The Federal Trade Commission announced today that Reebok has agreed to a $25 million settlement “to resolve charges that the company deceptively advertised” its EasyTone and RunTone shoes. David Vladek, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection said in a news conference today that the company’s claims — that they strengthen and tone muscles better than other shoes — were not backed up by sufficient evidence.
Reebok stands by the shoes, saying that they don’t agree with the FTC’s charges. Nevertheless, the dent in Reebok’s reputation has already been made.
The fantasy that we can melt away pounds and get a Kim Kardashian-style booty by walking around in crazy sneakers is one that many people will buy into. That illusion is now gone. Why spend upwards of $100 on these shoes when you can buy these, which have an un-FTC-disputed reputation for making you look fit with little or no effort on your part? (No comment yet on whether that could change.)
The Wall Street Journal reports that the toning shoe market has taken a hit (maybe the results have spoken for themselves?), so it’s possible these particular Reebok lines, and others in this category, will be phased out anyway.
Even more important, Reebok should be concerned with what it does for the reputation of the brand as a whole. Trust in companies is shaky to begin with, so this doesn’t help. The company isn’t backtracking, but now has to reassure customers that its messaging is sound and the promises the company makes about any of its fitness products can be kept.