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Sunday, March 18, 2012




Having once again just completed some brand positioning and communications training in Europe, we remember again how fortunate we are to work with marketers all over the world.  Fortunate, not merely because it is a delight to meet so many people of so many cultures, but because we continually learn from them…about their countries, about their categories, and about their brands.  One of the things we learned long ago is that the kinds of things marketers can typically say and show about their brands in the United States are not so easily said and shown outside the U.S. 


Of course, even in a less restricted marketplace like the U.S., certain categories enforce tight restrictions—particularly those in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries.  Any and all claims must be approved by the FDA, and not simply based upon their clinical profiles:  claims that marketers in these categories make about their brands must not mislead doctors and patients in any way; and claims must also carry what the FDA refers to as “fair balance” communication (that is, all known side-effects of a given drug or procedure must be made clear).  But even American OTC brands, such as Tylenol or Claritin or Maalox, cannot make performance claims about their products without hard clinical data to support them.


If you work in marketing outside of the U.S. however, you probably know that in places like Europe and Russia and China, OTC brands cannot typically make performance claims, even IF they have hard data to back them up. In those places much tighter restrictions apply--especially to anything that has to do with one’s health (even on products like vitamins).  So it is little wonder that virtually every time we work, say, in Europe, a marketer or two will respond to some of the brand communication models that we show with something like, “We can’t show that here,” or “We can’t make claims like that.”  Of course, we know this.  But here’s the thing:  regardless of marketplace restrictions, every brand marketer in the world shares the same responsibility—to get target consumers or customers to perceive his or her brand as a better choice. 


Okay, so there are things you cannot say or show in a given market; then neither can your competitors say or show them.  What, then, will you do to get your brand perceived as a better choice?  Asked another way, “What clever and creative ways will your brand team come up with, particularly when you cannot make a basic product performance claim—or even explicitly show the health-related condition your product deals with?”  Actually, there are many, many examples (from around the world) of ways that clever and creative marketers have maneuvered around their marketplace restrictions…to convey the impression that their brand is a better choice.  So, to be blunt, our take is this:  “Saying ‘we can’t say that’ is no excuse.  What, then, will you do instead to fulfill your responsibility?”


Just as we make it a regular practice in all of our training programs to show brand communications with specific performance claims, we also show a good many examples of communications by brands that cannot make performance claims--either because they lack the clinical data to support those claims or because their regulatory bodies prevent making any claims at all.  For this week’s Boats & Helicopters, then, we’ve prepared a handy “checklist-chart” of some really clever moves that you and your teams might also try.  Consider the communication approaches listed here as alternative ways to imply a claim…or, at the very least, some ways your brand might be perceived as a better choice.” 


BOATS & HELICOPTERS—What to Do When You Can’t Claim It




The Specifics

1.  Pariet (Rx for GERD)/Switzerland






2.  Viagra/US

Climb the Benefit Ladder—to a Higher Order Benefit that’s Not a Product Performance Claim (that other brands have missed).

Pariet:  Rather than make a parity claim about “class-effect” performance, the brand communicated “The Joy of Eating Without Fear” (& grew 40%).

Viagra:  To avoid the claim requirement of “fair balance,” the brand communicated patient’s return to a loving relationship.

3.  Schick Quattro/US & Canada

Imply the Claim with a Differentiated RTB.

Surprised Gillette (at the time with only the 3-bladed Mach 3) by communicating “2 blades are better than 1, and 3 are better than 2; Quattro has 4.”  Could not support any kind of “smoother/better shave” claim.

4.  Gyno-Daktarin (Rx anti-fungal for yeast infection)/China

Create a Unique Metaphor—that acts as “visual shorthand” to telegraph what  performance the brand provides.

Restricted from speaking or showing directly what the product does, the brand used a beautiful tulip flower-with-insect visual (and became category leader).

5.  V-8 Vegetable Juice/US




Add an Endorsement RTB that Implies the Benefit




Unable to claim any health benefits versus other juice-beverages, the brand added an American Heart Association endorsement that permitted “V-8:  Good for you just got better.”


6.  Bayer Aspirin/US

Rather than Solicit an Endorsement, Have the Brand Endorse/ Sponsor Something — like an Association…that implies preferred performance.

In support of a heart-health benefit claim, the brand sponsors the American Heart Association’s “Go Red for Women” program.

7.  Risperdal (Rx Anti-Pyschotic)/UK

Change the Conversation in the Category—Dramatically!!

While the brand did not claim to work better than other drugs in class, it communicated to doctors—in never-before-seen, stark fashion—via psychotic patient “case file” visuals (and grew share significantly).



As you can see, five of these seven examples are from Rx & OTC categories.  And no wonder.  These categories, with all of their regulatory oversight, demand that their brand marketers use even more cleverness and creativity…to communicate that their brand is a better choice.  And there are international examples here as well.  So, honestly, there may be times and places where “you cannot say it,” but there are always ways—if you’re determined and creative—you can communicate it.


Richard Czerniawski & Mike Maloney



Richard Czerniawski

430 Abbotsford Road

Kenilworth, Illinois 60043

tel 847.256.8820 fax 847.256.8847

reply to Richard: or



Mike Maloney

1506 West 13th

Austin, Texas 78703

tel 512.236.0971 fax 512.236.0972

reply to Mike: or

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