As marketers, we’re committed to being ethical and honest with our audience. In the age of digital marketing, however, it can sometimes be a bit complicated to understand which laws apply and how to comply with them.
Although we would never intentionally break the law, it’s best to stay up-to-date with the latest legal regulations to avoid non-compliance. Here are our favorite fundamental marketing laws to keep top of mind when working with consumers.
Being sustainable and “green” has become a major concern for many companies, as well as their consumers. As this demand for sustainable practices grows, you’ll want to avoid “greenwashing” and ensure that any claims you’re making regarding your product are easily backed up. Avoid things such as exaggerated imagery and words, false data, and irrelevant claims to ensure you’re focused on green marketing, versus greenwashing.
In 2012, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) updated its “Green Guides,” providing marketers with guardrails designed to help them avoid making misleading claims regarding the environment. These guides also offer guidance when discussing many topics that consumers are curious about, including reputable green certifications, carbon-offset programs, renewable energy claims, and even compostable and recyclable materials.
You can read more about common ESG mistakes and how to take accountability for them here.
Use of Endorsements and Influencers
If your brand is using endorsements or influencers in your marketing, you’ll want to ensure you are familiar with the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) and their endorsement guidelines. These guidelines reflect the principle that any endorsements are truthful, and not misleading. Influencer marketing is not exempt from the rules that apply to any other type of advertising, according to the FTC.
If your company works with influencers, you’ll want to ensure that all parties are disclosing material connections. Influencer endorsements must contain clear, visible messaging when they are partnered with a brand, or received an incentive (such as a free product, discount, or invitation to an event) for participating with a brand. Being mindful and upfront with your customers about these endorsements ensures your brand will stay credible and trustworthy, and likely keep you out of any litigation that could arise due to the partnership.
Privacy and Protection of Children
You’ll want to be incredibly careful when marketing to certain age groups, particularly children. There’s actually a whole set of resources dedicated to children and adolescents’ privacy by the FTC. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) ensures that children’s personal information, such as IP addresses, or location cannot be disclosed without parental permission if they are under 13 years old.
COPPA has been revised multiple times since its inception in 1998, thanks to ever-changing advances in technology and new social media platforms emerging. Children are spending more time in front of screens, so these laws regarding children’s privacy will continue to evolve. If these FTC laws regarding children aren’t complied with, there can be significant fines, as they take child privacy rights incredibly seriously, and are only getting stricter regarding enforcement of these laws.
Telemarketing, Email, and SMS Marketing
We are always striving to have open lines of communication with our clients, but before you hit the “send” button, you’ll want to ensure that you’re familiar with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) as well as the CAN-SPAM act. Under the TCPA, consumers cannot be called or text-messaged without prior written consent (on paper or digitally.) Additionally, in order to be considered transparent with consumers, they should have access to a description to the type of program they are subscribing to, how many messages they should expect per month, and a link to the full terms and conditions of the program.
The CAN-SPAM act makes it illegal for businesses and brands to send unwanted text messages to phone numbers and requires that any commercial message be easily identifiable by the receiver as an advertisement. This act also helps to regulate the dos and don’ts of email marketing, such as requiring a physical address to be present within the email and allowing consumers a way to opt out of the marketing easily.
Health and Wellness Claims
As we covered within environmental marketing, companies need to back up any claims they make. In the health and wellness industry, this is especially important as both the FTC and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) work hand-in-hand to ensure that their enforcement efforts are consistent. Through this partnership, they enforce and ensure that any information presented to consumers is clear and prominently displayed.
The FTC makes it clear that before marketing, there must substantiate all claims that the ad conveys to their consumers. You must also ensure that any of your brands’ advertising claims, including those on the product label and packaging, are truthful and accurate. Additionally, the FTC has stated that patient endorsements must speak to the kind of result that a patient would reasonably expect and be simulate actual conditions a person would experience.
Marketing laws can be complicated but are incredibly necessary to ensure that your brand remains ethical and honest with consumers. If you’re having trouble navigating these marketing laws, we can help. Contact us today for a complimentary consultation.