How Health-related Disclaimers are Fooling You

If Skechers had included a disclosure in its advertising for Shape-ups and Resistance Runner shoes, it might have avoided a class action lawsuit last year — not to mention a $40 million settlement to provide customer refunds. Skechers was accused of making fitness claims that were poorly supported by the scientific research it cited.

But current marketing research suggests that consumers might have been just as likely to buy the shoes even if the weight loss and glute-toning promises came with a disclaimer. In fact, we may have been even more likely to buy.

People are highly irrational when it comes to interpreting disclaimers in advertising, it turns out. When it’s a company-generated disclosure, we often trust the brand more. When it’s a government-regulated disclosure, we tend to trust the brand less, even if the disclaimer doesn’t actually contain negative information.

For Companies, “Truth Sells”

As consumers become both more health-educated and more vocal in social media channels, companies are shifting toward accountability to boost their images. Representatives from McDonald’s and Domino’s Pizza have publicly apologized for giving customers the short end of the nutrition stick, letting food quality slip in the name of profits.

As part of the “transparency campaign,” they’ve even owned their failures in their advertising. Domino’s let thousands of customers submit photos of greasy, unappetizing Domino’s pizzas and published them online. McDonald’s aired footage that showed how the burgers in its ads are studio-crafted. While such disclaimers are shockingly unflattering, they usually come with a promise to do better. (Except for McDonald’s Photoshopped burger video; they made no promise of a fresh one in real life.)

For more, please read the full post over at U.S. News Eat + Run blog



I’m a health writer and graduate student. I'm interested in the wily side of health – self sabotage, persuasion, and why health campaigns so often manage to inadvertently piss people off.

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