Monday, December 14, 2009

Santa Power: The Magical Mystery Machine

One of the most powerful tools available to us as marketers is mystery.

My five-year-old son won the wishbone pull at Thanksgiving this year and was overjoyed to learn that because he won, his wish would come true. The day after Thanksgiving he woke up with pure joy and excitement to see his turkey bone wish come true. All day he lurked around the house looking for his wish.

10:30 a.m. "Mom, where's my wish?" 12:00 p.m. "Mom, where's my stupid wish?" 2:45 p.m. "Do you think I need to wish again? Maybe I should change my wish" 6:15 p.m. "That turkey was an idiot."

Finally, by bedtime I realized his increasing sense of annoyance with the fowl magic demanded my intervention. "What did you wish for?" I asked. His little baby face replied with sincerity and concern, "Everyone says I can't tell or it won't come true!" "Oh, but mothers have special powers when it comes to wishes -- we are the only ones you can tell and the wish will still come true," I encouraged. "Really?" "Yes, really. It's true." I had him. "A rubber band shooter!" he whispered in excitement, his eyes growing wider with each detail. "A big, AK-47, shooter that launches rubber bands at the bad guys!" My mind was reeling, half out of concern for his violent tendencies and half for my ability to find such a toy. Do they even make guns that shoot rubberbands?!? Turns out they do. A lot. And all shapes and sizes from western style to military, to accessories packs and scopes. A lot of companies are out there manufacturing rubber band guns. But not our turkey. Of course I had to find one -- and quick -- the last thing I wanted was for him to not believe in the power of the wish.

After comparing prices online for a ridiculously unecessary amount of time (I'm talking days) and weighing the shipping wait vs. my son's innocence, I opted for the old-fashioned round of calls to local toy stores. And, hallelujiah, I found one at a local toy store in Princeton. "Hold it, I'm coming!" Home I raced with my child's dream of the magical world in my bag. I swerved into the driveway and tip-toed to the front porch, placing it gently and slightly askew, as if a magical turkey elf had heaved it off his feathered back onto the cement stair.

Days had passed since he shared his wish with me. Many days. And when I tell you he is a persistent believer, I mean each morning he reminded me that our turkey was broken and he will never trust another turkey again. He was...well... he was pissed. But on this special morning, I knew the turkey elf had visited and left his little (real little, it was actually a pocket rubber band shooter that doubled as a pen--I know, I suck) wish gift on our porch.

As he woke that morning, I called out to him to put his scooter away that was leaning on the front stair -- convenient right? Luckily, my children are horribly messy and I was able to use the motherly "clean up your toys" nagging to get him to open the door and find the magic. As he rounded the corner of the house to put away his scooter he sighted the strange little package gleaming in the morning light. "What's this? Mom, what's this?!?" It wasn't entirely recongnizable as a rubber band shooter at first (remember it doubles as a pen), but once I explained, his face filled with glee. "The turkey did it!" he said. "My wish came true!" "Yeah! Yeah! Awesome!" Oh joyful turkey, he bought it. And as I watched him jump around with childhood excitement, I thought, damn, mystery is a powerful, powerful tool. He didn't even care that it wasn't exactly the right wish, just that the wish came true.

We have this same power as marketers. Mystery is completely underutilized by brands. And as I sit around wrapping toy, after toy, after toy in the name of mystery this holiday, I wonder where are our marketers of mystery? Certainly, DumDum lollipops has it right with the mystery flavor and McDonald's with the secret sauce, but who are our current mystery providers? The closest we have are the insider sales and scavenger hunts happening on Twitter and in other social media spaces. And consumers are loving this play on possibility. Just look at the lines at the stores. More mystery equals more revenue. If I were a brand this Christmas, I would wish for more mystery. Grab hold and pull!


WILLIAM said...

Dum Dum mystery flavor is the last of one batch/flavor and the start of the new batch/flavor. Of course the flavors vary.

Brand mysteries would be very buzz worthy until they are debunked/solved. But the better the mystery the better the buzz.

You should create the mystery mosquito with all the buzz for your brands. It will bite, leave a mark for a while, it may itch and soon it will fade away until the next mosquito comes along.

Gretchen said...

The solving is the best part. The point is people want and need mystery. We long for it. The most interesting people are a bit mysterious. They reveal a little bit, but not everything. Brands should do the same. Intrigue is compelling.

Gretchen said...

And a brand mosquito? OFF should be all over that.

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