Saturday, March 18, 2006

Pick a number... any number

A few years ago I stood in a grocery checkout line and noticed the tease headlines on a number of magazines in the rack. Nearly all advertised an article by including a number in the blurb. “3 Secrets Every Bride Needs for Her Wedding Night,” “The 6 Most Sensuous Places to Touch Your Lover,” and “2 Secrets Your Man Will Never Tell You About His Desires.” You get the idea. I chuckled and began looking at the way numbers are used to advertise.

Successes with that marketing ploy, and inflation, have made the numbers game a big deal in other areas of commerce than just magazine publishing. For example, disposable razors once had a single blade. Then two were a big hit, one cutting edge stretching the hair and the second shaving it closer to the skin! Next we were given a triple blade. After a few years, the Quatro was introduced, and we have recently been offered a five bladed, disposable safety razor.

Six must be on someone’s drawing board. “The first five blades each stretch the hair a bit farther out of the follicle, and the sixth blade cuts it so close that you need shave only once a month.” Or something like that.

Magazines may still be the best at using numbers to market their products, though. I stood before a rack in a Barnes and Noble bookstore yesterday and copied titles from covers of 18 magazines onto the back of the only paper I had – a long receipt from a shoe store and the credit card slip stapled to it.

BRIDES featured an article, “160 Creative Ways to Personalize your Day.” But who would buy that when next to it was MODERN BRIDE with a cover ad saying, “520 Creative Ideas”? Three hundred and sixty more ideas for about the same price!

The cover on the winter issue of WEDDING FLOWERS magazine brags, “108 Bouquets.” It has been some time since I attended a wedding; however, 108 bouquets seem to be more than needed for any ceremony. But what do I know? Perhaps wedding planners now have the bride issuing a bouquet to every woman in attendance.

The April issue of ALLURE suggests, “97 Tips on the Best Sleep Solutions.” I have never considered sleeping in a solution, though there are milk baths, and I have dozed in a tub of water, a wonderful sleep solution, especially if it is really warm. I wonder what the other 95 or 96 solutions to immerse oneself in might be. ALLURE readers know.

A magazine new to me is FAMILY TREE. The cover of the April issue claims, “7 Techniques to Analyze Ancient Evidence,” and another article, “6 Tools to Make Sense of Surnames.” Not the highest of numbers, but the only magazine on the rack with two “number articles” on the same cover.

MODEL RAILROADING has a special issue this month advertising, “12 New Track Plans.” Now, come on; who couldn’t create a new track plan? Come up with twelve, and get a special issue featuring them.

SMART MONEY for April claims, “9 Steps to a Healthy and Prosperous Retirement.” But KIPLINGERS offers, “89 Solutions, Strategies, and Secrets That Will Save You Thousands and Still Live the Good Life.” I am not sure of that syntax. Maybe I left out a word. But KIPLINGER’s 89 trumps SMART MONEY’s 9, for my money!

There is a magazine titled, FORBES CIGAR AFIECIONADO. The cover brags, “25 Best Cigars of the Year.” Don’t you wonder about the circulation of that publication? Perhaps there is a feature article waiting to be written: “Profiles of the 3 Readers of This Magazine!”

Sexual innuendo is still present, but does not seem so prevalent as it was in the past. March and April must be poor months for sex-help articles. The April COSMOPOLITAN does list, “7 Ways to Make Him Ache for You.” And the March issue was still on the rack, telling readers, “99 Things to Do to a Naked Man.” Female readers, I presume. And it would be tempting to try adding a number 100 for them.

The April AMOUR magazine headlines, “66 Dirty Details of Other People’s Sex Lives.” The dirtiest thing about that is AMOUR reporting on other people’s sex lives, in detail!

MS magazine claims in the winter issue, “5 Ways a Woman’s Heart Differs From a Man’s.” I suppose that could be physiological differences rather than romantic ones. But in MS?

The April VOGUE features, “53 Swimsuits for Every Size.” There are some sizes that no one want to see in even one swimsuit, let alone 53!

And the March HARPERS BAZAAR has, “783 New Ideas to Flatter You.” Seven hundred eighty-three! Not seven hundred eighty-two or even seven hundred eighty. Imagine the author going crazy trying to come up with just two more flattering ideas to make it a neat “785.” Like the author trying for an even 100 things to do to a naked man, the writer couldn’t think of even one more; so, the editor went with “783”! And all are “New Ideas.” It says so on the cover.

CONSUMER REPORTS for spring advertises “350+ Brand Name Products Rated.” Why not the actual number? Is it “351”? Whoever decided to say “350+” probably laughs at HARPERS BAZAAR saying “783 New Ideas to Flatter You.” The CONSUMER REPORTS editor would say, “780+.”

The April edition of LUCKY: THE MAGAZINE ABOUT SHOPPING features a cover blurb touting, “124 Bags You Want Right Now.” Insert your own joke here.

The champion numbers-game-cover-blurb among the magazines goes to a British publication. Frankly, that is not surprising. I have said before that the Brits seem so fond of superlatives that if anything truly unique needed describing in their country, they would be at a loss for words, having used all their adjectives to describe the mediocre. But that is another rant. Anyway, the British GLAMOUR magazine cover claims, “1243 Hot Spring Buys.” They win. Again, couldn’t the editors have found seven more hot buys for spring and made it 1250? I suspect many of the 1243 hot spring buys are bags.

The April issue of WRITERS DIGEST reveals, “23 Agents Looking for New Authors.” Naturally, I bought the magazine. All 23 agents will soon hear from me, too. We’ll see how truthful cover blurbs are. Let the bidding war begin!

Just don’t ask why I stopped the survey at 18 magazines. If you must know, there wasn’t room on the back of the receipt to write a nineteenth and twentieth.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like Andy Rooney.

It has not been the numbers on the magazines I notice while waiting to check out, but now it will be.

3/18/2006 8:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

retirement must be wonderfully boreing if the most important thing you have to do is stand in a book store and count numbers on magazine covers.

3/23/2006 2:01 PM  
Blogger Dana said...

I smiled at the implied criticism you couldn't help imbedding in your comment. Thanks for visiting the blog. Retirement is never boring.

3/23/2006 5:52 PM  
Anonymous tinkerbelle said...

The anonymous criticism of your retirement activities sounds like your mother is prodding you to be useful!

3/24/2006 3:10 PM  
Blogger Dana said...

My mother passed away years ago. But you may be close.

3/26/2006 2:19 PM  
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