It was July 11, 1989, and I was working at my desk, when suddenly it occurred to me: July the eleventh. 7/11. Just like the name of the convenience store – 7-Eleven! I thought: I bet that 7-Eleven is having some kind of special promotion to celebrate. Something like, “Today Only! Slurpees Half Price!”
I asked my fellow paralegals if they had noticed the date or heard anything about any special sales at 7-Eleven. Nobody had. One of them had brought a newspaper to work, and he passed it to me so I could take a quick look through it. I found no ads for 7-Eleven at all.
How strange, I thought. It’s such an obvious marketing opportunity! Perhaps it was so obvious that they didn’t feel they needed to advertise. I had to check it out. I found a phone book. There were maybe a dozen 7-Eleven franchises listed within. I picked one and called.
A man answered the phone and I asked him, “Do you have any special promotions going on today?”
“Sure. All this week ice cream sandwiches are on sale, and you can get a 2-liter bottle of Coca-Cola for only 99 cents.”
“That’s all week, though, right?”
“That’s right – through Saturday.”
“But what I’m asking is, is there any special sale just for today? July 11th?”
“Uh, just today? No.”
“Because, see – July 11th? 7/11?”
There was a pause on his end. Then: “Oh, yeah, I get it. 7/11. Yeah, I see, but we don’t have any sales just for today. Not at this store, anyway.”
I thanked him and hung up. Not at this store? I would have thought there’d be a national sales campaign that day, but perhaps it was just something individual stores could opt into. I’d have to check. I picked another 7-Eleven franchise from the phone book and dialed the telephone.
This time a woman answered. “Hi,” I said. “Do you have any kind of special promotion going on just for today, July 11th?”
“Yes, we do. All this week ice cream sandwiches are on sale, and you can get a 2-liter bottle of Coca-Cola for only 99 cents.”
“Okay, but that’s all week long, right? What about something just for today – July 11?”
“No. Why would we have something just for today?”
“7/11? Like the name of your store?”
“Hey, 7/11 – that’s neat. But no, nothing is on special today only.”
“Not at your store, or not at any 7-Elevens anywhere?”
“I don’t know about that. You’d have to talk to my manager – she’d probably know.”
“Is she there? Can I talk to her?”
A half-minute later, a new voice came on the line. “7-Eleven, can I help you?”
“Is this the manager?”
“Yes it is. What can I do for you, sir?”
“I was just asking your employee if any 7-Eleven anywhere has a special sale going on today.”
“We do, sir. All this week ice cream sandwiches are on sale, and you can get a 2-liter bottle of Coca-Cola for only 99 cents.”
“No, sorry, she told me about that. What I meant was, just for today, July 11 – 7/11.”
“7/11 – ah. I get it now. No, nothing just for today.”
How could these people be passing up this obvious marketing opportunity? Well, maybe I could get them to start with it now. “See,” I explained, “I just thought that today would be a great day for a big promotion of some kind.”
“Yeah. I don’t know. There’s nothing going on that I know about.”
“You should have some kind of big giveaway or half-price sale or something. Everyone would think of 7-Eleven on 7/11!”
“That’s a good idea, sir, but you’d have to talk to headquarters about that.”
“Southland Corporation. They run all the promotions and stuff. You’d need to talk to their marketing department.”
“Do you have a phone number for them?”
I realized I wasn’t being ambitious enough. Why offer this brilliant suggestion to just one local franchise when I could lay it in front of the national office? Too late to do any good that year, I knew, but when I saw the special advertisements and posters up on July 11, 1990, I would revel in the knowledge that I was responsible.
I dialed the number that the 7-Eleven manager had given me. Southland Corporation had its headquarters in Dallas, and the receptionist who answered the call had the twangy Texas accent. I asked her to connect me with the Marketing department. The man who picked up there had no accent that I could detect.
He asked how he could help me, and I explained. July 11th was like a natural holiday built into the calendar for his corporation – 7/11, right? They should have a big nationwide campaign every year. Everyone would think of July 11th as “7-Eleven Day”.
“Actually, sir, we tried something like that, about ten years ago.”
“We did, for a couple of years. We had special promotions on July 11th and we tried to promote it as ‘7-Eleven Day’.”
“Really? What happened?”
“Well, it didn’t seem to make any difference. Most people just didn’t get it. They didn’t think of July 11th as ‘7/11,’ so the day would go by and most people would miss the special sales.”
My faith in humanity was shaken. “How could people not get that? 7/11. 7-Eleven. Today would be such a perfect day for a sale!”
“Well,” replied the marketing manager, soothingly, “there are things on sale today. All this week ice cream sandwiches are on sale, and you can get a 2-liter bottle of Coca-Cola for only 99 cents.”
I learned three lessons in marketing that day. (Actually, there was a fourth lesson – that I was interested in marketing as well as the practice of law – that I did not figure out until much later.) First, never assume that what is obvious to you is obvious to your audience. When you create a resume, for example, watch out for jargon or acronyms that you think everyone must understand. Usually, somebody doesn’t.
Second, consider the possibility that your brilliant new idea has actually been tried before. And maybe it was brilliant — or maybe it didn’t work at all. A little research might spare you from missteps and wasted time. Go to the library, read a book like Gallery of Best Resumes by David F. Noble, or maybe just try a web search (check out, for example, “cover letter on a T-shirt”).
Third, and finally, don’t underestimate the power of repetition and reinforcement. It is possible to go overboard, of course, so be judicious; but if you want to make sure a prospective employer knows you have the transfer tax experience they are looking for, consider mentioning it prominently more than once in your resume . . . and in your cover letter . . . and during your interview. After all, 24 years later, I still remember that 7-Eleven had a sale on ice cream sandwiches and 2-liter bottles of Coca-Cola during the week of July 9-15, 1989.
Bonus Lesson — Today I was informed by my children that 7-Eleven now gives out free small Slurpees on July 11, which they promote as “7-Eleven Day,” unofficial birthday of the Slurpee. In fact, this is the eleventh year they’ve done so. I am glad to see that my call to Southland Corporation finally had some effect. Okay, more realistically, my guess is that thinking of July 11th as “7/11” comes much more easily to people now that they’ve been staring for twenty years at computer screens that spell out every date in that format in the lower right corner. Back in 1989, the only people looking wistfully at 7-Eleven on July 11th were Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and me.