Another testimonial tip for pet internet marketing: follow FTC Guides

One of my web clients asked me the other day, “Do I need to remove the wonderful testimonials from my website so I’m compliant with the new FTC Guides?”

Well, that’s a good question. Last fall’s release of the updated FTC’s Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising were designed to crack down on marketers who make outrageous claims to hook customers. (“Lose 10 pounds in a day” comes to mind.) But many reasonable folks are confused about how to comply with the new guidelines so they never have to worry about a problem with their web content.

I’ve been reading the FTC’s Guides, as well as several industry-expert blogs, and this is how I interpret the use of “genuine customer testimonials” that reflect a particular outcome of a product or service.

The following FTC example tells me you can use customer testimonials if they offer:

  1. A real and specific story of what the customer experienced by using your product or service under normal circumstances.
  2. Typical results that reflect what any customer of yours could experience. (The reported outcomes are not outlandish or atypical; promising the moon.)

See if you agree. Here’s the FTC language:

“Example 4: An advertisement for a weight-loss product features a formerly obese woman. She says in the ad, ‘Every day, I drank 2 WeightAway shakes, ate only raw vegetables, and exercised vigorously for six hours at the gym. By the end of six months, I had gone from 250 pounds to 140 pounds.’

The advertisement accurately describes the woman’s experience, and such a result is within the range that would be generally experienced by an extremely overweight individual who consumed WeightAway shakes, only ate raw vegetables, and exercised as the endorser did. Because the endorser clearly describes the limited and truly exceptional circumstances under which she achieved her results, the ad is not likely to convey that consumers who weigh substantially less or use WeightAway under less extreme circumstances will lose 110 pounds in six months. (If the advertisement simply says that the endorser lost 110 pounds in six months using WeightAway together with diet and exercise, however, this description would not adequately alert consumers to the truly remarkable circumstances leading to her weight loss.)”

If you interpret this as I do, then we can both consider it perfectly fine to include reasonable, rational and realistic testimonials in your web content as part of your pet marketing strategies.

But if you have a different interpretation, I’d enjoy hearing from you.

Until next time,

Here’s to a clear and prosperous site!