A Marketing Lesson from Old Jim Young


Jim Young was a legendary New York ad executive who owned an apple orchard in New Mexico. The vast majority of his crop was sold by mail. Ads for Old Jim Young’s Mountain Grown Apples ran in popular magazines in the 1950’s with a money-back satisfaction guarantee.

One year a bad hail storm damaged the apples close to harvest time. The hail caused minor indentations that caused blemishes. With several thousand dollars in orders awaiting the shipment Jim Young was faced with a dilemma. Shipping the fruit might trigger a large amount of refund requests. On the other hand, he could return the customer’s checks and sell the apples in bulk as seconds. Young put on his creative thinking cap and tried to envision how the apples might appear to the customer as they opened the box.

The “golden, satiny skin so tempting to the eye had given away to a brownish spotty surface.”
He deliberated for several days on how he could keep customers happy and minimize refund requests. Finally, he woke up in the middle of the night with an idea. He decided to print a small card inserted with every order. When customer’s opened the box of apples they would find a card that read the following:

“Note the hail marks which appear as minor skin blemishes on some of the apples. These are proof of their growth at a high mountain altitude, where the sudden chills from the mountain hail storms which these apples receive while growing help firm their flesh and develop the fruit sugars which give them their fine flavor.”

That year Young did not receive a single refund request. The next year Young received many requests for “hail marked” apples.