Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Beer thick as ... water?

HT Mark McKenna: what to do when a beer claims that bottle caps float on its head, which turns out to be true ... but also true of other beers and of water? The post's author concludes that this is puffery. But why does the advertiser make the claim?


Jeremy said...

I don't know that I would consider this to be puffery under the Pizza Hut standard--either a claim so outlandish you'd be a fool to believe it, or a vague statement of general comparative superiority. I think materiality is the real issue here, but not from a puffery standpoint.

I'm reminded of Don Draper's Lucky Strike pitch on the pilot episode of Mad Men. The point is not that you're making a material claim, it's that you're making any apparently differentiating claim (e.g., "It's Toasted!"), even if the particular differentiation is spurious and immaterial. Once the differentiation is made, you've captured competitive territory by a kind of first possession. As a matter of consumer psychology it's probably counterproductive for competitors to try to dispute it on the merits, and because it's immaterial it's not something you could easily bring a false advertising claim on, even relying on a misleading negative implication theory (a hard lift in any event). And yet the claim provides competitive advantage simply by virtue of the appearance of differentiation itself (or as Barton might say, based on the commodification of distinction itself, even if that distinction is inherently evanescent and unstable).

Dan Kelly said...


Thanks for the link!


Point taken regarding puffery vs. materiality.

As to your point on differentiaion, you (or Don) are really suggesting that all advertising is differentiating, even non-comparative statements of fact (e.g. "It's Toasted!" vs. "It's Toastier!"). Even scrupulously non-comparative advertising is all about playing to consumer appetites. Advertising alone provides competitive advantage, regardless of whether it impliedly or expressly makes a differentiating claim.