Have you ever told a so-called little white lie that came back to bite you in the butt? We’ve all done it, so don’t feel too bad, but the most important thing is to learn from that mistake and never make it again. A little white lie is still a lie and it’s not worth the risk; however, that concept still seems to escape an alarming number of brands and advertisers!
False advertising seems to be a huge problem lately, especially in the food or drink industries. Misleading labels or falsified information have become eerily commonplace and that’s not okay.
Let’s take a look at a few recent catastrophes and learn a thing or two:
1. Naked Juice
Naked Juice has gotten a reputation as a provider of organic drinks over the years, but we could argue they haven’t earned it. In 2011 and 2012, the company got busted for — you guessed it — falsifying just how much of their ingredients were actually organic. They just settled the lawsuit in summer 2013, which will cost them at about $9 million!
Mistake: Falsely advertising “all natural” ingredients
Punishment: $9 million lawsuit and lots of angry customers
Wouldn’t it be great if cereal could improve a child’s cognitive functions and boost memory by 11 percent? Kellogg’s thought so, which is why they made the claim on Frosted Mini-Wheats boxes in 2009. The problem? There’s no scientific proof any of the cereal ingredients actually improve brain functions! Frosted Mini-Wheats boxes stated the cereal was “clinically shown” to make kids more attentive, but that didn’t end up being the case.
Mistake: Falsely advertising brain-boosting ingredients
Punishment: $4 million class-action lawsuit
3. Kia and Hyundai
When you buy a car because it promises good gas mileage, you’d expect it to deliver, right? Kia and Hyundai owners have experienced a rude awakening since 2011, when it came to light that a few of the brands’ cars only delivered a portion of the advertised miles per gallon. The Kia Soul was the biggest offender — only getting 28 mpg of its supposed 34 mpg — but the Hyundai Elantra, Accent, Azera, Tucson, Veloster, and Santa Fe were also affected, along with the Kia Rio, Sportage, Sorento, and Optima models.
Mistake: Advertising inaccurate MPG specs on specific car models
Punishment: Hyundai/Kia will begin reimbursing car owners in 2013, which could be at least $50-$60 a piece (900,000 affected vehicles were sold since 2011)
Fat-free and calorie-free foods are supposed to be free of fat and calories. Obvious, right? Apparently not to the person responsible for marketing Parkay’s fat-free/calorie-free butter spray in 2012. The product’s label claimed its contents contained no fat or calories, but it turned out that an 8-ounce bottle contained 832 calories and 93 grams of fat! Not even close! They got away with it by using a tiny serving size (“1 spray for cooking or up to 5 sprays for topping”).
Mistake: Using an unrealistic serving size to minimize fat grams and calories
Punishment: Undetermined (lawsuit still in progress). ConAgra Foods, Parkay’s parent company, is fighting the allegations.
- China zoo: Busted for substituting a dog for a lion in an enclosure.
- Taco Bell: Accused of tricking customers with filler beef in tacos.
- AT&T: Sued for throttling unlimited service while users paid full price for it.
- And so many more…
I don’t know about you, but false advertising doesn’t seem worth it. Most of the aforementioned companies make millions or billions each year — much more than the average small business owner — and they’re still paying big for the errors. Think about all of the declined sales bad press alone could bring! Don’t do it. Even if your products or services need a boost to get people’s attention, lying isn’t worth the risk. You’d be better off staying truthful.
What’s your favorite (and/or most ridiculous) company lawsuit? Which company do you think suffered the most?
Main image credit to Ged Carroll. Other images are low-res screenshots. All brand names are property of their parent companies. All rights reserved.