Truth in Advertising

October 27th, 2010 by Bob Bly

Legendary adman James Webb Young, who started selling fruit by mail around the same time that Harry & David did, tells the story of an apple-growing season where he was nearly ruined.

Violent hail storms bombarded his apple trees with ice pellets, causing bruising and pock marks.

He feared massive complaints and returned if he shipped the bruised fruit to his mail order apple buyers. But if he didn?t ship the damaged apples, he would have to refund all the orders, and his mail order business would be ruined.

The apples were damaged only cosmetically. The hail had pockmarked the skin, but this did not affect the flavor or freshness.

Young went ahead and filled his orders with the pockmarked apples, and in each box shipped, enclosed a preprinted card that read as follows (I am paraphrasing):

?Note the pockmarks on some of these apples. This is proof that they are grown at a high mountain altitude, where the same extreme cold that causes sudden hailstorms also firms the flesh and increases the natural sugars, making the apples even sweeter.?

According to Young, not a single order was returned. In fact, when orders came in for next year, many order forms had handwritten notes that said, ?Pockmarked apples if available; otherwise, the regular kind.?


This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 27th, 2010 at 1:45 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

32 responses about “Truth in Advertising”

  1. Sarah Clachar said:

    Bob, I love this story. As a health copywriter who writes with empathy for the people who use the products I market, I know how important this is.

    Even if you can’t turn some of the flaws into plusses, there are other reasons to admit to a few foibles. My market is jaded, burnt, skeptical and desperate for relief that really works. Honesty about problems that don’t detract from the good can inspire confidence that you are an honest business concerned about their well-being.

  2. William Reynolds said:

    It’s all about perception. A one-person company dwarfed by bigger competitors, for instance, can emphasize its close personal relathionships with its customers — “When you contact us, you won’t get stuck with an answering machine or a help desk worker, you’ll talk directly to the boss!” One client’s “minus” is another client’s “plus.”

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  4. Jack's Customized Fat Loss said:

    believe it or not this cases do happen though it’s sad. business is business.

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  7. Sandip Mukherjee said:

    It’s brilliant! Hope we get such brilliant ideas while market our products. Really enjoyed Bob.

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