Dear Martin: Your comments about the Lean Cuisine $98 "Celebration" promotion were right on. I have been in the promotion development and implementation business for 30 years, and this promotion is about as bad as it gets.
However, you did not mention that this promotion is clearly illegal and that the attorneys general across the country have not been sharp enough to catch it. Here is the reason:
Consumers take a chance on winning $98. There is no way for them to control whether they are among the winners. It is out of their hands, so it is pure chance. Consumers are required to make a purchase to qualify for a $98 prize. The definition of an illegal lottery is prize, consideration and chance. There is a prize, $98. Consideration is required in the form of a purchase. Chance is involved since one cannot control whether one is among the first 10,000.
The problem is compounded by the fact that defining "the first 10,000" is impossible. The first 10,000 whose letters get to the post office? To the fulfillment house?
The argument that the $3 worth of coupons that was sent to all nonwinners is comparable and eliminates the chance aspect of this promotion is, of course, a joke. -- Tom Pettit, president, Tom Pettit Associates, Palm Springs, Calif.
Dear Tom: Thank you for your letter. I agree with you on all points, including the problem of judging who were the first 10,000. I received many letters from readers who sent for the offer on the very morning it appeared. Here is an example:
Dear Martin: My daughter from Rochester, N.Y., sent me your Square Wheel Shopping Cart column on the Worst Promotion. I sent for the $98 Lean Cuisine offer. I get the Sunday newspaper at about 7 a.m. At 8:15 a.m. on the Sunday the offer appeared, my submission was in the mail with my proofs-of-purchase. I also received the three coupons, which I will not use because I am no longer buying their products. -- L.J. Doria, Marion, Ohio
A marketing battle is expected to determine which brand you pour into your breakfast-juice glass. PepsiCo has always wanted to provide a beverage for the breakfast table. It looks as if it will get a chance to do that, now that it has agreed to purchase Tropicana Products, the well-known orange-juice brand.
The purchase puts PepsiCo in the familiar role of competing with Coca-Cola, which owns another well-known brand, Minute Maid. However, PepsiCo will have the advantage at the start of this marketing war because Tropicana has 40 percent of the chilled-juice business, compared with about 20 percent for Coca-Cola's Minute Maid.
What does this mean for consumers? It will probably result in more promotions and more opportunities for smart shoppers to save money. Both of the cola companies are outstanding marketers. With guidance from PepsiCo, Tropicana can be expected to promote more effectively and more often.But you may have to look closely to see the increase in promotions. In many parts of the country, refrigerated orange juice is a popular promotion item for supermarkets. Tropicana, Minute Maid, smaller brands such as Florida Natural and supermarkets' private-label orange juice are all frequently on sale.
The changes expected at Tropicana will be more than skin-deep. In commenting on the purchase of Tropicana, PepsiCo chairman Roger Enrico said that Tropicana and Pepsi will be working closely together to develop new products, including "shelf-stable" juice drinks that can be stored without refrigeration.
Tropicana is famous for its Pure Premium brand of not-from-concentrate orange juice. Minute Maid abandoned its not-from-concentrate orange juice in 1997 and sells only reconstituted juices.
I continue to receive letters asking for information about The Premium Watch Watch, the newsletter about advertising and logo watches. Sharon Iranpour, the editor of The Premium Watch Watch, will be happy to provide subscription and sample-copy information to those who call her at (716) 381-9467. In the latest issue, Sharon shows M&M's Collectors Edition Millennium Watch. The offer for this cute M&M-character wrist watch appears on the back of specially marked 17.6-ounce packages of plain/peanut M&Ms. You can also call to order the watch with a credit card. It is $9.95, plus $3.50 for postage and handling. No proofs-of-purchase are required. The offer expires Dec. 31, 1999.
Send questions and comments to Martin Sloane, Supermarket Shopper, care of United Feature Syndicate, 206 Madison Ave., fourth floor, New York, NY 10016. The volume of mail precludes individual replies to every letter, but Martin Sloane will respond to letters of general interest in the column.