habits. Here are some ideas to help break up the rut if you find yourself relying too heavily upon puffery.

Subjectivity Sells – Use your customers’ opinions and reviews to create new talking points about your products. What do they love? It’s likely others will love it, too.

Double Down on Data – If researched in an ethical and unbiased way, quantitative results cannot be disavowed easily.

Cut the Malarky – Keep more communications down to the dirty facts whenever there’s a question of going too far. An honest relationship with a client is the best way to ensure repeat business.

Start with Why – Though sometimes overstated, leading with a bold brand plan built around a belief system of a way to make the world better one product at a time creates a natural line of content to follow in every communication with your target audience.