How to Avoid a Slap on the Wrist with your Seasonal Campaigns

Sarah McInerney

Head of Content

Sarah has almost three decades of experience in crafting compelling, engaging content specifically designed to boost sales and enhance brand loyalty. She’s also an expert in developing unique tone of voice that helps brands connect with their audiences. Her marketing and client service background has given Sarah a natural understanding of how to write content that makes readers take action. Whether it’s signing up to a mailing list, making an enquiry or donation or clicking the buy button, Sarah knows precisely how to convert with words. Pen down, Sarah is a proud member of the Essex Wildlife Trust and spends most of her free time enjoying inspiring walks through her local woodland and nature reserves, admiring everything that flaps, flutters and flowers.

It’s that time again … here we go with the big festive lead up, and anyone and everyone sporting a marketing hat is frantically preparing for the big surge.

Whilst it’s still only early November, Black Friday (27.11.15) and Cyber Monday (30.11.15) are ever looming. And it’s at this time that most retailers really go to town on sales promotions.

The thing is, if you are planning to pull in business with special promotions – in any format – then you need to take special care not to mislead the consumer public. Sales promotions are covered by what’s known as the ‘CAP code’. CAP is the Committees of Advertising Practice.

They write and maintain the UK Advertising Codes which are administered by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). They also deliver guidance on the creation of campaigns that follow the rules.

Black Friday (27.11) and Cyber Monday (30.11) are ever looming.

Black Friday (27.11) and Cyber Monday (30.11) are ever looming.

CAP has recently issued some very useful advice on complying with the rules surrounding seasonal sales promotions, which we have taken some time to study. Here’s what they say.

Everything Reduced … or is it?

If your offer only covers particular lines, then you are going to be misleading consumers if you use sales leaders that state ‘all’ or ‘everything’. Even if you asterisk your offers with ‘subject to terms and conditions’, you’re not covering yourself because the advert will still contradict the claim. A very well-known home furnishings company was found to be in breach of the CAP Codes with their 25% off everything ad back in 2011 as their small print listed a host of exclusions.

25% off … but off what?

If you are planning on showing a discount, such as a percentage off or ‘was £50 now £30’ then you need to be very, very careful not to exaggerate the savings on offer.

Be very, very careful not to exaggerate the savings on offer.

Be very, very careful not to exaggerate the savings on offer.

If you’re going to state a ‘before’ price then you HAVE to demonstrate that this was the price the product or service was sold at for AT LEAST 28 DAYS prior to the reduction, unless you make it clear in the ad that this is not the case. You should also stick to the reduced price period that you state. In other words, don’t put out false ‘reductions’. Your RRP should not vary from the general sale price. A prominent baby and children’s ware company was found to be in breach of these rules last year when they advertised a product as ‘RRP £49.99, price £24.99’ as they could not prove any previous sales at the higher rate.

“Subject to Availability” … be reasonable!

You’re going all out to push your offers, and stocks are selling out fast. Stating ‘subject to availability’ really isn’t going to cover you: if you are driving sales of certain products then you either need to state that stocks are limited, or make a reasonable effort to estimate the potential demand so that orders can be fulfilled.

Mislead Inform Computer Showing Misleading Or Informative Advice

NEVER mislead consumers on stock availability, delivery times, or prices.

Terms and Conditions Apply … so make them clear

It’s not enough to state ‘subject to terms and conditions’ in an advert and then not actually state those terms and conditions or show where they can be read. You MUST include detailed conditions and make it clear to the consumer prior to them placing an order.

It’s worth a visit to the CAP website as there’s plenty of advice and guidance on there about how to stay compliant with your advertising materials. You could also engage a professional copywriter who is up to speed with the rules and will advise you on what you can and can’t use in your ads. Need help? Get in touch. And Merry Christmas marketing!

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