A consumer lawsuit accuses Pepsi of falsely promoting Poland Spring Water. The product is marketed as "100% Poland Spring water," but the plaintiff group of 11 say it's really ground water. The company is accused of false advertising and misleading customers, and the plaintiffs seek $50 million in damages.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), spring water has a specific definition: "Spring water shall be collected only at the spring or through a bore hole tapping the underground formation feeding the spring. There shall be a natural force causing the water to flow to the surface through a natural orifice." Although a Poland Spring did exist in Maine, according to the suit, it dried up almost 50 years ago.
The accusations are an issue of behavioral integrity, as my colleague Tony Simons defines it: doing what you say you will do. In other words, does Nestle Water promise something it doesn't deliver?
Nestle Waters denies the claims. In response to the suit, the company created an extensive web page with a brief statement, two videos, and an infographic. The statement reads as follows:
For more than 170 years, Poland Spring® has delivered great tasting spring water from Maine to millions of people in the Northeast. The claims made in the lawsuit are without merit and an obvious attempt to manipulate the legal system for personal gain. Poland Spring® is 100% spring water. It meets the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations defining spring water, all state regulations governing spring classification for standards of identity, as well as all federal and state regulations governing spring water collection, good manufacturing practices, product quality and labeling. We remain highly confident in our legal position.
They are taking a strong approach to counter the claims, and they accuse the plaintiffs of seeking personal gain. One of the videos, only 30 seconds, demonstrates principles of persuasion: emotional appeal, logical argument, and credibility.
- What elements of persuasion (pathos, logos, ethos) do you find in the video example? What other communication strategies does Nestle Water use on its web page?
- Analyze the full infographic from this page. What communication design principles does the infographic illustrate? How could it be improved?
- Given what little we know so far about the case, what's your view? Do you side more with the plaintiffs or with Nestle Water?