What We Can Learn About Marketing From Ralphie’s Aunt Clara

What We Can Learn About Marketing From Ralphie's Aunt Clara

“Aunt Clara had for years labored under the delusion that I was not only perpetually four years old, but also a girl.

Ralphie, narrating as an adult, in “A Christmas Story”

We all laughed as hard as little brother Randy when poor Ralphie descended the stairs in a pink fuzzy bunny outfit from dear Aunt Clara. We also sympathized because we’ve all been forced to try on sweaters and other gifts bestowed upon us by people who had the best intentions but woefully missed the mark. Fortunately, the old man exposed the outfit as a pink nightmare and allowed Ralphie to take it off and escape further embarrassment.

Holiday gift giving and marketing actually have a lot in common. They both fill needs, solve problems, make life easier, and hopefully, make people happy.  To make either work, you have to know a little bit about who you’re reaching and think about what makes them happy.  This is where Aunt Clara’s gift went awry.

This was no 4-year-old girl. Ralphie was a mature 9-year-old young man who dreamed of defending his family against intruders with the help of Ol’ Blue, got excited by a sexy lamp, tried to bribe his teacher with a fruit basket, fought back against a yellow-eyed bully in an expletive-filled fit of rage, and even dropped the f-bomb in front of his old man while changing a flat tire. What in the name of Red Ryder would this boy do with a pink fuzzy bunny outfit?

When I get a gift that I wouldn’t use or wear in a million years, I kind of get the same feeling that I do when I see or hear a commercial, open an email blast or read a company’s Facebook post that has no relevance to me whatsoever. With the gift, I politely pretend I like it on the outside while I roll my eyes with disappointment on the inside. With the marketing, it’s much easier to just ignore it. With both, I become very leery of the next one and feel bad that someone wasted money on something that didn’t do the trick.

Identifying and understanding your target audience may be the most critical step during the strategic planning stage of any marketing initiative.  Aside from age, gender and income, what influences their decision-making? What information is relevant and valuable to them?  What issues do they feel strongly about?  Where and how are they most likely to find out about your business? What kinds of jobs do they typically have?  What do they do for fun?  This is just the beginning.

Your marketing should focus on the wants and needs of your target audience, not what you think should be their wants and needs. Just don’t be Aunt Clara, bless her heart. That’s almost as bad as shooting your eye out.

Merry Christmas and all the best in 2012!