Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Consumer Reports: Please do some research on marketing in the 21st century!

Dear Consumer Reports,
I received your marketing mailer today soliciting me to subscribe to your magazine.  A couple of things I wanted to point out to you that might help you increase your subscription rates.

  1. A four page marketing letter with "typewriter" font and important headlines underlined... Marketing letters of this sort were perhaps effective in the early 1990's, but c'mon that was a looooong time ago.  Attention spans have vastly diminished since then; adjust accordingly.
  2. The post script note - another outdated direct mail marketing technique.  If I haven't read your four pages, I clearly won't see the P.S.  And, with the TWO paragraphs you put in the P.S., you've definitely lost my attention!
  3. All the extra glossy inserts - waste of money.  It cheapens your product because it makes me think of those Val-Pak coupon mailers .
  4. The four page glossy picture insert that visually says all the same things that your letter (that I didn't really read) does - again TOO MUCH INFO.
  5. The little note card that you have inserted from the VP (Jerry Steinbrink ) that says open this if you aren't going to subscribe - what's the point?  Its a waste of paper.  You haven't offered me anything new or compelling that might make me want to change my mind.  And, you've succeeded in making Jamie Darnow, the Director of Publishing, look like an idiot and that you knew he wasn't going to be able to close the deal.  Not too mention that you ASSUME that I am not going to buy a subscription...way to be positive.
  6. The glossy return card - why use all the paper?  You show me the math of my savings - but its all bunk b/c you are giving me 3 free presents anyway, so I don't need to calculate their "value"- I'm not paying for them even if I subscribe and I can't buy them solo, so they really don't have a dollar value that I would be "saving." Then, why are you telling for the FIFTH time what the free gifts are?  I already know, assuming I've taken the time to read your overabundance of repetitive information.  I like the tear off card, but why include the envelope with no postage necessary - why not just print the indicia right on the return card?  

So, in conclusion, here is what I have learned from this exercise:

  • Consumer Reports kills trees.
  • Consumer Reports needs to overhaul their marketing department.
  • Why would I bother to subscribe to the magazine when I already get their RSS feeds for free?
  • Consumer Reports really doesn't do target marketing.  If they did they would know that I have a subscription to ShopSmart - one of their other pubs - on my Christmas list!!!
Oh and by the way, in doing research for this post, you have a misspelling on your staff page - you've spelled Jerry's last name wrong.  Good job.

Thanks Consumer Reports.  Better luck next time.


  1. Ha! I'm with you on CR's infuriating marketing. I'm about to write our mutual friend, Jamie Darnow, a similar note-- and in mine I'm going to suggest that if they want to know WHY I'm not re-subscibing, they might consider ASKING! And if you want to tell them such useful info, just as the decent thing to do for an organization which you view in a positive light, they make it SO DIFFICULT that you give up... and go away muttering bitterly.

    This is a year and a half after your original post, but nothing seems to change at Consumer Reports. I can't figure out why they can't understand that dunning people who clearly have lost interest in your product ("This is your fifth notice!" screams the latest letter) doesn't endear you to them-- it merely strengthens their resolve to stay far, far away.

  2. Maria - thanks for commenting! I had totally forgotten that I had written this. Glad to have rediscovered it though since they just infuriated me last week. Riddle me this, now that I AM a subscriber (thanks to a gift subscription) - why can I not access the online website info in full with out purchasing an online subscription!?!?! This makes NO SENSE. Again, who the heck is running their marketing department - Yoda?? Clearly they are stuck in the 80's mentality of marketing. If I am paying for the paper mag, shouldn't I have rights to access any/all CR info on their site? This is an industry standard practice from what I can tell. They should CHARGE people who don't want the mag, but want just the online access. THAT makes sense. Ugh!

  3. Since it is nearly Thanksgiving (three more days), a lot of time has passed since you posted your comment about Consumer Reports. However, your suggestion about accessing the online site as part of the magazine subscription has not happened. Big suprise, right?

    Now it it is even worse. I was stupid enough to subscribe last year with a credit card. They just sent me an email notice that my card was about to expire and I was set up for automatic renewal. Well, I don't like auto renewal and I don't want to use a credit card (especially Citibank). Guess what. There is no way to renew except with a credit card.

    I cancelled my subscription and told them if the magazine starts requiring a credit card for payment, I will cancel it also. Maybe I should cancel anyway.

    You are right about their marketing department. I like Consumer Reports overall, but their marketing department seems to be lacking something. Like the knowledge that many people are starting to dislike using credit cards.

    The main reason I read Consumer Reports is to get the best product at the best price. Auto renewing would have placed a charge on a credit card that I paid off and don't use. I keep the card open only because my FICO would drop if I cancelled it. I'm considering closing it anyway.

    CR always has their hand out for donations and it seems they have a raffle evey other month. The online subscription is nineteen dollars and that is supposed to be a break because I get the magazine. But like you said, why should I pay anything extra when I get the magazine?

    So, Jenni, your take on CR is spot on. If they want to keep their subscribers, they need to change with the times.

  4. Heh, I found this while trying to track down Jamie Darnow's email address to let him/her know how insulted I am by the email I received asking me to re-up my subscription.

    I happen to love CR, but the re-up email I received this time - and god knows how many other times - does not address the reason I am not subscribing.

    What I find ironic is the email tells me how much they "want me back", but no one has ever bothered to ask me why I left!



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