Factual claims in marketing and comparative advertising

Only factual claims that are true may be used in marketing. Comparative advertising must be truthful, objective and appropriate.

Using factual claims in marketing

If a company uses factual claims in its marketing, the advertiser must be able to prove that the claims are true. The company must ensure that the claims are true before it can publish the advertisement, and the claims must be accurate as the advertisement is published.

What is a factual claim?

A claim is always a factual claim if it concerns measurable effects that can be proven to be true or false. The more categorical the claim is, the more important it is to have evidence to prove it.

For example, environmental claims can only be used in marketing if the company has ensured that the product has some environmental impacts that are worth telling the consumers about.

What should factual claims used in marketing be based on?

A factual claim used in marketing must be based on objective and reliable

  • reports
  • studies
  • statistics
  • tests
  • measurements etc.

What is the difference between praise and a factual claim?

A certain amount of exaggeration and praise for the company’s product or service are permitted in advertising. However, there is a fundamental difference between praise and factual claims in marketing.

A factual claim means that the marketer gives a concrete promise or makes a claim about the product’s properties or effects. For example, if the company promises that the product has measurable effects, they must be able to prove this.

The expressions used in commercial praise are so general in meaning that no proof is required. For example, a product being the most beautiful, luxurious or delicious is usually a matter of taste. These claims are not regarded as factual claims, as the consumer’s expectations are also affected by their personal preferences.

  • When the product is said to have a gentle and protective composition, this is commercial praise.

Using comparisons in marketing

Comparative advertising means that the advertisement

  • compares the company’s products, prices or other activities to those of named competitors, or
  • only makes indirect reference to competitors. For example, the material, features or usability of the advertised product are compared to other similar products in the market at a general level.

If products are compared to each other, the advertiser must ensure that the group against which their product is compared is representative. If the compared products are not identical, the company must explain the main differences between them in the advertisement.

The comparison must be relevant to characteristics that are significant for using the product. For example, the main message of a car advertisement may not be a test result for a feature that is not significant for the whole.

Superlatives constitute a comparison

When superlatives are used in marketing, the company compares their and their competitors’ products. The company may only use superlatives in their marketing – for example, the most eco-friendly in the market – when they have actual proof of this claim.

Saying that your shop is the best shoe shop in town is different from saying that you are the most inexpensive shoe shop in town:

  • The word best is commercial praise for which no proof is required.
  • The most inexpensive shoe shop in town is a factual claim about low prices in a certain geographical area and product segment. The advertiser must be able to prove the claim, for example through a reliable price survey.

Using research findings in advertising

If a company refers to research in its marketing, the facts that must be given about studies conducted in Finland include at least

  • who conducted the study
  • where the study was conducted.

If the company refers to a foreign study in its advertisement, it must give the consumer an opportunity to read the study, as otherwise it may be difficult for consumers to find it.