AMPERAGE Marketing & Fundraising

One-Minute MarketerEvery Car Dealer and Gas Station Knows We are Bad at Math

Subscribe to AMPERAGE Marketing & Fundraising

Every Car Dealer and Gas Station Knows We are Bad at Math

We all say gas is $1.89 rather than round up, even when gas is actually $1.899. It’s just a penny, right?  Doesn’t matter, right? Just imagine all those .09 pennies lined up mile after mile down the road. Double Cheese and Bacon Cheeseburger

In the U.S. we are bad at math. There is a famous advertising story from the 1980s that is being resurrected in a new book called “Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works,” by Elizabeth Green.

She retells the story of Americans thinking a 1/4 pound hamburger is larger than a 1/3 pound burger. A&W released the 1/3 pound burger to compete with the quarter-pounder from McDonald’s. It didn’t work, so A&W ordered focus groups and testing. In a Yankelovich focus group, people said, “Why should we pay the same amount for a third of a pound of meat as we do for a quarter-pound of meat at McDonald’s? You’re overcharging us.”

The owner of A&W in the 1980s said, “The customer, regardless of his or her proficiency with fractions, is always right.” The great lesson is being abundantly clear and loud and literal in your marketing. Unfortunately, McDonald’s eventually had to offer the Angus Third Pounders. Fail.


Written by:

Mark wrote his first direct-mail fundraising letter in 1981 for the University of Iowa Center for Advancement. The effort raised a few million dollars in undiscovered wills and legacy gifts. From that day forward Mark discovered a love of the big idea that moves the needle. After 12 years at KWWL, Mark became a business owner as a co-founder of ME&V — rebranded as AMPERAGE in 2015. After 25 years of leading creative teams in video production, graphic design, PR, writing and web development, Mark transitioned out of ownership in 2021. Today he serves in an employee role as special projects consultant. He is creatively ambidextrous — son of an artist and engineer — and famous for distilling complex ideas down to a few words and a few visuals. Mark is a writer. When he found that many nonprofits struggled with complex branding puzzles, he wrote the book, “NonProfit-NonMarketing .” He also wrote a novel called “Reenactment.” Mark is an active blogger OneMinuteMarketer® with nearly 1,000 readers each week on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. One of his most popular YouTube videos is on “How to Look Good on Zoom.” One of Mark’s fondest business memories was being named to INC 500 two times and attending the INC 500 conference with other winners. Mark is considered by some a Civil War expert (and that explains his novel). Mark also served as an adjunct professor in the business and in the communications departments at Wartburg College. Mark is a graduate of the University of Iowa and is currently vice president of the University of Iowa Journalism and Mass Communications Advisory Board. Mark is married to state Sen. Liz Mathis, and the two love to travel, even when it means being trapped by a volcano in the Czech Republic for three weeks.