When being the best is against the law.
In the United States
Do you know what a superlative adjective is? Normally I need to look up words that have more than 2 syllables because I went to public school. But this time I didn’t have to because of Mad Libs.
Superlatives are used everywhere in marketing. Let’s take for example the US cellular carriers. Without superlative adjectives we wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between Verizon, ATT, T-Mobile and Sprint. Largest, fastest, strongest and…whatever fake 4G Sprint is trying sell. Without these very important discriminators it would be challenging for the consumer to base an informed decision.
What would happen though, if one of the carriers, say Sprint for example, claimed their 4G network was ‘The Best’?
First we would all chuckle. Because Sprint 4G isn’t the best. But the other carriers would have a conniption at the audacity that Sprint would call its network ‘The Best’. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if one of the other carriers challenged that claim legally.
In China, Verizon, ATT, T-Mobile and Sprint would not be able to advertise their services they way they do in the United States. Because in China it is against the law to use superlative adjectives in advertising, as of September 1st. In China, you can have a ‘large 4G network’, but not ‘The Largest 4G Network’. Having a ‘Strong 4G network’ is good, but ‘The Strongest 4G Network’…not so much.
According to Chinese Officials:
The revised legislation is intended to protect consumers from advertisements which overplay and exaggerate product features.
So when Xiaomi was reported for using phrases like ‘The Best‘ to describe its products, an investigation into deceptive advertising practices was launched. According to The Haidian branch of the Beijing Administration for Industry and Commerce in s statement about Xiaomi:
…its behaviour could violate the country’s new advertising law, which bans enterprises from using superlative adjectives, including “the most advanced”, in promotions.
On the face of it, such legislation here in the west wouldn’t be tolerated, would it? We wouldn’t want the government dictating the verbiage and context of marketing messages. Although comparable agencies like the Federal Trade Commission does take interest in ‘truth in advertising’, it doesn’t get involved in the issues that are supposed to be the responsibility of the consumer. Caveat Emptor is what we chant here in the States. But should the Adveriser be held to deliver their product or service in a way that is claimed in their advertising?
Should the carrier with the ‘Fastest or Strongest or Largest ‘ networks be held to their own descriptors? What should be the penalty? Who should enforce that penalty?
Government or pocketbook?