One Thing You Can Do: Reduce Unwanted Mail - The New York Times
“You’ve got mail!” lost its allure years ago. Sorry, AOL.

In Florida, teachers’ email addresses are a public record, a fact that is a spammer’s dream. Usually, that means an index finger workout to keep pushing the delete button, but recently Grumpy Old Teacher’s (GOT) mailbox got a few typical and recurring pitches.

First up, this pitch from … oh, GOT will cut and paste for you: Imagine Learning, a provider of supplemental solutions for K-12, is conducting research to gauge your reaction to proposed names for its suite of instructional materials. Teachers and administrators are invited to complete the survey to provide feedback on preferred names.

In return for entering a drawing for one of TEN, count them, TEN gift cards worth $100, Imagine Learning asks for five minutes of GOT’s time. And what did they want to know?

  • Whether Spark, Plus, or Max would be a good brand name to attach to their corporate moniker of Imagine Learning. How relevant, impactful, contemporary (modern and reflective for our times), and postive association does each option have? Oh, and how engaging?
  • Then, point by point, describe the reation to each brand: easy to understand or confusing, not clear at all; excitement for learning or boring, not exciting at all; engaging for learning or not engaging at all; inspires learning or uninspiring name for learning; memorable for using in classrooms or forgettable name; confidence for learning or the name does not inspire confidence; unique name or ordinary, like other products; novel, sounds fresh or tired, old-fashioned.
  • Now, they want to know if any of these negative responses are evoked by the name: racial or ethnic concerns; it does not promote high expectations for educational outcomes; it evokes association with groups/ideas contrary to educational values; no concerns; other–write in the comment box provided.
  • Rank the proposed names with an explanation.

Following that, they want more demographic information to add to the information they gathered before getting to the actual questions. They solicit interest in participating in future research. Finally, do you want to enter the drawing? Then give us your name, employer, and email address.

A typical junk mail solicitation with a prize, not really a prize, but a prize promise. Let’s cost that out. (Never solicit a math teacher, IJS, right?) If 2,000 people answer the survey and 10 receive a card, that gives GOT a 10 out of 2,000 chance of winning, or 1 out of 200, or 0.5%. Multiply that times the value of the card, $100, and the expected return of participation is 50 cents.

Two quarters. Two rounds of “shave and a haircut, two bits.” If that is the reward for 5 minutes of time, Imagine Learning is offering teachers $6 an hour to answer their survey, far less than federal minimum wage.

All because they can’t figure out the obvious: if you want to pitch your edutech product, it doesn’t matter what you call it. The customers only ask two questions:

  • Will it raise test scores?
  • You got some data to back that up?

One thought on “Junk Mail

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