12 Most Obvious Similarities Between Marketing and Supernanny
Sometimes, surfing television channels on a hot and hazy summer day can be awfully dangerous. In order to stay in front of the air conditioner and mildly hydrated, you find yourself more susceptible to television show marathons that can keep you “busy” for hours at a time. Or at least, that’s what happened to me one night when I was surfing the ole TV and came upon a Supernanny marathon.
Have you ever watched Supernanny? Like many shows on these days, each episode relies on a pretty basic formula. The beginning of the episode introduces the viewers to a family where the kids are running wild. Jo (the Supernanny) comes in, evaluates the situation, and tells the parents what she feels is going on and how to fix it. Then comes a teaching period where Jo helps the parents gain control of the kids. About 45 minutes in, the parents are left alone for a few days to see how well they do with Jo’s lessons. Inevitably, they don’t do all that great, so Jo reviews, and then the show ends with happy hugs and kisses and a future that looks much brighter for the family.
At this point, you’re probably anxious to know what any of that could have to do with marketing. Well, there are 12 obvious similarities that we should probably talk about to make that clear.
1. There are basic ground rules that parents (and marketers) don’t need to discuss
While I happily have not watched every single episode of Supernanny (yet), I have yet to see an explanation or review of some of the most basic ground rules of parenting. Jo has not had to sit parents down and say, “OK, now, your baby has wet herself. What do you do?” She hasn’t needed to draw up one of her great charts to explain why kids need to be fed or why they need a good place to sleep. These things are just common knowledge.
In marketing, there are also rules that are (or should be) common knowledge. For example, lying about your product or service is a really bad idea. Plagiarizing someone’s campaign theme or ad copy doesn’t go over real well. Also, although more companies seem to have a hard time with this one – ads and other marketing efforts should strive to avoid offending the great mass of people. When you are beginning a career in marketing, these are things that probably will not be reviewed with you. It’s just assumed you know.
2. Nobody likes to hear that their baby has problems
A lot of the parents on Supernanny seem sort of shocked when they hear Jo talk about their kids. Even though one kid is hanging from a chandelier and another is peeing on the floor, the parents look taken aback when Jo says, “Um, your kids are out of control.”
Similarly, companies really do not like to hear that their product or service may have imperfections. Marketers, like Jo Frost, need to bear this in mind. In order to successfully market a product or service, you need to understand its ins and outs, but if you perceive there are weaknesses, truth with a light touch is the best approach.
3. Organization is essential
One of the first things Jo looks at when she is evaluating a family is how much chaos there is in the household. Usually there’s quite a lot. With chaos comes frustration, fatigue, and other icky things – for both the parents and the children.
Organization for marketers is also essential. Whether you are planning a full campaign or making a single marketing decision, having all of the information you need handy, accessible, and readily available is a must. Disorganization can lead to costly mistakes, and you don’t want to go down that road.
4. An outside opinion can be critical
Because the supernanny isn’t part of the family, she is able to offer advice and criticism without the strain of hurting another family member’s feelings. She is also able to see things from a perspective that is mostly unattainable for the family members themselves.
As a marketer, you can benefit from an external opinion, but you can also be that objective voice for a company. This is part of the consultative aspect of the marketing job that companies could take advantage of more often. Marketers, with the help of market research and other tools, would be able to offer objective opinions on products, services, or company dynamics in a way that people within the company would not be able to do.
5. One size does not fit all
Jo cannot go into every house with the same advice, the same strategy, and the same solutions. Instead, she needs to analyze the situation carefully first, talk to the parents and the children, and then call on her experience to help remedy the problems.
Marketers also cannot approach companies the same way across the board. Unfortunately, this is an easy trap for marketers to fall into. “I did this for another company and it worked great!” can be a sign of big problems if those are the first words out of the marketer’s mouth. There needs to be time for analysis, evaluation, and even research so that the best possible solution for that specific company is found.
6. It’s an art, not a science
If Jo Frost’s skills were easy to duplicate, she probably wouldn’t have her own website and television show, and she probably (let’s face it0 wouldn’t be called a Supernanny. Likewise, there is a lot to marketing that needs to be learned through experience, and many years of it. Companies need to understand that there are many levels to every marketing campaign, and younger marketers need to understand that even after years of classes, nothing compares to actual experience in the field.
7. New technology doesn’t negate good old fashioned common sense
Jo uses video to tape her families while she’s gone, and she uses a little laptop to play back that surveillance footage. Beyond that, there isn’t a whole lot that bespeaks 21st century living in Jo’s methodologies. She uses pen and paper to make charts, she uses a “time out” chair, and she coaches parents and children on how to treat each other with respect and care.
Right now, the great temptation for a lot of marketers is to throw all things old into the junk heap. After all, we have Social Media and Skype and all sorts of other crazy things. However, there is a lot of value and use in more traditional marketing tactics and techniques, and those should not be discarded just because there are some new tools in town.
8. Follow-through is of the utmost importance
One of the biggest problems parents have on Supernanny is actually doing what they tell their child they’re going to do. Namely, when a punishment is threatened, a punishment must happen if the bad behavior continues. Jo constantly tells parents that if you make empty warnings, you’re taking all of the power out of the warning and out of the punishment.
Luckily, marketers don’t have to do a lot of punishing, but follow-through is extremely significant in the marketing world. That means you don’t want to promise that a video will go viral if you can’t make that happen. That means you need to have ways to measure your campaigns so that you can show whether you are doing everything you said you would. A prime reason for the lack of trust a lot of companies exhibit towards marketers is because of a lack of follow-through.
9. Sometimes you need to shut up and listen
Occasionally, Jo will visit a house where one of the children is a “miracle child.” Perhaps the child had a serious injury or perhaps they were deathly ill at one point and then survived. If the parents have other children, those other children can become a lower priority. They are no longer listened to as closely, and without realizing it, the parents devalue those other children. In those cases, Jo reminds parents how important it is to encourage kids to talk and then to listen to what they say.
Marketers must listen to the companies they are working with. It’s easy to get caught up in your own marketing expertise, but companies are experts too – they are experts when it comes to their products and services. Make sure you listen to the desires and thoughts of your clients and customers and really value what they have to say. It should be a conversation, not a debate.
10. Be confident in yourself and in your expertise
When Jo walks into a house, she is sometimes met with resistance. Sometimes people will think she has a dumb idea or that something will never work. In these cases, Jo gently reminds the parents that she has 15 years of experience. It’s not bragging, it’s just a plain and simple fact.
While you don’t want to walk into a company’s conference room strutting like a rooster, you also want to show enough confidence in yourself that it’s easy for others to feel confident about your skills, too. A lot is riding on your relationship with that company. Assure them that they have made the right decision by being clear about your experience without making it just about you.
11. Being judgmental does not get things done
There was one particular episode I caught recently that I thought was interesting. A mom was taking care of about 7 kids and her husband was about to deploy to Iraq. She couldn’t control the younger kids and all they did was beat each other up and swear. It would have been easy for Jo to say things like, “Geeze, what a terrible mom you are. How’d you let it get to this point?” Now, Jo did say that the behavior was unacceptable, but she did not say it in a judgmental way. She did not look down on the family.
Sometimes you will walk into a situation where a previous marketing firm or the company itself has done some things that weren’t very good (in your opinion). It’s essential not to express these viewpoints in a judgmental way. Rather, offer ways to improve the situation, or make recommendations on how to improve what has already been done. Judgments only bring out the worst in people.
12. Find your voice
In every episode, Jo coaches parents on how to talk to their children. She teaches them how to change tonality and thus change their meaning. It seems like an easy thing until you have to look at a cute little two-year-old and say, “NO! That behavior is not acceptable!”
Finding your voice in marketing can mean everything from your voice in copywriting to your voice on your blog site to your Twitter voice (and more). It also means the voice you use with customers, the voice you use with vendors, and the voice you use with co-workers. Ultimately, finding your voice is not something that can be taught, but finding it is one of the biggest keys to establishing yourself in your career.
Although you might have thought there could not possibly be any similarities between Supernanny and marketing, the similarities in the end all come down to wisdom, common sense, and knowing that experience is the greatest teacher of all. Marketers, like parents, children, and everyone else, must be confident enough to instill confidence in others and wise enough to say that they don’t know everything. In all facets of life, these can be hard lessons to learn, but all of them are entirely worthwhile. Don’t you think?
Featured image courtesy of Maigh licensed via creative commons.