A Treat for Readers

Listen carefully and you can already hear the screams. It’s that time of year when complete strangers wander from door to door trying their best to frighten you. I’m not talking about election season. It’s Halloween!

My kids received long-distance mailings from their grandparents last week, including a little money to pick out their own Halloween treats. My son instantly asked to spend his at the bookstore. I absolutely love that he thinks it’s a “treat” to read. If I handed out books to other costumed crusaders, I’d expect to find my house freshly coated in egg yolks the next morning.

Thirty years ago this October, Pizza Hut founded its “BOOK IT!” reading program on the fundamental belief that if you want kids to read, you’ve got to give them a good reason. Who knew that you could convince entire generations of people to willingly digest pages upon pages of content with the simple promise of a free personal pan pizza? That’s exactly what Pizza Hut has done for decades, and they’re sweetening the deal this year with a $30,000 college scholarship for one lucky bookworm.

The success of “BOOK IT!” holds a valuable business lesson. It proved the importance of understanding what your audience craves. That’s not to say that every company should hand out free food and cash, although it might not hurt.

As readers, we don’t check out books just to see the “About the Author” page. And as consumers we don’t engage with marketing just to learn random facts about businesses.

David Jones, the publications manager for John Deere, recently spoke at the 2014 Content Marketing World conference. He shared that the company’s printed magazine The Furrow is still thriving after nearly 120 years. It’s now available in 14 languages, and a recent survey revealed that 45 percent of Furrow readers go through it from cover to cover.

Why? Interestingly, the magazine isn’t about John Deere and the company’s equipment. The business is seldom mentioned throughout decades of Furrow articles. Instead, the agricultural journal focuses on current issues and best practices related to farming. Since John Deere owns and operates the publication, it gets exclusive rights to the limited ad space. According to Jones, the majority of surveyed Furrow readers acknowledge that those ads are the first place where they learn about John Deere’s new products and services.

As readers, we don’t check out books just to see the “About the Author” page. And as consumers we don’t engage with marketing just to learn random facts about businesses. We seek entertainment or information that’s interesting to us. When we find those stories that resonate, then we tend to connect with the source. Companies like John Deere are increasingly finding ways to share their expertise in formats that are useful and intriguing to consumers. In return, readers are following those brands.

Before your next marketing project, consider what stories you’re telling. Are you serving up personal pan pizzas to entice your audience? Or, are you just feeding them the same old corporate jargon? Let’s treat them to something worth remembering.





Chad Armstrong first set foot in the advertising world as an account coordinator. He continued to pursue his dreams of writing and eventually worked his way into the creative department. Chad is now the senior copywriter at KCG and he’s literally known for going the extra mile as a distance runner with a passion for marathons. When he’s not on the go, you can find him managing the Boston Red Sox from his recliner or enjoying the works of other writers.