2001 Direct Marketer of the Year
The letter states:
As your welcome to CompuServe, you will receive $25.00 in free usage. That amounts to several hours of online time—plenty of time to explore and try new things... CompuServe will charge you only for the use you make of its facilities plus a minimal monthly $1.50 support fee...
Somewhere in the mailing—probably on the back of the brochure—were the per-hour charges. Any sales effort that forces the prospect to hunt for the price is not only confusing, but ipso facto, dishonest. I remember at the time I thought about joining one of the services, but did not want to pay by the hour. If I inadvertently left the computer on while I took a long client call, I would be wasting my money.
In Brandt's early days, AOL was charging $6 an hour during the peak usage evening hours and $2 an hour during the day. Prodigy announced it would be changing prices and Brandt was terrified that IBM and Sears—with their deep pockets—would severely undercut her. The announcement was scheduled to be made public at a precise time, and Brandt remembers sitting in the office of her colleague, Marshall Rens, intently watching his computer screen with a knot in her stomach. Suddenly the new prices came up and they were very complicated and confusing, giving the consumer a variety of choices. This violated direct marketing consultant Paul Goldberg's basic direct marketing rule:
"Confuse 'em, ya lose 'em."
She and Rens spent 15 minutes trying to figure out the offer, and recognizing the impossibility of consumers easily figuring it out, she screamed, "Thank You! Thank you! There is a God!"
In response to this offer, Brandt and Case changed AOL's pricing to $9.95 a month for five hours and $2.95 thereafter, no matter what time of day.