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10 Lessons from ‘A Christmas Story’ Applied to Marketing

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Even if you don’t do it yourself, you probably know at least one person who sees the word, “fragile” and goes on to loudly pronounce it “fra-gee-LAY.” Such is the ubiquitous influence of the nostalgic 1984 film, A Christmas Story.

So, in the spirit of the season, we thought we’d shoehorn the movie into a newsletter article. Fortunately for our purposes, many scenes from A Christmas Story truly can teach business owners and managers something about effective marketing.

We aren’t going to give you a synopsis because we figure nearly everyone in the U.S. has seen this movie at least 20 times. That’s why we think we’re safe writing this piece. However, for the three people who haven’t seen it—consider yourself spoiler alerted. And to those folks, do yourself a favor: watch the movie. (It really is a funny, warm film). Now, without further ado, here are 10 lessons:

Don’t waste effort on the wrong audience. Young Ralphie wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Most of the movie is centered on him trying to persuade certain people that he should have one. But consider the targets of his messaging: his overly protective mother (remember how she dresses her youngest son for outdoors?); a school teacher who was most concerned that her students keep nice margins; and an overworked department-store Santa. None of these people were going to be a receptive audience to Raphie’s message.

How you express yourself does matter. Sometimes we say, “Fudge!” (only we don’t say “fudge”). When this happens, we can turn customers off or even get a hostile reaction. This is especially true in today’s hypersensitive, PC world. Always carefully craft your marketing communications to accomplish an objective rather than rashly blurting out something counterproductive. Keep in mind that social media can be especially dangerous because of the speed at which communications are spread.

Some brands are recognized as leaving a bad taste in your mouth. If you think brand ID doesn’t carry weight, consider Raphie’s concern about which bar soap his mother would use to wash his mouth out (Palmolive’s “nice piquant” vs. Lifebuoy potentially causing him to go blind). No business can do much if its products and services are used in an improper manner, but you can be vigilant as to how your brand is perceived by the public and do everything possible to protect and enhance its image.

Rethink showing off that “major award.” It’s easy to be distracted about what aspect of your business should be front and center in your marketing communications. If some new development at your company doesn’t support your brand and validate your value proposition, it probably isn’t worth publicizing … and making a big deal of it could cause you to look silly, like the leg lamp does for Ralphie’s father.

Following the crowd can leave you stuck all alone. What your company excels at doing may not be the same thing that your competitors do well. (In fact, it’s better if you’re unique!) Don’t let yourself be “triple-dog-dared” into abandoning your true value proposition because you think you need to be all things to all people. “Me too” is never a compelling message; stick to communicating what you do best or you’ll find yourself abandoned in the cold.

Be true to yourself. Don’t let the expectations of others force you into a ridiculous bunny costume—figuratively speaking … or literally. Remember Ralphie’s bunny costume, a gift from his aunt? He looked and felt ridiculous. If you can’t sell what you’re offering and be yourself doing it, then you should probably be in another business. As a business owner, incorporate your personal style into your brand to help make it special. If you do good work, you’ll find your niche—and you’ll have a lot more fun.branding strategy

Know what you really want. Most business owners know they should do “marketing.” As a result, they may sit down with an agency or their in-house marketing staff to create a campaign. At some point, someone should pose the question as to what the objective is. This requires identifying a promising target audience, setting tangible goals so that success can be measured, and then coming up with a step-by-step plan. Anything less, and you may as well mumble that you want a football. Poor Ralphie had to say something to Santa.

Marketing professionals will usually let you take the creative lead (if you insist). Ralphie had given up hope that he would get that BB gun because no one seemed responsive to his plea. Yet the Old Man comes through at the end. That’s something to keep in mind when making creative suggestions to marketing professionals. They really are listening to your ideas … but may desperately hope to change your mind. Ultimately, however, you’re the boss and your team will want you to be happy (placated). But beware, getting your way could be dangerous because …

You really could “shoot your eye out.” That didn’t quite happen to Ralphie but he did end up with broken glasses. Just think about it. If you’re paying people to market your business—and they presumably know more about marketing than you—why would you ignore their advice? That’s like going to a doctor and then prescribing your own treatment.

Be open to new ideas. Sometimes the neighbor’s dogs eat the Christmas turkey and you must come up with an alternative plan. When such things happen, Plan B may turn out better than you ever expected—like roast duck at a Chinese restaurant. Why wait until a disaster strikes to try something new and innovative? If you’re consistent with your brand, properly target your audience, and can deliver a compelling message, try something different!

We can help you navigate these 10 lessons – just let us know how by dropping a line here.

Make a Charitable Donation in Lieu of a Gift

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During the holidays, we want to give gifts to our clients that resonate with them and show how much we appreciate their business. They spend a lot of money with us, so they should be shown some sort of gratitude. Right?

Finding the Right Gift

For some people, they love to shop and know the right gift for their clients. Others think of it as simply checking another box—a way of doing business. Some don’t mind spending a little extra during the holiday, while others are a little more budget conscious.

The differences in attitudes and approaches to gift giving can affect the company’s image. Here’s a good example. There is a whole team of representatives inside a company and they have their own list of clients. When December comes, some representatives like to give expensive gifts, such as concert tickets or food and wine baskets, while others are more frugal with their budgets and give a box of candies and nice card. Both are thoughtful and the right thing to do—for the individual—but not the company.

The problem with inconsistent giving is that one client working with multiple reps in the company might get offended by their actions. It’s an unintentional consequence. There are so many different personalities in a company that getting everyone on the same page when giving gifts may seem like a monumental task.

Be More Thoughtful This Year

One way you can overcome the pitfalls of inconsistency and disparate corporate messaging is to pick one or more charities and give donations in your clients’ name. But, there are some things to be aware of when getting everyone on the “same page.”

 Will your clients be receptive to a charitable donation?

There’s a lot of tradition during the holidays, and giving a gift is at the center of it. It almost seems selfish to give a donation, but it really isn’t, especially if you choose a charity that is suited for your client. So, pick a local charity or a national one committed to a cause that fits best. And, in order to avoid looking crass or cheap, don’t indicate the dollar amount in the card to your client.

A Consistent Corporate Message

It’s easy for employees to forget that the physical gift they are purchasing is actually coming from the company. This act of giving represents the company culture and messaging. It’s important that the gifts reflect the company’s mission and vision.

Giving gifts to your clients is a professional way to show that you care about them. It would be horrible to think that they had a negative experience from receiving a gift during the holidays. A great way to avoid this is through charitable giving. Who knows, maybe it will catch on. Now, isn’t that a wonderful thought?

Spotlight: Shorecrest Preparatory School Video

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Shorecrest Preparatory School is a pretty magical place. When they hired us to create a video to showcase the school, we were excited. We have worked with Shorecrest for years on projects ranging from public relations to ad campaign design, so we are very familiar with their brand, the campus, and the mission of the school. We’ve also created 30 second commercial spots for digital advertising and movie theater pre-roll for the school, which helped us to brainstorm some really good ideas for this special piece.

We wanted to use this video to tell the story of the school and its culture, not just give information about programs, etc. We decided to use a more cinematic approach, with the script reading more like a poem than a brochure. We developed the script first, though we were constantly visualizing corresponding shots that would support the narrative. We started with Shorecrest’s tagline, “Be more.” We thought about what it means to “be more,” especially in the context of the education and opportunities that the school provides. We used Shorecrest’s overarching theme – Choice. Support. Balance. – as a guide for our narrative.

Once the script was complete, we started working on the story board and a detailed shot list, and then it was time to start scheduling the shoots in the classrooms, athletic department, and the outdoor classroom. This was a logistics problem that Shorecrest’s marketing director tackled perfectly. We were able to capture all the footage that we needed, plus some!

Storytelling like this is meant to be evocative. The video is certainly informative in its own way, but we aimed to capture people at a more subconscious level – in other words, we were trying to pull heart strings. In doing so, we leave more of an imprint on people’s minds – when you evoke emotion, the impression is lasting. We think that we achieved this with the Shorecrest video. The hard work, creativity, dedication, and open-mindedness of the school’s culture is truly highlighted in this piece. See for yourself!

Telling stories is one of Pinstripe Marketing’s specialties, especially when it comes to video. Drop us a line if you’re interested in telling your story; whether it’s culture, information, interview, etc, we can help.

Et Cultura Festival – Interactive Sessions, Music, Art, Film, Craft

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Et Cultura Festival wrapped up last week, and we wanted to share just a few of the interesting things we saw and experienced over the five-day festival’s myriad activities. It was definitely a whirlwind week and since we do public relations for the festival, the few weeks before were pretty hectic as well, but we had a great time and we’re already looking forward to next year.

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Some of the highlights that we were able to catch:

SEEDS interactive sessions at the Morean Center for Clay were phenomenal. There were several presentations throughout the day, all related to gardening, plant-based diet, sustainable living. It was incredibly interesting and enlightening, plus some of the presentations were interactive. One presenter, Kim Campbell, Director of Recipe Development and Culinary Education for PlantPure, Inc., even did a recipe demonstration where she prepared 3 giant pressure cookers full of Ethiopian butternut squash and lentils with brown rice. She made enough to go around the entire room, and the whole room smelled incredible. Not only that, the dish tasted amazing, so we are definitely going to try making some recipes like this in the future.

seeds festival community public relations

Another highlight of the SEEDS interactive sessions included live gardening demonstrations by some of St. Pete’s local farmers, which sparked some of the Pinstripe family to go home and start gardens. The weather was perfect and the crowd was thick for these sessions, which means a lot of people are interested in growing food.

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A panel discussion called “Prescribing Food as Medicine” provided some fascinating insights into how diet directly affects physical health and illness. One fascinating case in particular was a diabetic patient who was very sick changed their diet to plant-based and no longer had to use insulin. Other panelists discussed the affects of diet on heart disease, obesity, and even cancer.

seeds plant based nutrition public relations

Lots of interested folks at the SEEDS interactive sessions all day long.

et cultura festival film public relations

The Future City interactive sessions at Station House featured a wide variety of topics focused on economic development, supporting local businesses, affordable housing, social justice and more.

Small Is Big discussed the importance of championing locally owned and operated businesses and using entrepreneurs, citizen volunteers, events and artists for community development as well as an economic driver.

Et Cultura St. Pete

What Is “Affordable” Housing These Days? featured speakers representing the city, developers, the tiny house movement and others. The discussion highlighted the needs for a variety of places to call home that we can afford and want to live in as our city grows, continues to attract young talent, and needs to support a service-oriented workforce and address the changing needs of an aging population.

Et Cultura St Pete

Perhaps the most interesting discussion on Thursday was Inclusive Cities featuring social justice advocate, Weldon Angelos. The panel discussed ideas for building a more equitable system in our community and beyond for citizens who break the law, serve their time, and want to re-enter society. Weldon Angelos story is fascinating and infuriating. He was sentenced a mandatory 55 years in prison for selling a few pounds of marijuana while possessing a firearm – a sentence so extreme that his judge, unable to go below the mandatory minimum, called on the president to commute Weldon’s sentence. Barring such a presidential commutation, taxpayers would spend more than $1.5 million to keep Weldon behind bars until he was 80 years old. Weldon’s sentencing provoked unprecedented public outcry. Twenty-nine former judges and prosecutors filed a ‘friend of the court’ brief beseeching Weldon’s sentencing judge to declare the sentence unconstitutional. At sentencing, Judge Paul G. Cassell called Weldon’s punishment “unjust, cruel, and even irrational,” comparing it to much shorter federal sentences given to repeat child rapists and airplane hijackers. Judge Cassell wrote a 67-page opinion urging President Bush to commute Weldon’s sentence to 18 years or less. Unfortunately, none of these efforts proved fruitful until recently, when President Obama commuted his sentence– after Weldon served 13 years in prison.

You can see more of Weldon’s story here:

On Friday we were fortunate enough to join a group of educators for the RADICAL SCHOOLS interactive sessions. The keynote speaker was Geoffrey Canada, who flew down from Harlem, New York City to discuss his work with the Harlem Children’s Zone and the philosophy of his educational approach. He and his colleagues seek to change the lives of inner-city kids, prevent youth violence and foster community development through education reform. The model encourages educators to meet students where they are and use their own interests and needs to create active participation in their education and future.

One really cool element of the RADICAL SCHOOLS interactive sessions was a portable skate and BMX half pipe. They set it up right in the middle of 2nd St between 1St Ave and Central in downtown St. Pete, closed off that street, and had professional BMX riders and skateboarders doing tricks. It was definitely a good way to get every kid’s attention, and a huge crowd of both children and adults gathered to see the talented athletes doing cool tricks and defying gravity.

et cultura radical schools event public relations

Of course, we also caught a few of the concerts, films, art shows and the makers market – Et Cultura is a week of what is best in St. Pete!

Our public relations efforts for Et Cultura included media relations and leveraging our relationships with local television stations to book morning shows for Et Cultura founders and other interesting interviewees. It’s a win-win situation, as the hosts get to meet great people who are making cool things happen in our community, and our clients have the opportunity to discuss their events and draw more attendance to their events on television shows with thousands of viewers across the Tampa Bay area. Next time you have an event or news-worthy business happening, get in touch with Pinstripe and we can help you get the word out to our community, both in television and in print.

Spotlight: Kokolakis Logo Design, Head Shots, Video and Stationery

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Kokolakis Contracting is one of those clients that we just can’t wait to see. We realized this when we did head shots with a whole group of the Tarpon Springs office staff, including president Joe Kokolakis, at the beautiful old Florida Brewing Co. building (currently home of the Swope Rodante law firm) in Ybor City. We had a blast! Afterwards, the whole group went out to dinner and insisted that we come along. I guess that makes us part of the family.

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President Joseph Kokolakis portrait.

That was a great start to the relationship, in which we have re-envisioned their logo, created new stationery, completed head shots and currently we are working on a video for their new website, coming soon. We didn’t print the safety vests and hard hats, but as you can see in the photo above, they look great!

First we tackled the logo. They wanted to keep the same general idea but just update and modernize the logo. So, we took the original logo and reinvented it. The main thing that we really wanted everyone to buy into was a new, more modern color palette. It was definitely a departure from their old logo and the industry in general, but we thought it looked great with the bold lines of their logo and font. In the end, we won – they chose the bold color palette over the traditional blues and grays. They seem very happy with their choice and are certainly emblazoning it upon everything they can.

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kokolakis contracting logo design

Once we completed the logo, stationery was next. They chose a fairly classic look, and used Moo.com to print some of the business cards. These cards are super thick and have a beautiful orange-red layer in the center that you can see from the side of the card – the perfect complement to their bold card design. We printed the stationery in spot color with local printer, Lightning, because that orange-red just needed to be “spot” on. It was a tough color to match digitally and we wanted it to really pop and be true to their brand.

This was a really great project to work on and we are proud of the results, plus we added a cool group of people to our list of friends. Many thanks to J. Kokolakis for a great experience.

Shoot us an email if you need help with head shots, video, new logo, and print work. We would love to help make your company look sharp.

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