Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Breaking the First Rule of Parity in Advertising Claims?

Time Warner Cable uses two words in its tagline:  "enjoy" and "better".

U.S. Cellular uses two words in its tagline:  "hello" and "better".

The Language of Advertising Claims by Jeffrey Schrank.  (University of Mississippi website)

Excerpt:  The first rule of parity involves the Alice in Wonderlandish use of the words "better" and "best." In parity claims, "better" means "best" and "best" means "equal to." If all the brands are identical, they must all be equally good, the legal minds have decided. So "best" means that the product is as good as the other superior products in its category. When Bing Crosby declares Minute Maid Orange Juice "the best there is" he means it is as good as the other orange juices you can buy. 

The word "better" has been legally interpreted to be a comparative and therefore becomes a clear claim of superiority. Bing could not have said that Minute Maid is "better than any other orange juice." "Better" is a claim of superiority. The only time "better" can be used is when a product does indeed have superiority over other products in its category or when the better is used to compare the product with something other than competing brands. An orange juice could therefore claim to be "better than a vitamin pill," or even "the better breakfast drink."

Retiring Guy thinks his head hurts.  Are Time Warner Cable and U.S. Cellular sneakily trying to break the first rule of parity?

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