Kim Kardashian said it, but should consumers believe it? Skechers USA long claimed that its Shape-Up shoes would increase muscle toning and help people lose weight, just by wearing them. Frustrated consumers, whose gluteus maximuses don’t appear any different, brought suit against the company, alleging that it issued misleading claims in its advertisements. A U.S. court agreed, and now Skechers is on the hook to pay $40 million to settle the claims. Customers who bought Shape-Ups, Resistance Runners, Toners, or Tone-Ups will receive refunds, either directly though the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or through a class action lawsuit.
The FTC similarly alleged that Skechers used false marketing practices to sell its shoes, including the uses of celebrity endorsements and citations of results of a clinical study. It turns out that the clinical study was conducted by a chiropractor married to a Skechers’ employee, and the chiropractor also received compensation to conduct the study. The objectivity of the results thus appears questionable at best.
In the advertisements at issue, some of the claims include that people who wear Resistance Runners will increase the “muscle activation” of certain groups of muscles and lists specific percentages of these increases. But the advertisement fails to define muscle activation.
Another concern for the FTC was that Skechers performed a clinical study in which it measured muscle tone results but only highlighted examples that supported its claims. In contrast, a well-run trial conducted by Nike randomly assigned runners as test subjects of three different types of shoes—a traditional running shoe, a shoe made by Nike with less support, and Vibram Five Fingers—to determine if shoe type actually increased the risk of injury due to the influence of human biomechanics.
Recent marketing claims assert that Cheerios lowers cholesterol, Vitamin Water is nutritious, and yogurt has specific health benefits. Do these cases further demonstrate the need for better regulation of the use of clinical studies to sell products?
- List the ethical issues with the marketing claims Skechers issued.
source: Matthew Herper, “Skechers Proves We Need Clinical Trials of Running Shoes,” Forbes, May 16, 2012.
Connor DeFiore said:
Apparently the court thought Sketchers’ advertising was not completely truthful; however, I do not completely agree. Walking with Sketchers will certainly get you into better shape than if you do not walk at all. Additionally, I do not think anyone in their right mind thinks Kim Kardashian got her body by simply wearing Sketchers, but sometimes courts have weird rulings. Claims such as, “Cheerios lowers cholesterol, Vitamin Water is nutritious, and yogurt has specific health benefits” are not all saying the same thing, but are all similar because for anyone of them you could say it does do a better job than something else. For example, Cheerios lowers cholesterol if the person has sky high cholesterol and generally eats food high in cholesterol. I do not see any “ethical issues” with Sketchers, Vitamin Water, or Cheerios because they hold true for some people.
Dan Shaffer said:
Sketchers issued false claims about the impact of their Shape-ups in commercials so as to trick customers into buying them. This is not only unethical but it is also illegal. Even if Sketchers used vague terminology such as “muscle activation”, the fact that they would rather trick their customers into buying their product instead of building the best product is troubling.
I think the FTC made the correct ruling in this case. Skechers’ claims were fabricated and misleading for the consumer. However, the focus of the consumers reaction should not be on the lawsuit alone, but instead on whether they would want to buy from an unethical company. Consumers should make Skechers realize that we expect ethical marketing practices by using social media and word of mouth to express discontent.
Gary Jiang said:
This was an extremely insightful post on Sketchers negative actions and misleading advertisements. It’s really sad to think that masses of consumers purchased the Shape-Up shoes in an effort to improve their own health and well-being, only to be tricked out of their money. In regards to business practices, legalities, and even from a research standpoint, Sketchers has committed immoral, illegal, and unethical crimes in every avenue which definitely will hurt their brand image in the long run.