Mini Marketing Moguls

Having a toddler around can teach you many things: How to wipe someone else’s bum, the importance of a five star safety rating, and of course, how to force feed lima beans into a tiny hole. But what you may not know is that toddlers are also crash courses in advertising.

A new article from swears it to be true, and author Brian Millar, who recently took time off from writing for Sense Worldwide to become a stay-at-home dad, outlines five specific lessons that being a dad has taught him about the marketing game, none of which are slogans for diapers.

1)    Emotional benefits sell better than rational ones
Telling people to eat vegetables because they’re good for you doesn’t fly with the potty-training community, so it probably won’t fly with the adults either (especially the potty-training ones). Appealing to someone’s logic isn’t nearly as effective appealing to his/her desires. Kids don’t find the idea of “healthy” vegetables all that alluring. They do, however, love to eat alien pills that give you superpowers like growing big and strong. That’s still the only reason I ever order edamame.

2)    Don’t ask consumers if they want something new
Malcolm Gladwell was right in Blink,” Millar says. “We’re programmed by evolution not to like unfamiliar stuff. So if you ask people whether they’d like something completely different to what they already have, they say no.”

Millar claims he converted his kids from Teletubbies to the works of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, quite a feat indeed. If you’re going to change things, he says, they must be instantly gratifying, like the immediate appeal of the iPod, for example. Personally, I’m not sure Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton are any match for Tinky-Winky and Dipsy, but you get the gist.
3)    Bonuses are better than bribes
“When you bribe kids to do something, the bribe quickly takes over. Swimming lessons become all about the ice cream afterward,” Millar says. “It’s much better to surprise kids occasionally when they do something right. They don’t expect it, and it delights them when it happens.”

This exact same principle should be applied to marketing. Have you seen that Scotiabank commercial floating around lately where people go to a movie, and for some strange reason, everything’s free? This is much more effective than luring customers in with a false bribe that they’re going to discover they’re “richer than they think.”

Nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising
There’s nothing more off-putting than an ad writing a cheque the product can’t cash. Overpromising and under-delivering, while it may seem like a good idea on the advertiser’s end, will breed with horrible consequences for your client. Instead, be modest where you can, and blow customers away with a product they weren’t quite expecting. When Millar told his kids the Louvre would be better than Star Wars, he couldn’t quite deliver on that promise, and the 19th century impressionist hall was likely compared to the Battle of Hoth. If your product truly is a marvel, get creative, not boastful.
5)    Move beyond functional equivalence
If you have kids, you know this moment: You buy your child a toy, and all they do is play with the box. That’s because when you’re a kid, everything is a toy. Kitchen knives, lawn mowers, and piles of rocks will all serve the purpose equally well. This is really what you’re fighting as a toy maker: When everything’s a toy, you need to make something that’s especially fun–your biggest competition is your own box.”

This is a fascinating point, and even more important, it’s true. A $20 watch will tell time just as well as a $20,000 watch, it’s the extras, or what you can advertise as the extras, that will get the kids’ attention.

The entire article can be seen here!

Have you ever gotten insight into advertising from an unlikely source? Let us know in the comments.

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