How to Validate Advertising

Like most curious gardeners, I really wanted to believe there was such a thing as a "zooms to an amazing 8' tall in just 3 months" tree tomato (as seen in the pre-spring coupon clipper embedded with the weekly flyer and brochure ads). I've seen a lot of crazy advertisements of some true and not so true products over the years. I only found out about columnar apple trees at last year's Portland Home & Garden show. If an heirloom or hybrid tomato plant did exist and could be easily procured for a mere $6.58 + $2.50 s/h, then why wasn't it sold en masse at gardening shops and nurseries like Home Dept, Lowes, or the Portland nursery?

When validating product advertising, the first thing to check is the source at the very top level. For a savings and loan bank, browsing through the FDIC's database to see if they're legit is a good starting place. For an apparel or automotive manufacturer, there's the manufacturer's website. Many of us just do a quick Google/Bing/Yahoo search and take whatever we can find in the first page of hits. There is a lot of misinformation out there too and websites that don't quite answer the question. Is this product real (and here's the written proof)? Where does the product come from?

Even for marketing or SaaS services, I'd still like to know who is running the company and why I should choose their products over others. Now, I'm a pretty good Internet sleuth. Most people (and companies) who want to be found can be found on the Internet. There are ways to drop off the grid, so to speak, but that is a post for another day.

Key Attributes to Think About:
  • Who runs the company that markets product x or service y
  • Is the product (or service) relevant to your needs, and can it deliver on its claims
  • Are there competing products of a similar flavor
  • What is the next best alternative
  • What documentation does it have (e.g., scientific studies, promotionary adverts in its own industry journal/newsletter/magazine, product literature and/or datasheets, client reference list, product reviews, etc.)
I can't imagine in the thousands of years that tomatoes have been cultivated that this one company operating a mail order and affiliate marketing system out of Hartford, Michigan, could be the sole propagation source of the giant tomato tree. The ad is filled with tons of consumer hot buttons and very little else. How the product is marketed exceeds my bs meter. I'll just make due with the cherry tomatoes I started from seed and hope that this summer isn't as wet and cold as last year.
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