Gritty image of paint brush

Just call Sherwin-Williams the paint advertising police.

A while back, we commented on Sherwin-Williams taking Rustoleum to court for their claim that one of their paints offered “twice the coverage.” Our point of view was that while Sherwin-Williams was right, Rustoleum shouldn’t be making that claim in the first place. It’s simply an outdated advertising tactic.

Well, if you’re feeling a bit of déjà vu, there’s good reason for it, as Sherwin-Williams is at it again… this time with Behr in the crosshairs.

At issue are several of Behr’s claims that it’s the “number-one” paint, “best-rated,” and other similar claims. Behr had been making the claims based on ratings given by Consumer Reports.

But the thing is, Behr was applying Consumer Reports’ endorsement of one paint to their entire line of coatings. And that, according to Sherwin-William, was out of bounds.

So the company took its complaint to the National Advertising Division (NAD), which in turn recommended that Behr discontinue its claims made in print, television and in-store advertising. Behr has agreed to comply.

Focus on Experiences

Sigh. Here we go again.

To be clear, we’re still on Sherwin-Williams’ side on this. Advertisers keeping each other honest is without a doubt a good thing, and misleading claims made by any brand in their marketing should not be allowed to stand.

But our larger argument is that it never should have come to this. In taking this claim to the NAD, there were certainly lots of lawyers involved in determining if the claim was valid. The problem is that claiming to be “#1” or “the Best” is sooooo very tiresome.

All those legal fees could have been avoided if Behr had simply kept up with the times.

The tactic of claiming to be “#1” is as old as advertising itself. The idea is that the claim will get the attention of audiences simply because the product is endorsed by some benevolent third party.

In this case, the authority is real (Consumer Reports), but really… do we care? We’ve all heard that “#1” claim a million times before in just about every building product or service category there is.

And, as a result, it has become meaningless.

Instead, Behr should focus their efforts on being relevant and relatable to its target markets, telling their stories and empowering them to bring color to their lives and jobsites.

And most important, nurturing and leveraging the third-party endorsement of influencers like bloggers whom people trust over all others: to motivate peers, friends and neighbors.

A quick search on Home Depot’s website shows across-the-board reviews of Behr’s paints at 4+ stars. That’s far more powerful than any sweeping advertising claim of being “the best.”

Behr, like just about all brands, would be well-served to focus not on what they can claim about their products, but instead, what influencers say about them.

As we previously promoted about Rustoleum, aligning your sales and marketing to reach paint purchasers on a personal level – how your products solve problems, enhance lives and deliver positive experiences – is what sets a brand apart.

It also helps keep legal fees low.