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Marketing for dummies

September 2nd, 2011 · No Comments · Blog

Cocoa PuffsI’m beginning to think I should work a cartoon rabbit into my next book. Some kind of mascot or buddy the kids can all trust. As marketing ploys go, make-believe spokesmen are at the top of the totem pole.

My son, closing in rapidly on 22 months, loves to ride in the car. So much so it’s not unprecedented for the first words out of his mouth in the morning to be “Mommy’s car.” (Lately it’s nearly unprecedented for him to say anything else.) So if one of us is taking a quick run to the grocery store, Grant wants in on the action.

He’s still young enough that he doesn’t whine for stuff or reach his grubby hands toward the shelves as I stroll him down the aisle in the shopping cart. But he’s taking incremental steps toward these rites of childhood consumerism.

Which aisle would you guess is most alluring to a young child? Candy? Soda? Toys?

Try cereal. Pink and yellow and and bright blue boxes laden with cartoon elephants and frogs and toucans touting sweet, delicious breakfast foods chock full of sugar and fortified with eleven essential vitamins and minerals. We were nearly to the end of the row when Grant’s face lit up and he exclaimed, “Cocoa Putch!” I halted and pulled a box of Cocoa Puffs off the shelf and asked did he want them. He didn’t respond, just sat there with his legs dangling out of the cart, running his fingers over the cereal box. I picked another option off the opposite shelf to give him a choice. “Trix!” he said.

No, he can’t read. Yes, he can recognize a cartoon animal on a cardboard box. He deliberated for a minute, no doubt weighing the relevant merits of each cereal, before finally settling for his original selection.

A day or two earlier Grant and I swung into Tops for a couple of items. They carry a lot of things that Wegmans doesn’t, so I like to mosey up and down the aisles to see if anything catches my attention. Apparently Grant likes this too. At least he sure got worked up when we passed the fruit snacks with his buddy Curious George on the front of the box. Now, if Curious George recommends something, you know it’s got to be top quality, because George wouldn’t just shill for anyone. That little guy has scruples and stands for something. So, of course, I invested a couple of bucks in the fruit snacks on Grant’s behalf. Come to find out … he loves them. Then again, what kid wouldn’t love a snack that is basically a softer, easier-to-chew version of Jujyfruits? So thanks, George, for the tip. It was a hit.

I am, of course, looking forward to my next shopping excursion with my little guy to see what other opportunities await us. Soft rock music wafting through the air, we’ll roll over buffed tiled floor, through the epicenter of cartoon pitchmen-toddler communications, awaiting instruction from Elmo or Thomas the Tank Engine or Cap’n Crunch. The who and what are yet to be determined. But they will speak to Grant, and he to me.

With the demise of book stores, supermarkets are becoming a more popular outlet for people to purchase new books. If I can work a friendly critter onto the cover of my next one, that ought to catch a few eyeballs within my stealth target audience: kids (the clearly influential members of the shopping public). It wouldn’t hurt, of course, if they stocked it in the cereal aisle.

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