Making Claims that Stick: Webinar Panel Recap

The world of wellness can be complicated to navigate as new products and players are constantly entering the market. From the consumer perspective, wellness involves actively making choices towards a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle. This is done by continuously learning how to create a lifestyle to fit specific needs and values. Wellness products may include self-care habits, such as gym weights, mindfulness apps, or aromatherapy diffusers, to aiding recovery through lotions, supplements, or weighted blankets. With the wellness space continuously growing, marketers are trying to find ways to differentiate from competitors by highlighting a special ingredient or benefit. For these claims to be successful, they must not only resonate with the consumer but also adhere to regulatory standards such as validation through clinical or efficacy research. Having strong, validated claims satisfies consumer needs, business objectives, and cross functional priorities. 

In the webinar Making Claims that Stick: A Frank Discussion on the Science of Claims Testing in Consumer & Wellness Products, HCD’s VP of Research and Innovation, Michelle Niedziela, is joined by a roundtable of expert panelists to discuss the rules, rewards, and repercussions regarding claims research. To help get a taste for this exciting conversation, we listed out 5 key moments from the webinar. Curious to learn more about identifying a claim and how you can make one? Keep scrolling!

Keep your claims clear.

Bethia Margoshes and Kristine Wilke kick off the conversation by defining a claim and also sharing the importance of keeping any claim study focused, clear, and targeted. Although it may be enticing to try to get as much out of one study as possible, having a broad amount of data can cause muddy results and potentially create inconclusive findings. Contradictions within the research survey or design can negate the claims and create conflict if the claim is questioned.

Let the claim you are trying to make frame the research.

Dennis Sawchuk shared how claim substantiation can be proven in many different ways, depending on the type of claim being made. While literal claims may be able to use formulation proofs or chemistry research to provide evidence, other claims may require consumer input for descriptive analysis to help prove the claims. Space between different types of claims, such as nutritional or functional, can get complicated quicky. Using resources such as the Significant Scientific Agreement standard (SSA) or the qualified health claims may guide the research to better address any overlap by learning about the general consensus within the literature.  Having data to support a claim is important in order to understand the full extent of the safety and efficacy within the specific research findings.

Make sure to define your terms.

The nuances in the wording of the claim can make or break its impact (and its legitimacy). Clearly defining the intended response of the product allows the claims research to better address the effects in question. Michelle Niedziela brings up the example of different ways to use the term “relax”—does the product promote relaxation? Cause relaxation? Maybe the product relaxes the consumer. Each of these three claims has distinct differences, and thus requires unique research approaches to prove the benefit. Once the core team creates a list of potential claim options, the panel agreed seeking legal or regulatory counseling to navigate which claim is most appropriate is critical. Creating a claim is a team effort among internal departments, including marketing, R&D, and legal. Internal communications and discussions avoid something being overlooked. Martha Bajec reminds everyone to reflect on the potential claim statements to make sure the product can actually deliver what the claim is stating.

Know your audience.

In setting up a claims study, the panel discussed how to be aware of the limits to the claim. Consumer segmentation should be discussed prior to running any studies and will influence how the claims study is set up. Exploring demographic distributions, such as age or gender, is important to justify by explaining the rationale behind why the claim is only applicable to a certain population. Bethia Margoshes suggested exploring Section 9 of the ASTM guidelines to review ways to prepare for a claims substantiation study, especially when selecting a population. As an example, Margoshes explained how the campaign “Choosy mothers choose Jif” focuses on mothers who expressed a choice (aka being choosy) rather than all mothers which would then require the inclusion of mothers who were indifferent. With this carefully crafted slogan, Jif clearly defined the subset of the population in a creative, conspicuous, and catchy way.

Anticipate a challenge from any direction.

Throughout this panel discussion, the importance of planning and preparation is emphasized. From demographics to an analysis plan, claim substantiation requires a thorough assessment of its risks. Is this claim worth investing in? Will the consumers even care about the specific benefit researched? Additionally, Bajec recommends considering any form of possible scrutiny since the claim is going to be evaluated by regulators, governing bodies, competitors, and consumers. To ensure the attention will benefit the company, the claim must deliver. Learning about what motivates the consumer will help develop impactful wording which will resonate with the target demographic. Being efficient by designing a narrow study with clear objectives will enhance the quality of the findings and create an overall more productive experience. Having a streamlined approach avoids any deception or confusion, giving reliable scientific evidence if ever needed.

The complexity surrounding claims research and industry standards can be overwhelming, but learning the best approaches to designing this type of research provides a unique opportunity to connect with consumers. Creating a straightforward design for the claims which need substantiation (or additional actions, such as clinical trials) gives both the company and the consumer confidence in the product or service. Ensuring best practices for a truthful claim is a mutually beneficial experience to be distinguishable in the marketplace and exciting for the consumer. If you are interested in connecting with Team HCD to discuss the claims research process, please contact Allison Gutkowski (Allison.Gutkowski@hcdi.net).

Word Bank of Acronyms:

FTC: Federal Trade Commission 

FDA: Food and Drug Administration

FDC: Federal Data Corporation

FD&C: Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act

ASTM: American Society for Testing and Materials

SSA: Significant Scientific Agreement

SSP: Society for Sensory Professionals