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Responsible Marketing

I got duped by Airborne

By April 3, 2008August 19th, 20205 Comments

At least she didn’t waste money on Airborne.

Seems everyone I know has been down for the count this year with a cold, the flu or some other crud that just won’t go away.

It also seems everyone I know swears by Airborne.

We have a tube in our cabinet and have purchased the stuff since shortly after the product appeared.

Boy, do I feel stupid.

Last month, the company agreed to a $23.3 million settlement in a class action lawsuit against them for false advertising by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Why? Airborne is not a cold remedy and it’s never been proven to work. The double-blind tests the company has used in its marketing claims were a farce conducted by two a two-person research group, and one of the researchers had a fake diploma.

CSPI senior nutritionist David Schardt evaluated Airborne’s marketing claims and concluded:

There’s no credible evidence that what’s in Airborne can prevent colds or protect you from a germy environment.

Airborne is basically an overpriced, run-of-the-mill vitamin pill that’s been cleverly, but deceptively, marketed.

The “message for our loyal users” from the Airborne’s CEO on the company website revises history, stating that “Airborne helps support your immune system—just like it always has.” In fact, the company is facing more potential charges from the FTC and 24 State Attorneys General for the company’s claims that Airborne is the “miracle cold buster.”

There’s no link off that page to any information for refunds, but a “rebate” is available. Unfortunately, the company has buried the information on their website in the FAQ’s in the “Promotions/Rebates” section. You need proof of purchase and a receipt to get any money back, but I couldn’t find any explanation of what the company considers proof of purchase.


False advertising makes me sick. Especially when I fall for it.

What do you think?

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Deston says:

    I thought it was just supposed to contain a crapload of vitamin C and echinacea. I figure if it truly was a cure, it would have been trumpeted from rooftops.

  • David says:

    What’s interesting is that one branch of government (FTC) had to take care of somethat that rightfully should have been stopped long ago by another branch (FDA). But since the FDA steers clear of vitamins, supplements and the like, the market is absolutely flooded with worthless products that at best empty customers wallets, and at worst put them at serious risk for failing to get proper medical treatment. (Or in Airbornes case, both; the product contains a dangerously high level of vitamin A that far exceeds the daily allowable dose.)

    But to keep this somewhat marketing related, I was always intrigued at why people were drawn to Airborne’s slogan of “Invented by a second grade teacher” (or something like that). Why on earth would that be considered a good thing when you’re talking about a medicine? Would you climb aboard a plane that was “designed by a frequent traveler”?

  • MSNBC just did an article on “Drugs that Don’t Work”:

  • katyasag says:

    TWO WORDS>>> Placebo …..Effect

    Airborne was selling us a placebo, and for some it actaully worked….
    Never underestimate the power of the mind!

    The bad part, they were misinforming us… But hey, isn’t that what advertising is all about…. ?

  • Placebo. Check. And count me in, cause the few times I’ve used it (it was never approved for sale in Canada), it always worked for me.

    Fair advertising. No. I grrr right along with you.

    ‘Invented by a second grade teacher.’ There are few people who’d have more at stake in the develoment of a good prophylactic, no? And hey, before there was science or scientists, test tubs and laboratories, just how’d ya think medicines were ‘invented’?

    ‘Isn’t that what advertising is all about?’ The fact that anybody still thinks that – or shrugs and accepts it as an unchangeable status quo – is why, methings, this blog exists and we’re here reading it.

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