What I Learned From a Woman's Magazine
by David Leonhardt
It's amazing what you can learn about marketing if you
can just find the time to spend in a dentist's waiting
room. I was reading a certain woman's magazine, which
will remain nameless because of my allergy to lawsuits.
The magazine obviously has figured out what sells well,
given that it operates on a consistent formula.
For instance, one cover proclaims: "3 sizes slimmer
by Memorial Day". Then, in one corner is a picture
of "Cookies 'n Cream Cake", while in another
corner is a picture of "'Lollipups' to brighten someone's
On another cover, the main headline is: "Lose that
BELLY FAT!", while a secondary headline asks, "Can't
stop binging?" Just to make sure that readers can
answer, "Yes", there is a nice picture in the
corner of a "Banana Split Cookie Cake" labeled
"Yum!", and the promise of "Family-pleasing
Pasta dinners" inside.
See a pattern? Let's try one more. The big headline reads:
"Lose 28 lbs by Thanksgiving". How? Perhaps
the big picture of a "Oreo Cookie Cheesecake"
labeled "Yum!" will give us a hint. Or the promise
of "Best-ever Potluck recipes".
OK. By now I am sure you see the pattern. That's right
poor grammar, punctuation and capitalization.
The other pattern is, of course, the secret success formula:
Offer you a way to lose weight
Tempt you to put the weight right back on
Offer you another way to lose weight
I pointed this out to my dentist, hoping he might decide
to increase the quality of reading material in his waiting
The next week, I returned to find that my observation
had obviously made an impression on him. There was all
new reading material: Yummy Deserts Magazine, Best Cakes
Review, and The Sugar Mountain Weekly.
I noticed the décor had changed, too. Gone were
the bare beige walls. Up were larger-than-life posters
of cookies, cakes and ice cream. And strategically placed
around the room were candy dishes.
"What's with all the changes?" I asked.
"It's all your idea," he said. "You are
a marketing genius. If I can get people to start working
on their next cavities as they are walking out from my
office, I can increase my business by up to 17%."
As he began to work in my mouth, I noticed a TV screen
above. "Datz nuu," I said.
"Oh yes," he answered, flicking a button. "See?
I have it set at the All-Sugar Channel."
The dentist finished excavating and reassembled what was
left of my mouth.
"Here you go," He said proudly, handing me a
"Didn't you used to hand out toothbrushes?"
"Shh. Don't remind anybody of that. Toothbrushes
are bad for business," he explained.
I just could not believe what I had seen. I headed over
to the body shop to see how my car was doing. A few repairs
were needed, thanks to some bozo on a cell phone who thought
that a red light means "stop when you hit another
"How's my car doing, Jack?" I asked.
"It's OK. You didn't get hit too hard," he replied.
"Good thing he was only talking on a cell phone and
not watching a game show on TV when he hit me," I
remarked. "Hey did you see what's going on at the
"Yeah, what's he doing with all those cookie posters
in his waiting room?" Jack asked.
I explained how the woman's magazine was building its
customer base by tempting dieters with cakes labeled "yum!"
"It's the dentist's new business development program,"
I was about to pay for the repair work when Jack held
out a cell phone and a mini-TV set. "If you take
the cell phone, I give you a five percent discount. Take
the TV set and you get a ten percent discount."
"What are you, doing?" I demanded.
"Hey," replied Jack. "It's my new business
About The Author
David Leonhardt is author of Climb
Your Stairway to Heaven
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