Soda, a health drink? That's pretty much why a Buffalo woman sued the maker of Canada Dry for not having enough ginger in it, according to a Buffalo News report on Sunday.
For years, she thought that ginger was healthy and, so, ginger ale would be better than normal soda. Except, should found out that the amount of ginger in it didn't seem that large.
Can't happen to you? Don't bet on it. Don't have the deep pockets of a Dr Pepper Snapple Group, which owns the Canada Dry brand? Too bad.
A review of the story shows how crazy the world of doing business can be.
The plaintiff, a Julie Fletcher, isn't the first to sue the company over alleged claims. She was taken in, she claims, that the product was made with real ginger that she thought of as healthy because it can help with an upset stomach. Here's a 2011-era ad that the company ran.
In Fletcher's favor, it sure does seem that the Canada Dry brand played p the ginger content. But not so much on the ingredient label front, in order of amount:
- carbonated water
- high fructose corn syrup
- citric acid
- sodium benzoate (preservative)
- natural flavors
- caramel color
There are some consumer lawsuits that are actually reasonable. That famous McDonald's hot coffee case wasn't frivolous. The chain kept coffee at such a high temperature that it could cause serious burns on contact. The company had faced hundreds of previous claims.
That's when fixing the problem is simple, in a way. You change the business process. Alter the product. Find a way to work around what has gone wrong.
For Canada Dry, it's the "natural flavors," marketing, and public perception. For example, when you see maple flavoring in an ingredient list, it could be fenugreek, hickory bark, or maple wood. Maple syrup? At $50 a gallon consumer prices, don't you just wish.
But people assume natural flavors are the actual thing. And they even can be, only it's a tiny concentration in something like ginger ale, compared to the quantities of water and sweetener.
The branding only reinforces confusion. Here's a 2011 commercial from the company.
It screams ginger. So, is Fletcher being unrealistic about how much ginger would go into ginger ale? How could anyone in this day and age think of a soda as healthy? And yet, yes, people often give kids and others some ginger ale if they've had a stomach problem.
Any company -- yours, for example -- could decide to juice up the marketing, find an angle that seems like it would work, all in the name of marketing that seems fair. But fair is a matter of perception and branding is a matter of what you do, not what you say.
Present your product as though it were one thing, so that you expect people to take it in one way, when you know it isn't and you've undermined your brand. You've lied to your customers.
Yes, you need to have legal counsel vet your claims. Be sure that what you do isn't a clear breach of advertising or safety laws or some other regulation.
But you need to work with ha sense of ethics and wanting to do well by the customer. Profits ultimately come from running a business well and satisfying customers. Maybe a large and old company can afford to cut some corners, alienated smaller groups, and still had enough business left to thrive. If your company is smaller, though, you could burn the business badly.