23 March 2009

Arbitron and practical reinforcement

Dear New Yorkers:

If you should ever receive – among your junk mail – an envelope with this logo on it:

Don't throw it away, it probably has money in it. And not a creepy, fake-looking check... actual cash.*

Maybe I'm a little neurotic, but I open every single piece of mail I get and sort it into piles: recycle, trash, save and shred. A month or two ago I got an unassuming, commercial-sized envelope from Arbitron (their web site says, "Arbitron Inc. (NYSE: ARB) is a media and marketing research firm serving the media—radio, television, cable, online radio and out-of-home—as well as advertisers and advertising agencies in the United States.").

When I opened it, a media consumption/behavior survey and two dollar bills fluttered out. The enclosed letter promised ten more dollars if I filled out the survey and mailed it back – standard questions, like "How many hours of television do you watch a week?"

Since I:
1. like filling out surveys
2. work (sort of?) in this field
3. liked the fact that I just got treated to a cup of coffee

I did it. Notice that I didn't put the monetary incentive in there... I half didn't expect to see any more cash, but the fact that I already got $2 put me in a good mood with Arbitron. Well, guess what happened last week.


Wow! Filling out that survey took 10 minutes, tops, and they were grateful enough to thank me before and after, with a reward. The fact that it was cash is probably my favorite part, because it is both endearingly lo-fi and immediately-actionable (none of that "Use this gift certificate at the following eligible establishments" inconvenience).

I don't know what my point is with this one; I don't know if it's "on strategy" or "aligned with their brand" or "leading to figures that will be useful in a strategic way to marketers." It was just plain nice. So, thank you, Arbitron.

* I don't even want to think about the number of envelopes that must have been thrown out without even being opened.
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