Tag Archives: Business & marketing

The New Yorker thinks I’m bad at math

(Things are busy here at the offices of My Brilliant Mistakes. As soon as we can we’ll post a wrap-up of last Friday’s BlogFest, complete with linked sign-in sheet and other visual artifacts. For now, please enjoy this angry note I sent today to the New Yorker.)

Dear New Yorker Subscriptions:

A few months ago I let my subscription lapse. I had received several notices that it was about to expire; but I also received blow-in subscription cards in the magazines, and I couldn’t help noticing that the subscription price for new subscribers ($47 for 47 issues) was lower than the “preferred subscriber” rate I was offered to renew ($49.95 for 46 issues).

Yes, the price difference was small, but even so the discrepancy made me angry, so I decided simply not to renew or to start a new subscription. I could do without for a while.

But I continue to receive reinstatement notices. The one I got today promises to be the last, and its tone is quite scolding. “As a courtesy to you, we are extending this one final opportunity to reinstate your subscription at the preferred insider savings reserved for subscribers in good standing.” The rate is still $49.95 for 46 issues, and the two year rate also costs more than a new two-year subscription would.

If you can’t offer renewing subscribers a better rate than you give to new subscribers, can’t you at least give them the same rate?

I’m insulted by this pricing and the attitude presented in your subscriber services. Please go away.

Cynthia Closkey

UPDATE: Apparently the New Yorker does not necessarily think I’m bad at math. Rather, it appears to think I’m lazy. To wit, here’s the reply I received from the Subscription Department today:

Thank you for contacting us concerning a lower subscription price that you have recently seen. We have many different offers to attract new
subscribers. These offers can also be available to you. Please respond with your special offer information and we will be happy to enter your subscription.

If you should need further assistance, please be sure to include all previous e-mail correspondence.

Thank you for subscribing to The New Yorker.

[name redacted]

Even putting aside that I’d already explained the special offers I’d seen, the whole shebang reeks of poor customer relations. It makes me weary.

You like long walks on the beach too?

Another one of my entrepreneurial ideas has been taken: PersonalsTrainer offers to fix your personal ad so you sound more like you than you can manage yourself.

However, the lead example offered on the home page is less than reassuring. The “before” is definitely all kinds of wrong (“I have a nice personality. I have 2 cats & I like to go to restaurants.”). But the “after” also leaves much to be desired (“I’m a mix between Mother Teresa & Britney Spears….”). Even assuming they mean the pre-2004, non-redneck Britney, would any right-thinking male want a combination of very-holy-but-wizened, chastity-vowed aid-giver and bleached, over-makeupped and under-dressed lip-syncher?

Actually, if you averaged out their wardrobes and hemlines, you might have a nice knee-length pencil skirt in an attractive shade of plum.

The big improvement is in the example photograph. Which, come to think of it, is the only part of the ad most men will look at. So maybe PersonalsTrainer.com is on to something after all.

(Link via Gawker.)

Number one reason I hate lists

The Wall Street Journal and Harris Interactive have conducted a survey of corporate recruiters, asking which are the “top MBA programs.” The full results will be published later today, so we can save grousing about the criteria and the questionability of recruiters’ opinions until then. For now, let’s take a look at the top five schools.

Or rather, let’s look at the three lists of top five schools, because they couldn’t narrow things down to a single list:

The Top North American Schools

National picks:
1. University of Michigan (Ross)
2. Carnegie Mellon (Tepper)
3. Dartmouth (Tuck)
4. University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)
5. University of Chicago

Regional picks:
1. Purdue University (Krannert)
2. Vanderbilt University (Owen)
3. Ohio State University (Fisher)
4. University of Maryland (Smith)
5. Brigham Young University (Marriott)

The Top International Schools

1. IMD International
2. University of London (London Business School)
3. Escuela Superior de Administracion y Direccion de Empresas (ESADE)
4. HEC School of Management, Paris
5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan)

WSJ.com – Recruiters’ Top M.B.A. Picks

Do you notice anything odd about the lists? What makes an “international school”? Why is Wharton, which has long specialized in international business, a national school while Sloan, which is arguably better at finance, economics, and technology management, an international school?

Lists like these help smaller and lesser-known schools build awareness, which helps them compete with the brand-name schools. But they also carry so much weight that they can skew activities at the school, diverting attention from learning and research.

Time to bring back the two Martini lunch

I’ve never liked vermouth. When I ask for a Martini I always say, “Skip the vermouth.” So actually I don’t drink Martinis: I drink very cold gin or vodka, up, with a twist. Sometimes I even order just that: “I’d like ice-cold vodka, up, please. Lemon twist.”

But this distaste for vermouth nags at me, and I’ve been thinking lately that what I dislike is not vermouth in general but the quality of the vermouth I’m served. Maybe if I tried a higher end brand, I’d find I even enjoy the stuff.

And just as I’m coming to this conclusion, brandchannel.com publishes an article about a high-end, never advertised but widely appreciated vermouth, Noilly Prat:

Is the lack of awareness for Noilly Prat keeping employees awake in Marseillan or at the company’s headquarters in Paris?

“No, not at all,” says Aude Rocourt, Noilly Prat’s director, whose brief includes strategy, marketing and product development.

Pressed to clarify why it’s unimportant that the brand name is to some extent unfamiliar to the man in the street, Rocourt replies, “That’s absolutely right. Noilly Prat has never been mainstream. It is an haut-de-gamme product, a sophisticated and authentic taste for people — almost invariably over 35 years old — who are seeking to ‘trade up’ in terms of their drinking. It’s about 25 percent more expensive than our main rival — Martini — and targeted at the upmarket and refined drinking connoisseur.”

It’s like he’s talking just about me!

Now I have only to hope that the PA Liquor Control Board stocks this stuff.

Incidentally, Noilly Prat’s marketing strategy is interesting in its long-term approach, targeting the influencers — bartenders, chefs, caterers, hoteliers — who then bring the message to exactly the consumers to whom the vermouth is targeted.

Also interesting is that Noilly Prat’s “competition,” Martini, isn’t competition at all: they’re sister brands, aimed at different segments of the market. Martini itself barely needs to advertise, as it’s the only vermouth most of us have ever heard about.

(Link via Agenda.)

Harder than naming children

All the good ones — and many, many bad ones — are taken: Car companies have a terrible time selecting new car names.

General Motors found out last year that a forthcoming Buick sedan called LaCrosse, to be offered in Canada, was French-Canadian teenage slang for masturbation.

Volkswagen’s SUV, the Touareg, is not only unpronounceable for many Americans but was also named after a tribe of north African nomads that, it turns out, traded slaves well into the 20th century.

Twice in the last two years Ford Motor has named prototypes of new cars after ones from its storied history only to find out it didn’t own the names anymore. The supercar now called the GT was to be called the GT40 after the legendary car from the 1960s. And a new midsized sedan to go on sale next year was to revive the Futura nameplate. It still doesn’t have a new name.

(Link thanks to Agenda.)

How to sell expensive water

Nice little case study on “anti-marketing marketing”: the brilliance of Darius Bikoff and Glaceau Smartwater.

Despite the success, despite the obvious attention to marketing principles such as design and differentiation, and despite even the national effort, Energy Brands seems to have retained the important sense of being an irreverent underdog: It has mastered the art of anti-marketing marketing.

The label on “Endurance” states: “professional athletes have not endorsed this product … excessive use will not lead you to have a desire to be like Mike, Magic or even athletes named Ned.” “Energy” takes a similar tack. “We rebut any offers by professional sports leagues to become ‘the official water’ of anything. Although this is a great alternative to sports drinks we do not believe in succumbing to commercialism. Unless, of course, there’s a lot of cash. Then we’ll talk.”

But how to phrase it in one’s job description?

Even Businessweek says it’s a good thing: Blogging With The Boss’s Blessing.

Increasingly, execs see employee blogs as a way to transform a transaction with a faceless behemoth into a personal relationship with an employee. Blogs are also hyper efficient at driving product innovation. And they create loyal audiences. Once people get hooked, they keep coming back for more. “This is nothing less than revolutionary,” says Dave Winer, a fellow at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

It’s revolutionary because companies have usually been more concerned with controlling their message than conversing with customers. Blogging changes that by establishing “a connection through real human beings speaking like real human beings, which is something companies have forgotten how to do,” says David Weinberger, the Boston-based co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto.

(Link thanks to Old Hag.)