Reebok to refund $25m to consumers over deceptive ads
Some things are just too good to be true. Among these is attaining a state of physical fitness without any exercising.
Reebok, which claimed that their EasyTone shoes strengthen and tone muscles in the legs, thighs and buttocks, announced last week that they will be refunding $25 million to consumers who purchased the footwear on or after December 5, 2009.
Over the past twenty years, the US population has suffered increasingly from poor diet and sedentary lifestyles. In a nation where one-third of adults are obese, Reebok built an advertising campaign for their EasyTone shoes on the American desire to get the benefits of exercise without having to do the necessary work.
The “balance pod technology” featured in the soles of the EasyTone footwear was developed by former NASA engineer Bill McInnis, who currently serves as the Head of Innovation for Reebok.
Over 18 months, McInnis developed the EasyTone system, which features rounded shoe soles that use natural instability in every step to force the wearer to use more muscles to achieve balance. EasyTone sneakers are intended for walking only, and Reebok discourages consumers from using them for sports, as injury is likely to occur.
Although Reebok was the first to incorporate the balance pod technology into their footwear, New Balance and Skechers also make use of a similar system.
Introduced in 2009, Reebok had one of their most successful product launches with the EasyTone and its advertising campaign. In 2010, the toning footwear became extremely popular and opened up a $1.1 billion market that included shoes, flip-flops, and apparel.
Playing on the notion that sex sells, Reebok’s EasyTone ads featured women in short shorts and well-formed derrieres, claiming that the shoes were proven to lead to 28 percent more strength and tone in buttock muscles and 11 percent more in hamstring and calf muscles when compared to regular walking shoes.
The ads targeted women that live busy lifestyles and little time for a gym membership.
After various studies challenging the advertisement claims, the Federal Trade Commission announced that there was no evidence to support Reebok. Research by the American Council on Exercise concluded that the toning shoes did not lead to increased muscle activation or energy expenditure.
Some consumers have even reported that they suffered from various injuries due to wearing the EasyTone shoes, such as shin splints, twisted ankles and sore muscles.
In response to government interaction, Reebok reached a settlement with the FTC and agreed to refund up to $25 million to people who bought the EasyTone shoes. Those eligible for the settlement claim are able to fill out a form provided by the FTC and Reebook for a refund.
Reebok footwear that features the balance pod technology includes EasyTone flip-flops ($60), EasyTone walking shoes ($80 to $100) and RunTone running shoes ($80 to $100).
Reebok’s advertising campaign was ingenious: It appealed to the American desire to have an attractive body, yet catered to the fact that our culture is busy and lacks time or motivation for a gym membership.
Reebok compelled thousands of consumers to flock to retail shops everywhere and purchase the magical shoes. In the end, Reebok learned a difficult and expensive lesson – one that will cost them fiscally now and a lowered reputation in the future.
Aviles, Kay. “A Quick Glimpse on Reebok’s ‘EasyTone’ Sneaker” International Business Times http://au.ibtimes.com/articles/223345/20111002/a-quick-glimpse-on-reebok-s-easytone-sneakers.htm Accessed 10/3/11
Freeman, Hadley. “Reebok EasyTone: the shoes that undermines all fitness advertising” theguardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/blog/2011/sep/29/reebok-easytone-ftc-fine?newsfeed=true Accessed 10/3/11
Skidmore, Sarah. “Reebok to pay $25M over toning shoes claims” The Associated Press http://www.suntimes.com/business/7932713-420/reebok-to-pay-25m-over-toning-shoe-claims.html Accessed 10/3/11
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