Tone down claims
The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus today announced that it has told Maytag to tone down claims that its WindTunnel and Fusion Upright vacuums outsuck Dyson's competing household vacuum. Maytag said it has agreed with the ruling.
But the NAD ruling was more of a middle-ground approach. In effect, Hoover can still contend its vacuums have superior sucking power -- but only if the company is clearly talking about performance on carpets. Hoover was also told to quit claiming that its Fusion cleaner suffers "no loss of suction" ever and that its WindTunnel completely traps allergens.
Dyson, meanwhile, can argue its vacuum is the best overall choice.
$2.2 billion vacuum market
But the battles are far from over. Dyson's entry and rise to prominence in the $2.2 billion vacuum sector seems to have brought out the fighting spirit among all competitors. And they haven't been willing to simply fight it out in the market place. Dyson has filed a patent infringement suit against Maytag in a federal court in Delaware. And down in Louisiana, Oreck has filed suit to challenge Dyson's "no loss of suction" ad claims.
At the heart of the case considered by NAD were a number of complaints Dyson made about Maytag's Hoover. The U.K. company asked NAD to stop Maytag from claiming its WindTunnel and Fusion Upright vacuums outsuck Dyson's competing household vacuums. Dyson also requested that Hoover stop using a cyclone logo and that Hoover stop disparaging Dyson products. As part of its case, Dyson cited proprietary research contending that 46% of consumers who viewed Hoover's ads took away the message that Dyson products are ineffective and that Dyson patrols selected them for style rather than performance. Finally it asked that Hoover quit implying that Dyson vacuums lose suction. There were several other claims.
Among the challenged ads was work from Element 79, Chicago, picturing supposed Dyson owners, with a Hoover owner and a narrator saying their vacuums pick up 56% more dirt than Dyson vacuums.
One ad pictures the Dyson owners as status seekers.
"My vacuum is purple. They say it doesn't lose suction," says one supposed Dyson owner. "My vacuum makes me look good," says another. "My vacuum was in a fashion magazine."
Another ad features this statement: "Dyson thinks things should work properly. We couldn't agree more. That's why our self propelled WindTunnel picks up 56% more dirt than Dyson."
Another said simply: "Picks up more dirt than any other brand."
In an unusually technical and long 37-page NAD case report, Dyson disputed that its vacuum loses suction and contended that Maytag's superiority claims hinged on judging one task of a vacuum -- carpet cleaning -- but not a vacuum's overall use on floors, carpets and other surfaces. Dyson also argued its vacuums are more adaptable and perform much better over time.
More likely to wear out?
Maytag argued it was using the right tests and Dyson the wrong ones and urged NAD to stay out while a patent case is pending. It defended its ads, saying the company's research and a study from Consumers Union support the conclusion. It also challenged Dyson's contention that Hoover vacuums are more likely to wear out.
In a statement given to NAD, Maytag said it was pleased that NAD found in its favor on most elements of the challenge.
"Its a simple victory for technology and truth," Dyson founder James Dyson said in a statement. "I have spent millions developing better machines. Research is our lifeblood and it is imperative that we defend our inventions. Of course we would rather be developing new technology than being in the courtroom, but it's vital people know the truth."