False advertising can kill your business. We’ve probably all told a little white lie in the past. Maybe you lied to a family member about something trivial, or perhaps you promised your customers something that they eventually forgot about. Whatever the situation may be, white lies can seem innocent especially if you’re able to fix it in the future. Product going to be delayed? Don’t worry—just tell your audience that the cause of the delay is something out of your hands and not the fact that you completely underestimated the time it would take to finish. At least, that’s what we’d like to do.
The truth is, it’s never a good idea to tell your audience a lie. They’re eventually going to find out that you lied to them, and when the secret’s out, there will be hell to pay. You’ll be barraged on social media for your lies and your once loyal audience will have their pitchforks out ready to name and shame you. Sadly, consumers can quickly turn on the brands they once believed in, so it’s even more important than ever to remain faithful in every way possible.
To give you a hand, we’ve compiled a list of tips that will help you stay away from false advertising so that you don’t ruin your relationship with your customers.
Tip #1: Don’t lie to your customers
Do you think that every business is free of lies? This informative article at HuffingtonPost.com shows us that some of our most-loved have lied in the past. It sounds obvious, but don’t lie. Don’t exaggerate details about your products because, sooner or later, your audience is going to test those claims and find that they’re false. Next thing you know, you’ll have plenty of passive-aggressive (or just outright aggressive) comments filling up your social media feeds and company inbox. This is the last thing you want to be dealing with, especially as a startup, so make sure you don’t lie at all when it comes to describing your product.
As a general rule of thumb, you shouldn’t be lying in general as a business. The internet will remember everything you’ve said and claimed as long as there is a digital record of it. If you mentioned that your product will have x, y and z features on release, but it only comes out with features x and y, then people are going to remember. They’re going to pull out the quote that you gave earlier and they’re going to use it against you to reduce your credibility. In short, don’t lie at any stage of your business and keep everything a hundred percent truthful.
Tip 2#: Never keep silent, always respond to queries
If you are caught lying, then don’t stay silent. Don’t give the silent treatment when people are barraging you with questions on social media, and make sure you issue a public statement to calm your audience. It takes a long time to fully settle issues that start on a platform as volatile as Twitter, Facebook or even Instagram, but you need to make sure you have the resources to manage it.
Your public statement needs to be written as soon as possible and posted on your website, and it should in no way be condescending or reinforce the fact that you lied. Don’t try to justify it. Swallow your pride and just admit that you made a terrible decision to lie in the first place. The quicker you get it done with, the quicker your audience will calm down and regain their trust in you. It’s important to remember that some people simply won’t forgive you for lying about your products and you’ll never see them again. Unless you want to ruin your customer relationships, don’t ever lie about anything and think that you can get away with it.
Tip #3: Keep the packaging simple, informative and free of lies
If you’re going to create a product that is made from ingredients or chemicals, then make sure the label contains everything that’s actually in them before you start sticking them to bottles and crates. If you don’t think your containers are suitable for writing on, then visit CLSmith.com for products that are sturdy and capable of holding large labels for you to write lists of ingredients on. Don’t miss out on anything on your list, and make sure you get this officially approved so you have proof to back up these numbers.
Consumers are becoming more and more aware of the things that go into their products. If they spot an error or an attempt to hide what ingredients you actually use, then they’ll report it, they’ll post it over the internet and your reputation will be ruined in a matter of days unless you have a legal team capable of fighting in your corner. Make sure your product labels and packaging are free of lies and a hundred percent truthful with factual evidence to back it up.
Tip #4: Hire legal representatives to protect you.
Lawyers are helpful for fighting your corner in a false advertising case. If you’re adamant that you haven’t falsely advertised something, then make sure you get legal representation to help you fight in your corner. You’d be surprised at how many opportunists try to take advantage of your false advertising or missing labels. For instance, Stella Liebeck went to trial against McDonald’s in 1994 over a cup of coffee that she spilt over her lap, causing her to suffer third-degree burns and permanent disfigurement. This lawsuit is the reason why coffee cups all over the world have the “caution: hot” warning on them. Stella Liebeck won the case and was granted a hefty amount of compensation.
Whether McDonald’s was in the wrong or not isn’t the point here. What’s important to learn from this is that people will use Stella Liebeck’s case as an example of product liability, and they will try to make you pay compensation for any kind of injuries or damage caused even if your product wasn’t promoted using false advertising, making legal representation essential.