This weekend's cool snap and this morning's agency news have me thinking about apples and pumpkins. We've got a team out at Eckert's today launching orange squash into blue sky with the orchard's famous Jack-O-Lobber cannon. Lucky guys. As we prepare to promote haunted hayrides through the orchard, evening bonfires and all sorts of family fun on the farm, I recalled a bit of advertising folklore one of my instructors passed along in ad school. While I can't attest to the absolute authenticity of the story, I can assure you it had an impact. See what you think.
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 returns 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 (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."
Sort of gives you an old-fashioned grin, doesn't it? Of course it was a simpler time back then, but as traditional media gives way to seemingly infinite new incarnations, the story of James Young and his bruised apples serves as a great reminder of the power of storytelling. It's never merely about what you say. The magic happens with how you say it.