Rethinking The Business Of Wellness

New FTC rules for weight-loss, bloggers, and celebrities

The old rule:  Your business could feature an unusually successful customer testimonial as long as you included a disclaimer stating “these results not typical”. 

Thus, a testimonial from a client who lost 150 pounds was perfectly acceptable as long as the marketing materials carried a statement that their results were not the norm.

The new rule:  Ads that feature testimonials from customers whose experience is not typical for your business must also disclose the typical results that consumers can generally expect if they use your product or service.

Other FTC development that affect some health and wellness businesses:

1)  Bloggers and other word-of-mouth marketers who receive cash or in-kind payments in exchange for product reviews must disclose these connections. 

What it means:  It’s fine if you receive a single product sample for review purposes (assuming it’s not inherently extremely valuable).  The FTC’s concern is with someone who reviews Company A’s nutritional supplements favorably while receiving a shipment of supplements for his or her personal use every month.

2)  If your wellness business refers to research results from a study that you funded, you must disclose this connection. 

What it means:  If your business pays a doctoral student at a local university to compile data from your customers and draw conclusions, you have to disclose the fact that you sponsored this study.  You can’t present it as an independent study prepared by “Joan Smith, Department of Human Nutrition, State University”.

3)  Celebrities who endorse products can be penalized if they make statements indicating that they use the product when, in fact, they don’t actually use it. 

What it means:  Don’t pay a celebrity to say they follow your diet plan unless they really do use it consistently.

4)  And celebrities must disclose their relationships with advertisers when endorsing products outside the context of traditional ads.

What it means:  Sally Field has promoted an osteoporosis drug on news and talk shows without consistently disclosing that she was paid by the drugmaker to make these statements.  She did use the drug, so her statements about its benefits for her personally pass the test in #3 above.  However, going forward, she’d have to disclose the financial relationship.

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