My favorite marketing story concerns a failing bakery. It was about to go out of business because of a lack of sales. They brought in a consultant who analyzed their business and determined one problem was their marketing slogan, “Pies like your mother used to make!”

They updated the slogan to be, “Pies like your mother tried to make!” and that saved the bakery.

This story does not have to be true to have a lot of truth in it. A good marketing message inspires the customer’s imagination. The customer can see a successful result and will be motivated to take action.

I have received many telephoned charity solicitations. One was when a circus was coming to town. A phone caller from the police association asked me to sponsor “deserving orphans” to go to see the circus. I thought the circus could simply let in the orphans but this was obviously a marketing gimmick. The circus would get my money with a cut going to the police association. My question was what is a “deserving orphan” and what would be an “undeserving orphan”? Perhaps the Menendez brothers who murdered their parents would not be eligible to go to the circus.

Matching Contributions
A non-profit theater borrowed our office space and phones to make calls for contributions. I would be working late into the evening and would hear their solicitations. Their first calling list had previous donors. They had almost a 100% success rate in asking for repeat donations. The next week their calling list had people who had attended shows but had not made donations yet. They had a much lower response rate. In both cases I was concerned that the main sales pitch was that someone was going to match any contributions. I would have emphasized the quality of the shows and that donations would keep ticket prices down to help grow the audience. I wondered if the matching donation would tend to reduce the size of someone’s gift. They could figure instead of giving $100, giving only $50 would amount to the same donation.

Matching donations usually have a limit, such as a $10,000 total goal. I expect that if the total contributions fell short of their matching goal, the contributor would give the rest that was not matched.

I was friends with the actors and staff members who were making the calls. I told them I would match the donations of the people who did not contribute anything. In fact, I would triple their $0 contributions!

Poor Ads

I saw an ad for a mop that said this mop works as hard as you do. That is not very encouraging. A much better contemporary ad said, “These bubbles work hard so you do not have to.”

Technical Progress

General Electric is a conglomerate. Their computer manufacturing operation was dragging down the rest of the corporation in the late 1960s. They projected that it would cost a billion dollars to develop a new line of computers. The IBM 360 line of computers had various technologies for the various speeds of their computers, but they could afford it. Honeywell bought the GE computer development division, including the Multics project and marketed their computers with different speed clock boards. Upgrading a computer was relatively easy. They changed the clock board to run at different speeds and charged corresponding prices. They also upgraded to the changing technologies as drum memory was superseded by solid-state mass storage.