Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Getting their number

Benjamin Disraeli, the British prime minister, famously observed that there are “lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Mercifully, he died about 125 years before the incorporation of research figures into a publicity ploy would push stats to a whole new level of infamy.

In case you missed the news, Taco Bell today released survey results as evidence the chain’s Crunchwrap Supreme, a hand-held, self-contained meal, could boost the resale value of your car. The research, conducted by the Kelley Blue Book Marketing organization, found that only 34% of vehicle owners regard a clean interior as an important factor in the value of their chariots, as opposed to 66% who regard a pristine exterior as a sales-price-booster. On the basis of that finding, Kelley’s hired guns concluded that car sellers could get far more for their clunkers by keeping the passenger area Felix Unger-clean. “Cars in excellent condition and appearance -- both inside and outside -- can be valued thousands of dollars higher than those in good or fair condition," soberly noted Jack R. Nerard, Kelley’s executive editorial director and market analyst.

And how do you keep an interior spotless? Why, buying a Crunchwrap Supreme when you’re dining a la car, of course.

It’s only fair to say that the whole publicity push has a tongue-in-cheek feel to it. And I’m appreciative of how the communications team of Taco Bell’s parent, Yum! Brands, has periodically used humor to leaven their messages to the public. On April 1, for instance, I still keep a wary eye out for an April Fool’s prank, after watching Taco Bell generate a flurry of newspaper headlines a few years back with the hoax that it was buying the Liberty Bell for marketing purposes.

But this is doesn’t have that Gen X zing. Too bad the Bell didn’t collaborate with the Frisbee Institute, to demonstrate that flying discs are 57% more fun if you can eat them. Show some kids tossing around a Crunchwrap Supreme on a California beach, and you've got yourself a promotion.

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