Deceptive Marketing: Is Cotton Really In the Products You’re Buying?

Today we’ll point out some specific examples of misleading marketing jargon that targets cotton products, and touch on the ethical dilemma this creates. With cotton’s consumer-preferred status, it’s obvious why some non-cotton product manufacturers have no problem with consumers making the assumption that cotton exists in their products.

Deceptive marketing isn’t a new practice. For many years, companies around the world have tried to manipulate consumers, ranging from fudging numbers to using tricky language to flat-out misrepresenting the truth. Unfortunately, it’s no different with cotton products.

Today we’ll point out some specific examples of misleading marketing jargon that targets cotton products, and touch on the ethical dilemma this creates. With cotton’s consumer-preferred status, it’s obvious why some non-cotton product manufacturers have no problem with consumers making the assumption that cotton exists in their products. The big question is: How far are they willing to go? You might be surprised.

Don’t Be Fooled By Product Names

First, let’s look at some of the products that use the word “cotton” in their product description to lead consumers to believe it exists within the product:

Purell Cottony Soft Sanitizing Wipes: Believe it or not, these wipes contain no cotton. However, the product name would clearly lead an unaware consumer to believe this is a sanitizing wipe that contains cotton.

Stayfree Secure Cottony Soft Regular with Wings: Again, the use of “Cottony” alone would make the consumer—one that is out to make a quick purchase—believe that this is a cotton product, when in fact there is no discernable amount of cotton present.

Kleenex Cotton Soft Pads: This is one of the newer products to the market, one that has “Cotton Soft Pads” in bold letters on the face of the package. So does that mean it actually includes cotton in the product, or that it just “feels” like cotton (or what the consumer believes cotton adds to a product)? The pads are actually made from microfibers—but not from cotton.

Kleenex Disposable Cottony-Soft Hand Towels: Once again, this is an instance where a consumer might believe that this hand towel is actually made from cotton, which is not remotely true.

The Deception Goes Beyond Just the Name

So why would the marketers of these products imply that these products are made from cotton? Well, all of the competing fibers are very white, which means they will look exactly like cotton. The fact is that research studies have shown that the majority of consumers believe that products that are white, absorbent, and soft are made from cotton, when in fact they are not (per research by Cotton, Inc.).

The same research study found that the majority of consumers would prefer their products be made from cotton for hygienic and baby care. However, most baby wipes are made from synthetic fibers, even though most mothers believe they are buying the very best for their sensitive baby’s bottom. Most women would also assume their hygienic products are made from cotton, but would be surprised to learn that in most cases, they are not.

Take the Time to Read the Product Packaging

So if cotton is important to you, be sure and check to see if the Cotton Seal is on the package, or somewhere in the content details. While we’d love to tell you that companies will one day become more honest in their marketing, we all know that’s not going to be the case. That’s why we believe one of the best ways to combat deceptive marketing is by educating consumers. Then, by being vigilant, you can ensure that you’re buying what you paid for, and that the products you’re using actually contain cotton.

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