Wednesday, June 27, 2018

#12 When Your Guarantee Is a Big Fat Lie…

Issue #12 – Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Posted by Denny Hatch

When Your Guarantee Is a Big Fat Lie…

As a freelance copywriter, I cut my teeth on magazine renewals, billing series and subscription offers.

The Hatch family goes back 95 years with TIME. My father had been a loyal subscriber since 1923, the year it was launched.

In addition, in 1954 I spent six weeks in Rome while my father was writing the authorized biography of Clare Boothe Luce, acclaimed playwright and U.S. Ambassador to Italy in the Eisenhower Administration.

I was lucky enough to be invited to a dazzling diplomatic reception at the Villa Taverna, resplendent official residence of the American ambassador.

There I met Mrs. Luce and shook hands with her sugar daddy husband, Henry R. Luce, founding mogul and CEO of the TIME-LIFE magazine empire.

So, yeah, I paid attention to the latest effort from TIME to get me to re-up for another year.

I was happy to be offered the “guaranteed low price.” Having been a subscriber myself for 60 years, I earned it.

Or did I?

As pensioners, Peggy and I watch our pennies. And $81.95 (plus applicable taxes) seemed a bit pricy—especially since I was getting last week’s news and TIME has been on the rocks financially for years.

So I prowled the Internet.

Et Voila!

How dare TIME claim they are giving a guaranteed low price to a 60-year subscriber who can get it for $51.95 cheaper with the click of a mouse!

I immediately canceled my subscription.

Takeaways to Consider

• Your Guarantee is your sacred promise to prospects and customers.

• When your solemn promise is a big fat lie, who the hell is going to trust you, your journalism or anything else?

• TIME’s Circulation Department and management—who obviously don’t give a damn—are a bunch of liars and rip-off artists.

• Trump rails against “fake news.”

• I rail against fake offers.

• “Direct marketing should be scrupulously honest.”
Dick Benson (1922-1996), Legendary magazine consultant

• Here is the ultimate all-American Guarantee:

• NOTE: This Guarantee was not from any faceless “We guarantee.” Nor was it “The L.L. Bean Company Guarantees this product.” Bean signed it. This is L.L.’s PERSONAL GUARANTEE. He says, “I stand behind this. Problem? Contact me.”

• What was missing? Bean’s signature. Not a phony-baloney computer font signature, but rather the guy’s real scrawl.

• “Your signature is your handshake.” —Malcolm Decker, Freelancer.

• Alas, this past year L.L. Bean was forced to rescind this splendid promise because of sleaze-ball serial multi-returners.


Word Count: 400

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Invitation to Marketers and Direct Marketers: Guest blog posts are welcome. 
If you have a marketing story to tell, case history, concept to propose or a memoir, give a shout. I’ll get right back to you. (Kindly stay within the limit of 500 words.) I am: • 215-644-9526 (rings on my desk).

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  1. Why do you sound surprised, Denny? In just a few years we have slid down the slippery slope from an atmosphere built on 'trust' to one increasingly dominated by sleaze. It is obvious that one hand at Time didn't know what another was doing nor was there a culture that demanded accuracy and excellence to prevent those conflicting offers from happening. I'm afraid that those days are sadly over.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Peter. I think it all comes down to lousy mentors—who themselves have never been mentored—all the way down to no mentoring and letting the kids do their thing because nobody in the place has been grounded in the messaging and arithmetic of the business.

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  2. Denny - I do a lot of "hot seats" and website reviews. In more than 50% of the websites I review, there's no one who is saying "The Buck Stops Here." They're faceless AND nameless. And I won't do business with them because of that.

    Of course their social proof is typically faceless and many times nameless as well. In other words, almost worthless and not believable.

    And finally, their contact page is a form. No real address. Maybe a post office box. Denny... Don't get me going on this...

    Finally, Time didn't just lose you. I plan on sharing your story to the many audiences I give presentations to. We have a phrase in our office for perpetrators of this type of "crime" - Douche-Weasels.

    1. Will,

      Great Comment! Thank you!

      Would love it if you would offer the blog free to your audiences.

      Thanks again, Will.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Denny, Of course it's insulting the reader's intelligence to claim a "guaranteed low rate" that's not anywhere near the lowest rate -- but for many decades now subscription renewals have been priced far above that for either new subscriptions, or renewals via circ bureaus.

    Thrifty readers have long-ago learned the trick of cancelling and resubscribing to gain another introductory rate. Even Sirius XM plays along with this game. Allow your satellite radio sub to auto-renew, and your credit card is dinged for over $200. Threaten to cancel, and the cost is knocked down nearly by half.

    Committing a minor act of advertising puffery is not the crime for which you should cancel your subscription. Diminishing a once-robust publication into a comically anemic and useless wad of paper is the real reason for cancelling.

  5. Thanks for venting – in your usual direct mail style. My wife and I also marvel at the differences we find. Bravo for telling TIME what they can do with their subscription. Ever been notified again and again and again that you should renew your subscription when you have almost a year left? Maddening.

  6. Good work, Denny. I've cancelled Time as well, but for editorial reasons. It is no longer a news magazine, rather a social commentary rag. (I had the pleasure of traveling with you two in Italy some years ago, including Rome, on the way to curling in Courmayeur. Great time!

    1. Great hearing from you! I remember he Rome hotel on the Corso with the lion carved in the staircase, traveling with Leland, Margaret, Dave Garber, and of course I remember curling in Courmayeur. Neither I nor Peggy can place you. Give a shout offline and let's reconnect.

  7. As the anonymous automation of marketing increases (oh but its 'personalized')we begin to see the 'cost' of widespread ethical relativism. There was no room for subjectivism in my Catholic, nun-led classroom. We all knew what the definition of 'is' is. My kids were taught that ethics are based on consensus and consequences - the DARE Program. Don't be surprised that we are reaping what we've sown.

  8. I like your article much more, but here is something similar in millenial-speak. Marketing Trust (now there is an oxymoron) degrades because marketers lie... you nailed it Denny.

  9. Denny - I always enjoy reading your marketing blog. Good stuff - you're always spot-on - keep up the enlightening writing.

  10. Good catch. I wouldn't bemoan a general lowering of standards. (They're always sinking lower, right?) But this is sloppy work by someone in circ.

  11. The advent of social media and impersonal communication voids the link between quality merchants and real human beings. The online legions marketing products and services have likely never met or talked to a customer. So they assume everyone loves them. Too many think us stupid and not paying attention to renewal rates; when challenged they quickly lower the price. Why they offer better deals to new customers rather than keeping the old ones happy and renewing just perplexes me. Even august pubs like the Times does it. Someday they'll learn - or they won't.

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