Today, the labels that are popular among consumers are “all natural” or “organic.” For the most part, they’re buzzwords that don’t mean much.
I’ve seen “all natural” products that still contain artificial ingredients as color or flavor stabilizers. I’ve seen “organic” products that fit the legal definition required to be labelled as such, but which fall short of what consumers actually expect out of those products.
In Oregon, we even have a measure on the ballot proposing label requirements for genetically-modified products, with all of the consuming legal half-speak that comes with such a law.
So when I saw this post by a friend of mine on Twitter, I was not at all surprised:
Found this ~2 years after burying it in compost pile. Pretty sure it's not "100% compostable" pic.twitter.com/IIYfJ2rzto
— Jason Clarke (@jgclarke) September 28, 2014
Keep Your Outrageous Promises
I recognize this bag of chips. I can tell you with certainty that I have actually purchased it before. I purchased it not just because I like the taste of the chips, but because I believed the promise that their packaging was 100% compostable. I even discarded the empty package into a compost bin.
It’s probably still there.
Making an outrageous promise to lure in consumers is one thing – when they discover you lied, your brand equity and goodwill drops into the trash. Keeping that promise is something else entirely.
In business school, we studied the development of the Icebreaker brand. I absolutely love outdoors-related companies, and those with compelling origin stories are even more enticing.
Icebreaker makes amazing wool clothing, and they emphasize the renewable nature of their products, the comfort of the materials, and the all-natural construction. They even explain that their clothing is compostable; unlike Sun Chips, Icebreaker puts their money where their mouth is and proves it.
As a business, keeping the promises you make (or purport to make) to consumers is vital to building and maintaining your reputation. Transparency and honesty directly affects your bottom line – with other players in the market, customers will turn to businesses they trust even if you have a superior/cheaper/newer product when they can’t trust you.
The bottom line: if you make outrageous promises to attract customer attention, do you actually keep them?