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When “Educational” Blogs Become “Labeling”

Blogs can be considered marketing

When “Educational” Blogs Become “Labeling”

I love educating about enforcement trends and regulatory marketing compliance, and I've been writing this weekly post for almost three years. I have two small companies in the dietary supplement marketing compliance space. Supplement Advisory Group is my consulting company that focuses on dietary supplement labeling and online marketing compliance support. Apex Compliance is my subscription software product that helps find and replace risky marketing phrases on websites, videos, and content before publishing. 

I've dedicated my life to understanding enforcement trends as a way to inform compliant marketing. Today's post sums up common compliance oversights I commonly see in both of my companies.

There have been no dietary supplement warning letters this week and I am attending a conference in NYC, so today's post will be brief. I'm writing this from beautiful Bryant Park, my NYC "office."

I often see companies with compliant labels and product pages but have blogs on their websites filled with disease claims. In this post, we'll help demystify when "educational" blogs become marketing.

If a supplement company writes about practices such as meditation or exercise being useful for diseases like anxiety, this is generally low risk. If the company mentions the benefits of ingredients they don't sell, again, this is low risk. Now, if there are blogs that talk about ingredients in products they sell, this crosses the line from education to product marketing, even if there are no hyperlinks or cross-linking.

Just mentioning ingredients and then suggesting that they can help with diseases is enough to attract a warning letter.

Here is an example of what I call the "common blog writer trap."
Let's say a company writes a blog such as "5 Tips For Beating The Winter Blues." Typically, it would discuss winter blues and references disease names such as "depression." The blog would then talk about health-giving activities like meditation, snowboarding, working out, and journaling. The company may even talk about how there are studies suggesting that vitamin D supplementation can help. If the company doesn't sell vitamin D, then this blog is likely to be considered educational. However, if vitamin D is in any of their products, this crosses the line for product marketing. The more explicit the statement is, the more likely it is to be cited in a warning letter. For example, "Recent studies show that vitamin D supplementation can help alleviate many of the symptoms associated with depression."

When in doubt, resist the urge to overexplain ingredient benefits, as this can result in a warning letter.

Disclaimer: The educational information provided here is for informational purposes only. Contact an attorney for specific legal advice. Rule #1 in compliance is to ensure marketing is truthful and not misleading.

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