Kris Kotarba
April, 11, 2017

How Mr. Potato Head Made Us Better Marketers

You might be scratching your head right now, wondering how a potato wearing shoes could possibly have an impact on your business. It may seem like a stretch but the significance of this iconic mustachioed spud should not be underestimated. In 1952, Mr. Potato Head became the first ever children’s toy to be advertised on television, cementing a bit of marketing wisdom that persists and largely holds true to this day.

This idea of advertising directly to children quickly took off, reinforced by a notable “nag factor”. After being exposed to advertisements strategically directed at them, children would pester their parents to purchase an advertised item and parents would oftentimes do just that. In the years since that very first toy commercial, advertising to children has become a controversial subject with ethical implications which Mr. Potato Head could never have imagined. After all, he is a potato.

Controversy and ethical concerns aside, the effectiveness of advertising directly to children demonstrates two important ideas which continue to govern much of how we approach marketing strategies. Both of these ideas are nicely encapsulated in an anecdote that many marketers will be familiar with:

If you want to sell cereal, put a cartoon tiger on the box.

This cheeky anecdote implies the following:

  • Consumer choices are not entirely dictated by the person holding the purse strings.

Parents may be the ones making a purchase but that decision was not entirely theirs.

  • Effective marketing appeals directly to a target persona.

In this case, children are the target persona so we tailor our approach to appeal to the tastes of children.

Together, these two points guide marketers in the development of Buyer Personas, the cornerstone of a successful marketing strategy.

The first point forces us to identify who we should be tailoring our strategy toward. The answer will vary case by case but the knowledge that the target persona does not necessarily have to be the entity with final purchasing power opens up a world of marketing opportunities. Anyone who can influence purchasing decisions is a potential buyer persona.

The second point leads us to identify the factors which might influence a potential target persona’s purchasing decisions. Based on research, we can make educated assumptions about the target persona’s demographic information, professional experience, role within a company, and any other information which might help us tailor our strategy.

The end result is a list of buyer personas around which we can build a marketing strategy. We know who we want to reach and we’ve gathered the information we’ll need to efficiently guide them through the marketing funnel. We’ve set ourselves up for success with lessons learned from a potato who sometimes loses his nose.

Thank you, Mr. Potato Head.

While personas are important, they are only one part of a holistic inbound marketing strategy. For ideas on how to generate leads for your business, download our free tips guide.

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