I heard a radio ad the other day that actually caught my attention. Imagine that, a radio ad that caught my attention…score one for old skool media. On the other hand it caught my attention for all the wrong reasons because it was promoting what has to be the worst promotion in the history of mankind. It was so stupid I actually have done some homework on it just to make sure I’m not over-reacting.
The promotion is Quaker State’s “Cash Back Bonus”. So why is it so horrible? Well actually, the promotion is actually called “Cash Back Bonus when you hit 300,000 miles”. No, that’s not a typo, 300,000 miles. First of all, who the Hell drives a car until it has 300,000 miles on it? Forget that, who makes a car that lasts 300,000 miles? I mean I have a car that has 197,861 miles on it and pray to God every morning that it doesn’t break apart on the Interstate. It makes noises that have never been heard by human ears before. If there’s a car out there made of some kryptonitic substance that gives it a half-life of 1,000 years please let me know. But for the purposes of this blog I’ll play along and deconstruct the merits of this program for you.
So, for my analysis I’ll use the Toyota Camry as the example. It’s been one of the best-selling (and reliable) cars since the 1800’s and seems a logical choice. Using industry averages I will assume that I am driving 15,000 miles per year and getting oil changes every 5,000 miles. Using those parameters I would reach 300,000 miles in 13.3 years. Now if you read the fine print, you are required to use one of Quaker States “Specialty” motor oils (i.e. expensive). Of course there are other requirements like keeping ALL your oil change receipts and some other things that on their own make cash back unattainable, but again I am throwing all reason out the window.
So, let’s continue…
I did backwards math to determine that if that car were eligible today it would be a 1998 model year. Using a generous description of its condition on Kelly Blue Book that car had an estimated trade-in value of $1,867 in very good condition. Now, I could argue that most 13 year old cars with 300,000 miles are a piece of shit that even the most desperate teenager wouldn’t be caught dead in and is more likely a target of demolition derby enthusiasts but again lets suspend disbelief for the moment.
Now, let’s remember that you’re required to use “specialty” motor oil. Estimating the cost of that over using standard oil I figured that you’ll pay an additional $12 for each of the 40 oil changes you’ll have to perform costing you an additional $480.
So the net-net is that you’ll arrive at the eligibility for this promotion with Quaker State providing you a check for $1,867. Subtract the additional cost of Specialty oil and you’re left with $1,387….and a piece of shit car that will challenge the dignity of even the most frugal driver. Congratulations, Quaker State just rewarded you with a bonus of about $100 a year for using its specialty oil. Of course this comes with the assumptions of:
• You even making it to 300,000. If the duct tape holding it together falls apart at 299,000 you’re SOL.
• Anyone at Quaker State even acknowledging that the program ever existed 13 years from now and can stop laughing that you even bit on it.
• You have the humility to keep all the receipts, meet all the requirements, fill out all the paperwork, and have the willingness to acknowledge that you actually drove that rust bucket that long.
But let’s face it. This thing is some demented piece of science fiction that was probably borne out of a marketing department that was tasked with coming up with a promotion that sounded unbelievable and masked the fact that it was also unachievable. I’m pretty sure that when the marketing folks at Quaker State were batting ideas around, it came down between the “Cash Back Bonus” and the “If You Hit a Sasquatch that is Riding a Unicorn with your Car & Bring it into the Quaker States Offices Alive, We’ll Give You $1,867 Sweepstakes” because the odds are roughly equivalent of either being fulfilled.
If I have offended someone who right now is driving that 1998 Toyota Camry with 300,000 miles on it only through the miracle of Quaker State Specialty oil, I offer my sincere apologies…actually I offer my insane curiosity of ‘what the hell????”
For Quaker State I offer my sincere amazement that this promotion actually made its way into existence without someone in the meeting dying of laughter. Your belief that this would actually encourage someone to take the 300,000 challenge is admirable if it weren’t so obviously disingenuous.
For all you other marketers out there, the lesson is to not treat the public like a bunch of idiots. They are way smarter than you give them credit for.
As for me, while the world waits for Quaker State to prove the existence of the mythical “300,000 car”, I’m going hunting for Unicorn-riding Sasquatches in my 2000 Toyota Sienna (197,884 miles and hanging by a thread).