As a public relations and marketing undergraduate, we study examples of advertisers making faulty claims. I came across this story about the Reebok EasyTone sneakers and thought it would an interesting case to study.
It all started in 2009, when Sketchers first released the “Shape Ups” sneakers, which promised to tone leg muscles. Since then, other athletic brands such as Reebok and New Balance, have been competing to create a similar product. Reebok went above and beyond, producing clothing that promised effortless toning of the arms, back and legs.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently investigated Reebok’s advertising claims, which indeed turned out to be false. The ads in question say EasyTone shoes result in 28 percent increased tone and strength in the buttock, and an 11 percent increase in the strength of calf and hamstring muscles. Rather than engaging in a drawn-out legal battle, Reebok agreed to settle by refunding $25 million to customers.
Reebok refuses to admit to the FTC’s allegations, claiming they have received “overwhelmingly enthusiastic feedback” from EasyTone customers and sales numbers support their statement. Customers have always been skeptical of EasyTone and other toning shoe brands, but it did not prevent them from making the purchase. In any other industry, an event to this caliber would discontinue a product and diminish the credibility of the brand. Research analysts do not believe these FTC allegations will ruin the product line because of its nature as a beauty-enhancing product, and the sense of hope that goes along with the purchase.
Despite the questionable legitimacy of advertising promises, customers purchase EasyTone shoes envisioning a healthy lifestyle with the ultimate multitask: working out while you go through your daily schedule. Even if the product is not proven, it gives customers a boost of confidence and the resistance feels like your legs are being toned. So unfortunately those goofy-looking toning shoes are not going away anytime soon—toning or not.
Kate Korson is an Associate Account Executive for Maroon PR. Contact her at Kate@MaroonPR.com.