False Advertising Mishaps Challenger Brands Should Avoid

It’s as true in business as it is in life – at the end of the day, the only thing you truly have is your word. If you lie to your peers, they won’t trust you anymore. If you call in sick when you’re not sick, your boss won’t believe you next time. And if you misrepresent your business to your customers, they won’t be customers for long. More than ever before, small businesses are building themselves on transparency, authenticity and honesty

These three traits are a must for any challenger brand, especially in the modern climate. While the big guys may be able to stretch the truth in order to maintain their standing atop their respective fields, upstart businesses can’t afford to do that. The best way to gain a loyal following is to get consumers to truly buy into what you’re doing. You can’t do that if you’re dishonest to them along the way.

The truth, though, is that you don’t have to outright lie to your audience to fall out of favor with consumers. Even the smallest of fibs or misrepresentations is enough to turn off a sizable portion of your once-loyal customer base.

Here’s how to avoid those potential pitfalls so that you can build your business the right way.

False Claims

We all know that false advertising is bad. But it doesn’t take much to run afoul of angry consumers and the law. In fact, Red Bull was even sued because, as it turns out, its slogan of “It Gives You Wings” did not actually result in consumers developing wings of their own. Of course, those that make specific claims that are untrue are also harshly dealt with. Hyundai’s false claims of stronger horsepower, Volkswagen falsifying emission tests and L’Oreal claiming that its products could reverse aging are all famous examples of outright lying in advertising – all of which came with harsh fines.

For a large company, paying out a seven-figure settlement might not even be a drop in the bucket. That’s not true of challenger brands, where a suit or penalty resulting from a false claim could potentially destroy a company. Additionally, the lost goodwill for a challenger brand – which hasn’t had the staying power necessary to become an unquestioned household name – can be catastrophic.

The moral of the story – be sure to only state concrete facts in your advertising. Better yet, focus less on figures and more on the ways in which your products help to resolve the pain points of your audience.

False Reviews

Search for any item on Amazon – particularly an electronic device – and you’ll undoubtedly find what you’re looking for. You’ll also see a litany of unknown brands offering a similar device, all of which have tons of five-star reviews. At first, this seems like a great deal for the consumer. A comparable product, usually for a lower price and with great reviews. What could be better?

Unfortunately, a closer look is needed. Nobody likes to talk about it, but the proliferation of fake reviews on sites like Amazon is becoming a huge problem. For challenger brands, it’s a Catch-22. The only way to compete with the bigger brands is to get noticed, but the only way to get noticed is to have a well-reviewed product that’s prominently featured in the search engines. What’s a challenger brand to do?

One option is to distribute review copies so that people can provide honest feedback without actively paying for positive reviews. While people also have a level of mistrust for this type of review, at least it’s an actual review of your actual product. And it’s a whole lot easier on the eye than a slew of blatantly fake reviews. 

Another method, which could be done in conjunction with the first option, is to pay for sponsored ads on Amazon. It’ll rank you right up there with the established leaders, and consumers will be able to see your honest reviews and decide for themselves if they want to give your product a try. Again, it’s not as exciting as creating hype that your product is must-have via fake reviews, but at least it adds to the authenticity and credibility you’re trying to build as a challenger brand.

False Followers

Just as your social media messages are considered advertising, so too are your follower counts. A large amount of social media followers implies a well-spoken brand with something important to say. Conversely, having few followers gives off the impression that your brand is nothing special. That’s certainly not the message you want to send.

To counteract this, some businesses have engaged in the buying of followers, particularly on Instagram and Twitter. It’s a simple concept – the follower count of a business is significantly increased, which not only theoretically adds stature to the social media power of a challenger brand, but could potentially also increase engagement on posts. The idea is, in a sense, to fake it until you make it. With all of these many people following you and liking your posts, it encourages others to do the same. Or does it? 

The reality of buying followers is that businesses are generally just buying dead or spam accounts. These followers likely won’t be active, and there’s a chance they could be purged altogether at some point. And if that were to happen, the hoax would be exposed, and the business would end up humiliated. Consider the case of CEOWORLD Magazine, a challenger brand that lost 64 percent of its Twitter followers after the platform did a purge on fake accounts – and whose credibility is now 100 percent gone

Building a sizable social media following is a real challenge for challenger brands, who need big numbers to show that they’re serious players in the marketplace. But just like building loyalty and trust, amassing followers on social media takes time. Stick with a slow and steady approach, and before long you’ll have the kind of numbers you want. It’s just not worth the risk of buying followers, only to be exposed and embarrassed when those followers disappear one day.

In today’s era of open communication, it’s vitally important for challenger brands to remain authentic and to not give into the temptation of false representation. The only way to get ahead is to be honest and to continue to grow. If you need help advertising in an organic way, don’t hesitate to contact us today.

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