Lessons from The Snowy Day

Posted by Amy Henry on Mon, Dec 23, 2013 @ 11:33 AM

imagesOver the past few weeks, kids and families across the country have experienced their first snowfall of the year.  While we were sledding, donning snowsuits, building snowmen, and sipping hot chocolate, we were reminded of one of our favorite picture books about playing in the snow:  Ezra Jack Keats’s The Snowy Day.

The Snowy Day is the story of Peter, a young boy living in the city, who wakes up to find snow covering EVERYTHING.  Soon, he’s out of his “jammies” and out in the wide world all by himself. He knocks the snow from trees, makes snow angels, and climbs a hill pretending to be a “mountain climber.” After a long day of exploring, Peter returns home to his mom, a hot bath, and a good night’s sleep.  What can marketers and content creators learn from this simple but elegant story?

  1. The simplest pleasures can be the most fun.  In The Snowy Day, something as simple as your feet provides a wealth of possibilities.  Peter walks through the snow with his toes pointed out, and then in.  He then drags his feet to create long, unbroken lines in the snow.  An average stick becomes a toy for Peter and he’s able to reach up higher than he normally could and smack the snow off a tree.  And that’s all Peter needs to do before moving on to his next adventure.  The simple act of sliding down a hill is so much fun, Peter does it repeatedly. It’s easy to think that today’s youth are too jaded to enjoy the “basics.” But one snowfall shows that there are plenty of young-at-heart activities that attract kids, tweens and even teens and their parents!
  2. Being alone can be fun too.  In a world in which everything is social, remember that on occasion, kids want and need time to themselves. Without any adults around, Peter is in control of his day. He revels in recounting his tale to his mother, but he had almost every adventure on his own. It isn’t until the final page of the book that we see him with a friend. Once he’s mastered his environment, he’s ready to bring a playmate along for the ride.
  3. The outdoors can still be magical to kids.  For Peter, the city is a playground.  He never stays in one spot for too long.  He wanders through city streets, past buildings and street lamps.  But no matter what city elements are around him, Peter always turns to the snow.  The snow gives him something to walk on, something to slide on, something to build with, and something to create with.  Just before returning home, Peter creates a snowball and puts it in his coat pocket “for tomorrow.”  Peter wants to bring the snow home and inside with him.  Like, arguably, the other greatest children’s book of the past century, Where the Wild Things Are, the hero is alone in the “wild,” both making it his own and showing how at home he feels within it.

No snow where you are? Try out “snow wonder” - we double-dog dare you. And please let us know what you think!

Tags: Youth, reading, youth media

Making the The Ron Burgundy Approach Work for Youth

Posted by Amy Henry on Tue, Dec 17, 2013 @ 01:08 PM

ron burgundy 2Fictional newscaster Ron Burgundy (played by comedian Will Ferrell) is all over the place these days. In recent weeks, he’s been selling Dodge Durangos, guest hosting the news in North Dakota, and interviewing Peyton Manning on ESPN. All of these appearances, done with complete earnest; are of course, in the service of stirring up excitement over Paramount’s upcoming Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.

We’ve been admiring his antics and just dying for a chance to connect this clearly adult marketing campaign to a kid, tween and teen topic. On last week's Saturday Night Live, we thought we had our entry point (read: excuse!) when Will Ferrell interrupted One Direction.  But Ferrell only appeared as himself, not as Ron Burgundy.  Well, this really caught our attention and made us ask, "So, can youth marketers learn from the 'Ron Burgundy Approach?'"  Answer: Absolutely!  Here are just a few of our favorite lessons:

Ron doesn’t create culture, he’s capitalizes on it. As many youth brands have learned (the hard way), it’s difficult for a brand to become the center of youth’s attention. Ron Burgundy’s (Verified!) Twitter account is full of references to his public appearances, but also a few thoughts on Miley Cyrus.  He’s interviewed Peyton Manning during football season, (albeit asking him questions about his take on tacklers from the 70s). Instead of attempting to draw attention to himself through creating big events, he’s showing up in the spots where we’re already looking. Brands sometimes worry about being overshadowed by a bigger brand or event, but Burgundy shows that there’s a balance of showing up and breaking in to these existing situations that gets consumers paying attention. 

Ron respects his fans.  Ron isn’t only appearing in spaces of satire – he’s also willing to make waves in waters where he wouldn’t typically swim. Last week Emerson College’s School of Communication was renamed The Ron Burgundy School of Communication (for 24 hours). Burgundy spoke to students about the changes he was going make (everyone gets a car upon graduation) and the difficulties of reporting the facts of a story (Don’t have facts? Make something up). Burgundy might be showing up in big venues, but he’s not afraid to throw some memorable grassroots moments in the mix. AND, he recognizes that this kind of marketing requires give and take – make some noise and be generous with acknowledging those who buy in. Youth love stars who tweet the people who spoof them. They appreciate the back and forth (that only social media allows) when a star starts a meme and lets the fans take over. Youth love the juxtaposition of big stars in small places (remember kids often feel that their world is invisible, so showing that a star remembers the little guys goes a long way with youth).

Ron makes moments, not media buys.  Ron Burgundy’s campaign looks different than it did in 2004 because the social landscape has changed. Ron still shows up on TV – he’s not relying only on being “discovered” serendipitously. But importantly, he’s making moments that matter. Regardless of how much Paramount spend on ads, the views that Burgundy has gotten on YouTube, on replays, on clips, and shows have mattered more. Many youth brands worry that they don’t have budgets big enough for TV. But keep in mind that a great creative idea and clever execution can multiply your marketing.

Ron invites, he doesn’t exclude. Especially in youth culture, it’s easy to lose your audience by assuming they have more insider knowledge than they do. This is particularly true when your market is made up of multiple age groups. But you don’t have to know anything about Olympic Curling – or Burgundy himself - to find Ron Burgundy’s coverage of the Canadian Olympic Curling Finals funny—it just is.  Fans of the first Anchorman film can laugh along with teens and tweens who may be unfamiliar with Ron Burgundy.

Regardless of how this approach increases what were already sure to be sound box office sales, Ron Burgundy continues to provide an example for subverting typical advertising approaches. In the immortal words of Burgundy, “You stay classy, YouthBeat reader.”

Tags: youth research, movies, TV, culture

5 Ideas from the Elf on the Shelf

Posted by Amy Henry on Fri, Dec 06, 2013 @ 12:57 PM

Just after Thanksgiving this year, many households around the country welcomed a houseguest. It wasn’t an aunt or uncle from across the country. It wasn’t a college friend with their kids in tow. It was an Elf. And he showed up on a shelf.

Elf on the ShelfThe Elf on the Shelf tradition can be traced back to 2004, but has taken hold in households as if it had been around for decades. For the uninitiated, the Elf on the Shelf (whose story has been told through a self-published book written by mother and daughter team Carol Aebersold and Chanda Bell, and later turned into a holiday TV special) serves as Santa’s special envoy in the homes (and increasingly in the classrooms) of children everywhere. The Elf, assigned to the child, watches on Santa’s behalf, eager to catch good behavior or naughtiness! The child gets to name the Elf, but beyond that, the Elf decides where he’ll appear each morning. These Elves can get pretty creative, as shown in this video featuring the 125 best Elf ideas. We think there are lessons to learn from this phenomenon, which returned youth’s attention to the magic of the season just at a time when the getting of gifts often garners more attention than showing Santa you’re “good.”

  1. Don’t underestimate the power of surprise. While the Elf on the Shelf might have been compelling as Santa’s steadfast seer, he matters more because he’s “new” each day. Consider ways to keep the surprise and delight into your everyday offerings.
  2. Remember the power of being good. Young kids are obsessed with the rules, and interested in good versus bad. But often, this timeless trope is twisted – we forget that children want recognition for their good behavior as much as they seek to avoid getting in trouble for the bad. Find ways for your brand to catch them acting their best behavior. See Sprout’s wonderful campaign for kindness as an example. http://www.sproutonline.com/kindness-counts
  3. Keep it simple. With promotions in general, complexity is sometime mistaken for depth. The Elf on the Shelf premise might have meaning, but it does it through the most basic of mechanisms. Make sure your own “events” make participation and the pay-off as easy as possible.
  4. Build on existing traditions. The Elf on the Shelf may have been a novel idea, but it leveraged the legends of elves, Santa and the naughty list to keep the communication simple, and to ensure a place in the home during the holidays.  
  5. Get parents in on the action. While we don’t necessarily have an inside track on elves’ criteria for choosing their holiday homes, we can imagine that they prefer the ones where parents get involved in the fun. Remember to make your promotions not simply parent-friendly, but make them exciting and enjoyable for mom and dad.

Tags: play, family, holiday, parenting