On the Analysis of Argument AWA, your job is to critique the argument presented. Essentially, you will say why the argument is flawed, how it relies on unproven assumptions etc. You are not to give your position on the issue. Here is a sample prompt:
“The Excelsior Company plans to introduce its own brand of coffee. Since coffee is an expensive food item, and since there are already many established brands of coffee, the best way to gain customers for the Excelsior brand is to do what Superior, the leading coffee company, did when it introduced the newest brand in its line of coffees: conduct a temporary sales promotion that offers free samples, price reductions, and discount coupons for the new brand.
Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underlie the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound, and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate its conclusion
- Read the Argument
- Identify the Conclusion
- Evaluate the Evidence, Look at the Assumptions used to support the Conclusion.
The conclusion in this example is “the best way to gain customers for the Excelsior brand is to….conduct a temporary sales promotion that offers free samples, price reductions, and discount coupons for the new brand. ”
Why is this the best way? Because Superior, the leading company, did that. We might poke the following holes in the argument:
- Conditions may be different now than when Superior Entered the Market
- Price reductions may lower the perceived quality. If the item is cheap, people may think of it as low quality and avoid the product
- Even if price reductions/samples are a good way, it may not be the best way.
- First Paragraph (Intro) – Restate the argument (e.g. In trying to do X, the author asserts), State the argument relies on many unsubstantiated assumptions, State the argument is unproven/unconvincing.
- Body Paragraphs (2-3) – The Questionable Assumptions and General Evaluation of the Argument (Give Examples Here)
- Conclusion Paragraph – Restate your original thesis in different words. Say what type of new data would be needed to better evaluate the argument.
In an attempt to successfully launch its own brand of coffee, the Excelsior Company believes that the best way to attract customers is through temporary sales promotions such as free samples, price reductions, and discount coupons. However, there are several questionable assumptions with this line of reasoning. While the leading brand may have used these temporary price promotions, this does not necessarily mean that in the current period the aforementioned strategy would work best for Excelsior.
First, the market conditions might be different from when Superior entered the market. If the economy drastically improved and disposable income for the aggregate population has increased, potential customers may not be as likely to respond to lower prices through coupons as in the past. Additionally, consumer paradigm and demographic shifts may alter the best method to get the most customers.
Second, the argument fails to consider what information price reductions and discount coupons might signal to the potential customers. Consumers might think that because the coffee is cheap, the coffee must be low quality. This phenomenon has been observed in other sectors of the gourmet food industry. For example, when the Chocodream Company began selling imported chocolate at low price points, the items did not sell well. However, when the company sold the same chocolate at higher prices, the chocolate sold well because their internal studies revealed that consumers believed that higher prices signaled better quality. If something similar were to happen in the coffee industry, where consumers are more concerned about quality than about price, stressing product quality might be a better way to attract customers.
Third, the argument assumes that other methods will not work better. Coupons may not work well because they might not reach the vast number of gourmet coffee consumers. Additionally, if marketing were more cost effective in terms of gaining a customer per dollar spent, then these sales promotions would not be the best way to attract more customers. Furthermore, handing out samples may not be feasible in suburban areas where large numbers of customers reside.
In conclusion, Excelsior’s strategy to increase its customers relies on questionable assumptions. While these strategies might have worked well in the past, there needs to be evidence that they will continue to do work in the future. Excelsior needs to consider such factors such as demographic shifts, cultural shifts, and alternatives to devise the best plan to gain more customers.
*(This is an actual GMAT Topic; GMAC does not endorse this website and is not affiliated with this webpage in any way. Topic is from p. 808 in the OG 12th Edition – burgundy book. Topic can also be found on GMAC List of Analysis of Argument Topics)