I just listened to a radio spot for Arrowhead Brand Mountain Spring Water—and I’m upset. The essence of the spot: that all water may look the same, but since Arrowhead comes from springs unavailable to the other guys, the folks at Arrowhead “believe” theirs is better. Moreover, they “believe” that you will taste a difference, too.
Used in this way, “believe” is what the advertising industry calls a weasel: it sounds like a claim, but doesn’t quite say what it sounds like it says, so the advertiser remains legally safe. That is, they didn’t outright say the water tastes better. Only that they believe it does.
Thus we have this gem, taken verbatim from the Arrowhead website (I added the italics): “We believe our spring sources, bottling process, and our dedication to giving customers the most refreshing product possible are what give Arrowhead Brand Mountain Spring Water its remarkable quality and consistently great taste.”
Weasel, weasel, weasel.
I am aware that Arrowhead contains minerals. It’s conceivable that you could taste them. But if you truly can taste them, then Arrowhead should be able to demonstrate as much by means of a controlled, third party, triple-blind test. The fact that Arrowhead chooses to weasel instead suggests that their claim is bogus—and that they know it.
Sadly, the human mind readily fools itself. Doubtless a number of people, after hearing or reading Arrowhead’s tripe, will sample the product and convince themselves that it really does taste better. Which, I suspect, is exactly what the devious folks at Arrowhead hope.
Such practices help give advertising and us advertisers a bad name. As if we needed any help in that department.
Minerals aside, water is a parity product. That is, all brands offer pretty much the same thing. But one needn’t resort to weaseling to sell them. There are other ways to sell party products. They are available to any advertiser willing to work a little harder at being ethical.
Were you to pin me down on the matter, I would be hard-pressed to tell you the difference between a “weasel” and an outright “lie.” Without, that is, resorting to weaseling myself.
Steve Cuno is a three-time TAM speaker, founder of the RESPONSE Agency in Salt Lake City and the author of the book Prove It Before You Promote It: How to Take the Guesswork Out of Marketing. Contact him at email@example.com
To see what people on our forums are saying, please visit:
http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=76594 (Bottled water warning)
http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=186612 ("bottled water is evil")
http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=154865 (Truth in advertising)