The Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) Endorsement Guides are a set of guidelines that provide advice on how endorsements should be used in advertising to ensure they’re truthful and not misleading. Let’s take a deeper dive into the guides so you can make informed choices about your brand’s advertising.
Decoding the FTC's Endorsement Guides
In June 2023. The FTC revised the Endorsement Guides which were last revised in 2009. The FTC keeps a close eye on and regularly updates these guides because of the nature of their content and how it impacts consumers and brands on a day-to-day basis. Here are the main takeaways with an example based on a fictitious sleep supplement:
Transparency and Disclosure
Endorsers, including influencers and celebrities, must clearly disclose their relationships with the brands whose products or services they are endorsing. This means if they are paid, receive free products, or have any other material connection to a brand, this must be clearly communicated to the audience.
Example: A sleep supplement brand sends a free sample of sleep gummies to a micro-influencer in exchange for a review on Instagram Reels. The influencer must state that they received the sample in exchange for the review clearly in their short-form video content on Reels.
Honesty and Authenticity
Endorsements must reflect the honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences of the endorser. Misleading or unsubstantiated claims are not allowed.
Example: The influencer takes the sleep supplement but doesn’t really like the taste of the gummies at all. The influencer creates a Reel about the supplement and mentions the great results…but also the poor taste of the gummies.
Typicality of Results
If an endorsement claims results from using a product or service, those results must be typical of what consumers can generally expect. If the results are not typical, this should be clearly stated in the endorsement.
Example: The influencer takes the sleep gummies nightly for four weeks and gets incredible results. She is consistently sleeping through the night without tossing and turning and falls asleep within three minutes of going to bed. She shares these amazing results with her followers but also shares the claims listed on the supplement, 72% of participants fell asleep within 15 minutes of going to bed after taking the gummies for four weeks.
If endorsements are made by individuals presented as experts, they must have the expertise in the field that they are endorsing and their endorsements must be supported by an actual evaluation, analysis, or testing.
Example: The sleep supplement brand gives their gummies to a popular somnologist who has a massive following on TikTok, asking them to give an honest review. The somnologist asks the brand to provide evidence of clinical testing on their supplements before they can give their endorsement. The somnologist also discloses this relationship before making their TikTok so as not to deceive their followers and make it look like they just picked up the gummies at the store and to share more about them.
Social Media Endorsements
In the context of social media, where endorsements can be less obvious, special care must be taken to ensure that all endorsements are clearly disclosed in a way that consumers can easily understand.
Example: A social media influencer creates a “day in the life” video. The video isn’t directly about the gummies. It focuses more on her daily rituals and how she spends her time. In the end, she takes the sleep gummy before bed. The content later shows her waking up well-rested, implying that she got great sleep from the gummies. She must disclose that the supplements were supplied to her by the brand in exchange for the content, no matter what type of content is created.
Why It's Crucial for Your Wellness Brand
Your brand's integrity is your currency. Missteps in endorsements can not only lead to legal troubles but also erode consumer trust—a commodity that's hard to regain once lost.
1. Educate and Train: Ensure that your marketing team and partners understand and apply the FTC's guidelines.
2. Vigilant Monitoring: Regularly review endorsements associated with your brand to ensure compliance.
3. Clear Disclosures: Make sure that any material connections between endorsers and your brand are clearly disclosed, and easily noticeable by the audience.
Harnessing Clinical Research
This is where robust clinical research can be your ally. By substantiating your product claims with scientific evidence, you align with FTC guidelines and enhance your brand's credibility. Collaborate with Citruslabs to conduct research that validates your claims, reinforces consumer trust, and differentiates your brand in the market.
Mastering the FTC's Endorsement Guides directs your strategies toward integrity, transparency, and consumer respect. As stewards of wellness brands, it's our duty to embed these principles deeply into our marketing ethos. In doing so, we build brands that are not only commercially successful but also revered for their honesty and consumer-centric approach.
Want a better understanding of how to best work with influencers?
Check out this on-demand webinar where we invite an FTC and FDA expert to give us more insight into this regulated relationship.