Bon Appétit’s Big Lie Survey
I received this e-mail invitation because I subscribe to Bon Appétit:
Important survey from Bon Appétit – We need your help to get 100% participation.
At Bon Appétit, we really care what you think. That’s why, as Vice President & Publisher of Bon Appétit, I’m personally asking for your help with this online survey. As a thank-you for your valuable time, you will be entered into a sweepstakes giveaway for a chance to win $50,000.*
I know you may receive countless emails each day, but frankly this is one of the most important surveys we conduct all year, so please take a moment to fill this one out.
Clever headline, an ambitious goal, a well-written letter about the value and importance of readers’ opinions, and Bon Appétit is going to give $50,000 to one of its readers to make it happen, right?
Wrong. The survey did not ask for opinions. Not a single question about the magazine, or its content, or its editorial policy, features, articles, recipes, or anything else. Instead it was designed to document my lifestyle and demographics, and it asked for a list of my hobbies, shopping habits, luxury goods owned, jewelry, travel, financial services, cars, and appliances. And see the little asterisk by the $50,000? It turns out I can be entered into a huge sweepstakes with all kinds of other “creative presentations” offered by other “promoters.” Bon Appétit is not giving $50,000 to one of its readers.
If they were honest, their invitation would have said:
We really care about helping advertisers reach target markets. It helps us make money and keeps our subscription prices low. That’s why we need to document for our advertisers the lifestyles, demographics, and purchase patterns of our readers. So I’m personally asking you to give us that data. In exchange, we will give you a lottery ticket that you have a very small chance of winning.
The remarkable thing about customers is that so many are happy to share their opinions. Research shows that many customers feel obligated to help improve businesses with feedback through surveys. There is fount of goodwill that the research industry draws upon every day. That well is poisoned when customers are tricked into giving data under the guise of an opinion survey.
If you are doing a survey of your customers, leverage their goodwill with the truth. Offer a clear and honest invitation that tells them:
- Why the survey is important, and how the information will be used
- How similar survey data have been used in the past, and what kinds of improvements have been made as a result of customer input
- How long the survey will take and what they will get in return
You may not get 100% participation (nor will Bon Appétit’s approach — not even close) but you will get sincere and honest information that you can use to improve your business. Plus you will have customers that appreciate the opportunity to share, and who will be happy to help you again in the future.
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.