Ever witness the shopper with eyes glaring at the label on the can of snap peas in the aisle next to you? Chances are, they’re analyzing the nutritional label in an effort to decipher its underlying code. Are the peas organic? NON-GMO Project Verified? cGMP? NSF certified? For consumers, shopping has become an alphabet soup of options with regard to certifications. It can be difficult and tiring to understand which certifications really matter.

One may ask if certifications add value. And, the answer is most certainly yes.

Certifications can add credibility and legitimacy to a brand offering. For some, having an implied third party endorsement adds tremendous value.  So, what causes certification fatigue?

Certification fatigue is the result of an increasing use (and misuse) of terms and seals invented by marketers and brands. Common claims such as artificial ingredients, all natural, no high fructose corn syrup or clean label, to name a few, have made it difficult to discern what’s real from what’s trendy. Unlike more formalized certifications, such as USDA Organic, terms developed by marketers often go unchecked by an authorized body.

In an attempt to help brands avoid “certification fatigue”, BrandHive’s Jeff Hilton provided the following best practices in Certification and Claim Marketing to consumers:

  • Start by asking what matters most to the consumer. What assurances do they look for in your category?  Some certifications fall outside the realm of importance for specific brands.
  • Prioritize your claims and certifications according to consumer appeal.  Display them where the consumer is spending time and can study them and understand them.
  • Make the statements more transparent. Don’t say 100% sustainable- say “up cycled from the farming waste stream”.  Don’t say traceable- say controlled from seed to shelf on our own 300-acre farm.
  • Don’t hide behind your seals and certifications.  Certifications enhance your brand and add value, but they don’t define your brand. Define your key messages and use claims and certifications SELECTIVELY to enhance the storytelling, not replace it.

Certification fatigue is indeed real.  By implementing a few best practices, we can overcome the increasing misuse and provide consumers with the information that matters most.