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The Ultimate Guide to Claims Testing

“Promotes healthy digestion”

“Excellent source of Vitamin C”

“Removes 90% more stains”


As consumers, we see claims like these on products, packaging, and in advertising all day, every day. If you find the sheer amount of product claims overwhelming from the perspective of the consumer, try being a member of the teams that create, test, and select claims. 


It’s not easy taking a product from claim-less to complete with persuasive packaging, merchandising, and advertising. Effective claims give consumers a reason to believe. That’s why the best claims are based on what your consumers are really thinking.


If you want claims that will promote your brand and drive trial and loyalty, you’ll need data from real shoppers to inform your claims strategy. So where do you begin?


In this blog:

  1. What is claims testing? Why do I need claims?
  2. Why is claims testing important for your product?
  3. Types of claims: What is a marketing claim?
  4. How to create the right claims
  5. How to test your marketing claims
  6. 3 examples of effective claims testing



What is claims testing? Why do I need claims?


Claims are the messaging you use to achieve a desired outcome. Not every product uses a claim in their product, packaging, or advertising, but claims can be an effective way to achieve your goals.


Defining your goals is the best place to begin with claims testing. If you’re going to use claims, what is it that you’re ultimately trying to achieve? 

  • Drive intent to purchase?
  • Promote a particular brand perception or association?
  • Differentiate your product from others in your category?


You might choose to use a claim designed to drive purchase. For example, let’s say you’re a better-for-you snack. You might choose a claim such as “all natural” or “certified organic” to convey your value proposition to the health-conscious consumers you’re targeting.


You might cultivate a particular brand perception with a claim by your choice of wording. For example, if your product is a higher price point facial serum, you might choose claims that begin with “clinically proven” to convey authority and trustworthiness.


Many products choose to adopt competitive claims, especially if their goal is to win a greater share of category against a specific competitor or set of competitors. Pepsi’s famous blind taste test, also known as “The Pepsi Challenge,” is a classic example of this tactic.


pepsi challenge ad

To this day, Pepsi runs a version of their original Pepsi Challenge ad in the UK market. (Source)


It’s possible to have many different goals for the claims you choose. In fact, different teams may have completely different goals. 


This is especially important to consider at larger companies where several teams may be working on the different elements necessary for successful product development and launch. Bring every team–or representatives from every team–together to understand all the goals the your claims need to meet.


See how supplement brand Wile validated claim efficacy with a 103% completion rate on a longitudinal study



Why is claims testing important for your product?


As you can imagine, CPG and other product companies can’t just pluck any old product claim out of thin air. There are laws, industry regulations, and standards that dictate what brands can and cannot say about their products. (That’s another important reminder when bringing together cross-functional teams from the beginning of your claims ideation process–involve your legal team early in the process!)


Legal ramifications become especially important in the context of certain product categories, for example, in:

  • Dietary supplements
  • Over-the-counter medications
  • Alcohol
  • CBD


Regardless of your product category, though, there are laws that regulate how you can use claims. According to the FTC, commercial speech must be non-deceptive. This doesn’t stop at the claims you invent for your product or brand. This includes user-generated content such as reviews you might feature in an advertisement, and any influencer content. Brands have an obligation to make sure any content they disseminate about their products meets the FTC’s Endorsement and Testimonial Guidelines.


The legal ramifications of going to market in the context of these regulations makes claims testing absolutely necessary. But brands should also consider the potential impact of deceptive claims to their brand equity. Claims testing is not just about following the letter of the law. Remember the goals for your claims: it’s about building a perception of your brand. If you choose claims that misrepresent your brand, you risk losing the trust of your consumers, which can be just as financially damaging as violating an FTC regulation, and even more costly in the long run to rebuild your brand reputation.


This means that claims substantiation should be a crucial part of your claims testing strategy.


While not published by the brand, this ad from an influencer touting “the best skourt to exist” must follow the same FTC guidelines with their claims.



Types of claims: What is a marketing claim?


Claims selected for marketing purposes generally fall into four broad categories:


Superiority claims are comparative against another product in your category. Such a claim might say, for example, “8 out of 10 consumers prefer [Product A] to the leading brand.”


Parity claims state your product’s equivalence to a competitor’s. For example, a parity claim might read, “Enjoy the same great taste for less.” Both superiority and parity claims are called competitive claims.


Be strategic with how you choose to use competitive claims. If you explicitly name a competitive brand, you may be inadvertently leading your consumers to consider a brand they wouldn’t have otherwise. Consumer testing can reveal your true category competitors.


Monadic claims don’t compare your product to anything else–they just speak to performance generally. This includes common examples like “Removes 99% of bacteria.”  


Puffery is a subjective claim that no reasonable person would believe is literally true, such as a pasta sauce that claims to be “Better than Nona makes.” It’s important to be clear on whether a claim qualifies as puffery or not. In one case that came before the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau, it was found that “Best feeling sunscreen ever” did not qualify as puffery and required substantiation. 


Karl Cookies Better Than Grandmas Puffery Claim

Karl Cookies went one step further with their oatmeal raisin flavor–they named the product their puffery claim, “Better Than Grandma’s.” (Source


Claims can be further labeled into many different categories. Many of these will sound familiar: Safety claims, product efficacy, pricing claims, green or environmental claims (“Certified Organic”), claims like “Made in the USA,” and nostalgia claims like the Karl Cookies example above, or the famous: “Just like Mom used to make.” 


@/Astepro Allergy

Onset comparison applies to first dose and relief of nasal symptoms only. Use as directed.

♬ Promoted Music - /Astepro Allergy

This ad for over-the-counter medication could be categorized as a competitive superiority claim and an efficacy claim.



How to create the right claims


In an interview, the famed marketer and author David Strauss explained his best advice for those setting out to create claims: “It starts with a deep understanding of your target audience.” You could jump right to comparing your product to others in the category, or choosing claims you see on other popular products, but that doesn’t mean those claims convey the values your target consumers care about the most.


“[Creating claims] starts with a deep understanding of your target audience.”


In order to zero in on what your consumers value, you have to begin by listening to them. With in-context product testing, this often involves creative exercises and projective techniques with real-life product testers that reflect your target demographic(s). 


With qualitative testing techniques, you can place concepts or the physical product prototype in front of customers and measure their reactions. Customers won’t tell you exactly what claims they want to see on packaging. It’s up to you and your team to ask good questions and analyze their feedback to get at the true feelings underneath what they say. One simple exercise market research professionals will use as a part of this strategy is word association to reveal a product tester’s honest thoughts and feelings. 


Once you’ve collected honest feedback, you can begin to form claims based on what customers honestly value. As David Strauss advised in the aforementioned interview, “Start with a claim that positions [the] product as the best in the category on the attributes most valued by prospects.”



See how Clorox tested claim efficacy with Highlight


How to test your marketing claims


For most product marketing claims, your claims testing process will include two important parts: Identifying which claims best achieve your goals, and substantiating those claims with the evidence you need to confidently go to market.


Once you have narrowed down a short list of potential claims, you need to identify which of them will best achieve your goals by testing them with your target consumers. Most brands will employ what’s called a MaxDiff (Maximum Difference) approach here–in other words, a ranking from best to worst. 


This kind of testing is best done as a part of your physical product testing process. Your consumers might be able to rank your potential claims by best to worst based on their reaction to the language alone, but that data is meaningless without the physical product in front of them. For an informed opinion, the consumer must relate the claim directly to the product experience.


For claims substantiation, the FTC and FDA require “competent and reliable scientific evidence.” At Highlight, we recommend a quantitative testing methodology in adherence with ASTM standards to monadically test your product against a competitor and/or control. 


Highlight also recommends the following best practices for claims substantiation testing:

  • The set of claims to be tested should inform the study design 
  • Participants must maintain other core elements of their routine
  • Always measure actual usage of product (amount, frequency, method)
  • Use targeted tester recruiting with consent forms and product-appropriate screen out criteria (i.e. not pregnant or nursing)


Finally, keep in mind that claims testing for both marketing efficacy and substantiation purposes is a never-ending process. For marketing efficacy, your claims should be evolving with consumer preferences. For claims substantiation, your claims should reflect the true state of the market, to which new products are entering constantly and your competition is updating their formulations or product lines.


In either case, product innovation teams should incorporate claims testing as a regular part of their process.



3 examples of effective claims testing


Claims testing is one of the most common ways Highlight customers use our platform and community. Here are three examples of claims testing Highlight users have recently completed:


Claims efficacy testing for a sleep protein powder


To test both flavor and claims efficacy, Highlight sent 150 samples to a representative mix of demographics in our community of Highlighters. Testers were also selected on the basis of two behaviors: they already consume ready-to-drink protein shakes at least twice a week, and they currently use non-prescription products to aid sleep. Each participant received two blinded SKUs, and were asked to validate the following claims:  

  • Helps me relax
  • Helps me sleep
  • Is comforting
  • Is soothing
  • Supports sleep wellness


Competitive claims testing for chewable sleep tablets


To test both flavor and substantiate competitive claims, Highlight sent 360 samples to Highlighters based on two behavioral filters: they had trouble sleeping or were looking to improve their sleep quality, and they had taken non-pharmaceutical sleep aids in the past such as melatonin or chamomile tea. 


Testers were given three blinded chewable tablet SKUs (one from the customer, and two from competitive products) to take sequentially over three nights. They were also asked to rate the product on flavor. Based on this test, the customer was able to identify what was and wasn’t working for flavor, taste, and sensory questions like “chalkiness,” and evaluate claims around the comparative quality of sleep and feelings of restfulness. 




Line-wide claims substantiation for personal care products


To test a personal care line of moisturizers, toners, scrubs and more, Highlight sent 240 samples of each SKU to a targeted group of Highlighters for a longitudinal test over the course of a week.


Highlighters were selected based on psychographic and persona features to ensure a fit with the brand’s core consumers. The testers included a range of users, including both current brand users and those open to using the brand.


Each participant received one blinded SKU, plus 2 different SKUs of each product for monadic testing. Testers agreed to use the new products in place of their existing product while maintaining the rest of their skincare routine. They completed pre- and post-trial surveys for each SKU. 


At the end of the testing period, the customer had the data they needed to narrow down their list of claims from the following: Helps restore balance, Leaves skin looking healthy, Leaves skin looking vibrant, Doesn't leave skin feeling dried out, Doesn't leave behind a residue.


Learn more about the CPG innovation process and Highlight's suite of solutions