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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.

Some Tips to Get Organized during the Busy Holiday Season

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‘Tis the season to be busy—really busy! How can you make sure nothing gets forgotten or lost in the shuffle?
The amount of time it takes to do our job never seems to be enough. Then, the holidays hit. With everything going on, it’s amazing how we can ever keep up.

With all of the interruptions, we quickly lose track of time. You wake up and think your day is organized, then it quickly evaporates the minute you sit down to look at your email. Scheduled meetings get rescheduled, and rescheduled, again. Then, there are the emergencies, things we kind of plan for but never really can, because they are usually something that shouldn’t be happening. No matter how hard we try, there never seems to be enough time in the day.

The To-Do List

If you have one already, great! If not, then you need it. Why? Because years of research say it can improve your day.

No one wants every minute of their day to be dictated by a schedule. That feels too mechanical and boring. We aren’t machines. But, if you take the time to jot down the most important things for your day, it will eliminate any added stress and anxiety caused by the holidays.

A good To-Do List has to have realistic objectives, yet remain flexible. You will sabotage your list with unrealistic expectations. Remember, this isn’t the time of year to clean behind your refrigerator. Leave that for the spring. It also acts as a visual reminder of what you accomplished during the day or the week.

Use an App

Here is PC Mags top ten list of To-Do List apps. Some of these apps will synch with your computer or tablet. You can also share it with your coworkers or family. Best of all, they keep a record of your activities, so you can look back to see what you accomplished.

Order of Importance

Organize your objectives into order of importance. Then, check them off one-at-a-time. Having a deadline for each task can focus your efforts to get it done. Tasks without deadlines are put off to the next day. No deadline—no sense of urgency. You’ll feel more accomplished at the end of the day with a list that’s crossed off.

First Things, First

Do the things you don’t like to do, first. Highly successful people are successful for many reasons. One of them is that they do the things they don’t like doing. Why do they bother? Because, they know it’s necessary to be successful.

We avoid doing the things we don’t like to do. At the end of the day, you still need to do the thing you didn’t want to do. See how this adds to your stress?

Bring on the Holiday Cheer

Getting organized is how you can gain a few minutes during your day to enjoy the season. No matter how you keep your To-Do List, you’ll be able to do those extra things that make the holidays so special. What techniques do you use to keep holiday stress to a minimum?

Devereux Selected to Leadership St. Pete Class of 2018

nikki devereuxPinstripe Marketing is pleased to announce that senior project manager Nikki Devereux was named one of the 40 professionals selected for the Leadership St. Pete Class of 2018. The class was introduced at the LSP Alumni Association holiday social on December 6th. Leadership St. Pete is one of the oldest leadership programs in America and its six-month experience is designed to be an intensive interactive program that promotes leadership in the St. Petersburg community. Alumni include Governor Charlie Crist, Mayor Rick Baker, Dr. Vivian Fueyo, Dean of the USFSP College of Education, Luke Williams, Assistant Chief of the St. Petersburg Police Department, and many more leaders throughout St. Pete.

Devereux holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from City University of New York City College. She is also a freelance photographer and fine artist.

For additional information about Leadership St. Pete, visit

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It’s Time for the East-West Shrine Game!

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If you know us at all, you know that one of our busiest times of year is “Shrine Game Time,” and it’s starting now! Tickets for the East-West Shrine Game go on sale Friday, December 1, and we have been gearing up for this game for months already.

The Shrine Game is the longest running college all-star football game in the United States, and this is its 93rd year! The game is driven by the desire to support Shriners Hospitals for Children in its mission to help children in need of expert medical care. More than 1 million children have benefited from Shriners Hospitals’ unique way of providing hope and healing, regardless of the families’ ability to pay for services.

Each year, we accompany the players and coaches to the Shriners Hospital Tampa so they can meet some of the patients, play with the kids, dance, sign footballs, play basketball, and in general have a ton of fun. This day shows them why the East-West Shrine Game is “More Than Just a Game.”

Click here for tickets to the January 20, 2018 game.

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?

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