Puffing, according to Black’s Law Dictionary, is defined as:
The expression of an exagerrated opinion — as opposed to a factual representation — with the intent to sell a good or service.
Puffing, as a legal principle, has recently received a fair amount of attention as a result of Domino’s new ad campaign.
Puffing generally exists whereever ambiguous and subjective words (such as good, better, best) are used used to describe goods or services. Some of you may recall the 3DO gaming system shamelessly touted as The Most Advanced Home Gaming System in the Universe. This is a classic example of puffery.
Importantly, however, puffing isn’t merely a verbal concept. It also applies to visual depictions. A rather obvious example would be the animated advertisements showing Red Bull gives you wings. Obviously, the ordinary consumer isn’t going to think that a slightly odd tasting taurine beverage is going to cause wing sprouting.
This brings us to the million dollar question though: Where is the line between puffing and deception? A fair rule of thumb is that it’s probably when the advertisement presents something that borders on verifiable fact which a consumer might believe. For example, implying that your orange juice is processed by squeezing oranges directly into the carton (shame on you Tropicana) could cross the line. Or, presenting your product as having verifiably superior leak protection when, in reality, it’s comparable to the competition (ahem, Glad-lock) is a no-no.
In the end, staying on the right side of the puffery/deception line can probably be accomplished with the old adage of "Think before you speak."
UPDATE: I forgot to include one of my favorite examples of puffing: the one-bajillion to one preference.