Ads – do you need to draw a line?
Maggi launched Oats Noodles with a lot of fanfare (& Madhuri Dixit) as a healthy breakfast (see ad here). Since then, there has been a lot of fact gathering (based on Maggi’s own nutrient information on the back of the pack) that suggest their regular masala noodles might be healthier than the Oats noodles. Obviously there will be two sides to this story, but that is not the point. There are many such examples of ‘misleading’ ads world over by major consumer brands Colgate, Kelloggs, Unilever and more. It raises the question – is there a lakshman-rekha that brands should not cross in their communications?
I personally don’t think that one can draw a line in sand. There is no one rule that can apply across all kinds of products and consumers. I prefer the mangal-sutra analogy more than the lakshman-rekha. Brands share a relationship of trust with each of their customers and each customer is likely to react differently to ‘misleading’ ads. Some customers cannot tolerate any exaggeration (Maggi is healthy? Seriously?) while others may be far more forgiving (Maggi is definitely tastier than oats and healthier than the chole-batture!). So there can be no absolute lines. However, if brands put customer trust as a core tenet of their communication, then they can stay honest while still being creative and effective. Customers certainly allow for spontaneity and experimentation but not at the cost of trust.
So applying this rule, would the Maggi ad been different? Sure – it would definitely not try to insinuate that the oats noodles are a ‘healthy’ breakfast. Rather, it would have simply made the case that this is a tasty option that is healthier than some other alternatives instead of an absolute claim that ‘#HealthIsEnjoyable’. It seems like a small change, but consistently adhering to this tenet over the long term will win customer’s trust. Ultimately that’s what defines a brand.