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There is no perfect newsletter, only perfect newsletters

You’ve probably never heard of a man named Howard Moskowitz, which is a shame considering he’s made more people happy than perhaps anyone over the last half-century. So who is he?

Howard Moskowitz is a psychophysicist, technically speaking. But that’s not what he calls himself. He prefers the term “optimizer,” because that’s what his clients hire him to do – make their products better. But what makes Moskowitz such a legendary figure is that we have physically ingested his work. Seriously. Moskowitz specializes in the food industry, working with some of the biggest companies (Campbell Soup, General Foods, Kraft, and Pepsico) to help tailor their products to fit our taste buds.

Moskowitz made his breakthrough while working for Pepsi. Aspartame, a chemical sweetener, had just hit the market, so Pepsi asked Moskowitz to help them make their new drink, Diet Pepsi. Moskowitz’s task was to find out how much Aspartame was needed so people would like how it tasted. Moskowitz considered this a very straightforward experiment.  He started making batches of Diet Pepsi various levels of Aspartame for people to taste to see which one was the most popular. The results weren’t so straightforward. Expecting a nice neat bell curve, Moskowitz’s data was anything but. It was a clustered mess, and this troubled Moskowitz for years. Why couldn’t they find the perfect Pepsi?

The answer randomly hit Moskowitz one day while sitting in a diner. He’d been asking himself the wrong question. He’d been looking for the perfect Pepsi, but what he should have been looking for was the perfect Pepsis. There is no perfect Pepsi, but there are perfect Pepsis.

Moskowitz later went to work for Campbell’s Prego tomato sauce products. They were getting killed by Ragu in the market, despite having a higher-quality product. Moskowitz refined his experimentation and testing. In the end, he didn’t come up with a new Prego sauce, he came up with three. Plain, spicy and extra chunky. Prego exploded and Moskowitz’s revelation netted the company hundreds of millions. Today, Ragu has 36 different sauces on the shelves. Moskowitz never worked for Ragu, yet he triggered that explosion of variety that we see on the grocery shelves today.

The question you’re probably asking yourself now is “What the heck do tomato sauce and Diet Pepsi have to do with my business’ communications?”Moskowitz provides the answer. There is no perfect newsletter, there are only perfect newsletters.

We have worked with many types of clients – big, small, private sector, government, corporate offices, and field teams. Clients have different needs, that much is obvious. But what is less obvious is that two employees in a company might look at an internal communications newsletter in a totally different way. This is why company-wide newsletters are very hard to get right, and very seldom contain information that is highly valued across the board.

Newsletters are tricky. It’s hard to get your employees to read through a newsletter, no matter the content, because they are understandably busy attending to deadlines, meetings, etc. The best way to reach your employees is to make sure the content in your communications is tailored specifically to them. How do you do this? Well, first you need to know what your team needs and wants. (I’ll go into detail about this in my next post.)

And you might be thinking, “Of course the guy from the communications agency is telling me I need more newsletters. That’s more money out of my pocket and into theirs.”

This isn’t always the case. Newsletters are cheaper to produce when there’s less time spent in the editorial process. And when the audience is clear and the content is a perfect match, you’re going to get more value for each dollar you use to invest in your people.

Do you need help tailoring your content to your target audience? Email me at joe.patrick@insight-communication.com.