Originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Daily Times-Call.

It was 1969 and I was out to get what I wanted for Christmas.

I wanted a new outfit for my Barbie doll. Not any outfit would do. Just the outfit I saw advertised repeatedly. To make sure that precise outfit appeared under our tree, I launched an effective marketing campaign.

My campaign began with hints to the powers that be (my mother). I hinted of how far Barbie was falling behind fashionwise, of how Ken was getting a wandering eye, of how happy I would be if only Barbie could look as cool as she could be. I provided pictures to reinforce the hints and never missed opportunities to point out ads featuring the outfit. Eventually I stumbled into cross-marketing, although I didn’t know what it was called way back then.

My best friend had her heart set on the same Barbie outfit (go figure). Luckily our mothers were good friends, so the cross-marketing campaign had a target audience – two moms with credit cards. My BBF and I refined our message to make the maximum impact (all the other mothers will be getting the outfit for their daughters. You don’t want to look like a bad mom, do you?).

Direct hit. We were coming at our moms with two of the most potent marketing concepts – emotion and fear. Our mothers didn’t want their girls to fall from favor with their friends. They didn’t want them to be traumatized by having to play with a dowdy Barbie. Most compelling of all, no mother wants to be outdone by another mother.

Post-Christmas I learned of the lengths our mothers went to make sure Santa didn’t come up short. When they couldn’t find the outfit in our town, they drove through ice and snow to check out stores from Cheyenne to Boulder and from Greeley to Loveland. They even made a direct call to Mattel (this was pre-Internet). Spurred on by two little girls with moist brown eyes, they found Barbie’s dream outfit. Out marketing campaign was a success.

So was Ralphie’s. He campaigned for a Red Rider BB gun, but was rebuffed even by the department store Santa (You’ll put your eye out, kid!). But Ralphie’s parents picked up on his marketing message. On Christmas Day, Ralphie got his BB gun (and almost put his eye out).

This year my son not only told me what he wanted for Christmas, he provided a copywriter’s pitch and links to websites. The websites provide pictures, user reviews, current and comparative pricing, and refund guarantees. His bottom line message was responsibility. He framed the message one way to his dad (you’ve trained me well, now it’s time for me to step up to the plate) and another way to me (you always want me to be happy. This will make me really happy). It was a good marketing campaign. I think my son will be pleased Tuesday morning.

Our children inherently do what businesses should do.

It starts with knowing your target audiences. Messaging is equally important. From there it’s a matter of knowing how your audiences receive information. Notes on pillows and big puppy eyes won’t work for most customers and clients. Advertising, social media and other targeted campaign will work, but only it they are applied within a strategic marketing plan.

That’s a good way to start 2013, with a new or updated marketing plan, a plan with target audiences, timelines, goals and messaging. Solid planning and attention to detail worked for me in 1969.

The same things will work for businesses in 2013.

Merry Christmas!

Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising. 
Visit www.comm-concepts.com or call 303-651-6612.

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