The Power of Words

Words – so small yet so powerful. Red Bull is facing serious consequences for their choice of words in advertising. The famous slogan, “Red Bull gives you wings,” is under scrutiny for the implied benefits that consumers receive from drinking their products. Buyers were misled by the slogan, arguing that they believed they would see improvements in performance, concentration, and reaction speed after drinking the product. The slogan and advertised benefits have been labeled as deceptive and fraudulent, which led to the $13 million settlement that Red Bull will owe to American consumers.

Marketing is meant to inspire and elevate a brand, no pun intended. We have always given marketers a certain amount of leeway when it comes to interpreting their message. However, the interpretation of this marketing message is just too literal. Do consumers actually think that Red Bull will give them wings? If it did, trust me they would be making billions and not selling energy drink products. The answer is “of course not.” Emphasizing words like “wings” and “boost” implies some sort of physical effect or enhancement. But isn’t that the point of drinking anything caffeinated, whether it be coffee, soda, or an energy drink?

It’s clear that this case isn’t black and white. It falls somewhere in the gray zone where personal interpretations of advertising can vary. Perhaps some people believe that Red Bull is deceiving customers by failing to live up to an impossible promise but it also might be a ploy to get a quick dollar. However, I take it for what it is: a product that may give me a little more energy to get through my day.

We’re curious to see how this lawsuit will (or will not) affect their brand. After all, publicity is publicity, loyal consumers will probably just shake their head and take another swig, but will it set precedent for other such claims and how will it effect advertising and marketing claims overall?

What do you think about the lawsuit? Will you continue to buy Red Bull products? We’d love to hear from you. You can comment here, on Twitter, or Facebook!