The National Debt Clock on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan continuously updates, highlighting the amount of debt the American people are encumbered with. Hospital emergency rooms in my market and across the country are currently running wait time counters on billboards. AMD ran a counter on its electronic sign in Times Square in New York City that purported to show how much time is wasted by ‘slow’ Intel chips compared to ‘fast’ AMD chips.
And, on the back page at the bottom of its weekly flyers, the big box pet retailer Petsmart runs a counter that shows how many lives Petsmart Charities have saved.
Counters or clocks can be a powerful marketing concept.
Trouble is, the figures from Petsmart Charities don’t seem to change very often.
Here are two weekly Petsmart flyers in my market, separated by three weeks, that show the same number of lives saved, 4,122,832.
How to account for the sameness of the number?
It could be, of course, that Petsmart Charities’ efforts did not result in any more lives saved in the succeeding days. But I doubt that.
I have no idea how Petsmart Charities determines the number of lives saved. But unless no more lives have been saved, I’m quite sure that it’s bad marketing to keep showing the same figure three weeks apart.
Before he died he founder of the National Debt Clock, real estate developer Seymour Durst, used to check with official US Treasury figures before doing updates to the clock via modem. In short, he had a quantifiable and sustainable way of ensuring the clock was accurate.
It appears that Petsmart Charities is either missing a similar process or that the challenges of getting an accurate count into all the newspapers has proved too daunting. But, of course, Petsmart itself has no problem getting new flyers to newspapers across the company’s service area every week.
I’m not here to give Petsmart Charities grief. But their lives saved counter only has power if it's accurate and timely and updated weekly.