Editor's note: Bruce Isaacson is president of MMR Strategy Group, an Encino, Calif., research company.

Although much has been written about the relationship between marketing and departments such as sales or product development, very little has been written about the relationship between marketing and legal. In many companies, it is not a cozy one. Marketers have the responsibility of attracting consumers and increasing revenues, while the legal department must keep marketing communications from causing trouble. These days, it seems that neither has an easy assignment.

Marketing and legal may interact in the area of claim substantiation. Claims convey the benefits of a product or service to customers, often by comparing with competitors. While claims can help increase sales, they can also involve risk. Claim substantiation is the process of making sure that supporting evidence is in place for statements made in advertisements, point-of-sale materials, sales brochures, product packaging and other locations.

This article focuses on claims involving consumer perceptions. These types of claims are often supported with surveys. For example, surveys can help determine which automobile is preferred by families with kids, which toothpaste tastes the most minty or whether a drugstore shampoo leaves hair as manageable as a shampoo sold in expensive salons. When your claims involve consumer perceptions, the guidelines in this article can help reduce your marketing risk.

Companies can face legal fees, penalties and marketplace restrictions if their marketing communications do not meet the rules and regulations intended to protect consumers. Compliance is a serious matter and is enforced by a variety of authorities and venues, including the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau, the federal court system and government agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration and the Federa...