Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Parents as marketers

I've been doing this parenting thing for a few years now, and I'm getting pretty proficient at it (if I do say so my damn self).

Now, I don't claim to be as good as everybody. Certainly I'm not as good as my own parents, but then few are.

But as far as I know, all of my children still live under my roof, and most of them still have most of their digits (which is more than I can say for myself). None of them have intentionally set fire to anything (that I know of) and we don't seem to be having any Mountain Dew Mouth trouble as of yet.

What I'm trying to say is that, so far things are going as well as can be expected, and I've picked up a few tips and tricks along the way.

The one I like to highlight today is one that many marketing and advertising professionals use all the time. It's about product positioning, and I'll illustrate it with this quick anecdote.

Our two-year-old is in a finicky stage. There are only a couple of foods she'll eat, and since I'm in charge of breakfast on a daily basis, this sometimes irritates the crap out of me. I mean, I'll go to all the work of preparing a delicious bowl of instant oatmeal only to have a budding food snob turn her nose up at it.

So I've been trying different breakfast items to see what works. At the super market the other day I picked up a box of Kix cereal, reasonably healthy because it doesn't have added sugar (which is toxic, by the way). Yesterday, I poured a few of he corn-based pellets into a bowl and set it in front of her for breakfast.

Of course, she would have none of it. One look at the pile of cereal and she handed me a stink eye along with a sharp "No! I want yogurt!"

Now I know most of you don't put up with this kind of attitude from a two-year-old, and you shouldn't. I don't either. I made sure to get an apology before providing a bowl of plain vanilla yogurt, her favorite. But knowing that a key to getting you're little house apes to eat different foods is just getting them to try them, I came back a few minutes later with a small handful of Kix in my hand.

I made sure she was watching when I popped a couple in my mouth and made the "Mmmmmm!" sound and said "Wow, these tiny little cookies are delicious!"

Key piece of information here: The girls is very familiar with the concept of cookies. She's tried them. She love's them. She would probably exist (for a few short years before dying of childhood diabetes) solely on them if we let her.

And of course, the mention of "cookies" got her attention. She tentatively took one of the little round pellets from my hand and popped it in her mouth. Then she grabbed the rest and ate them all. Next thing you know, she's going back to that bowl of the "cookies" and chowing down.

You see, it's all about Placement. Big Cereal does this all the time, using cartoon characters and high fructose corn syrup to get children to eat toxic substances.

As a parent, I'm just flipping the script on them. Using the same kind of marketing tactics to trick my kids into eating something less unhealthy.

And that's, one to grow on…

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

YouTube Tuesday: It's time to get things started

Sensational internet modern alt/funk/pop/prog group OK Go is back with a blast of nostalgia with a new release covering the theme to the old The Muppet Show. It's interesting since my 8-year-old daughter is the first person to show this to me the other day, and she never even saw an episode of The Muppet Show.

Sign of the times, I guess.

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Formsprings Eternal #2: Time may change me

Today's Formspring question asks me to look back in to the past.

If you could change one thing that happened last year what would it be?
I suspect the submitter of this question meant something like "If you could change one thing that happened TO YOU last year…"

But to be honest, I had a pretty good year.

Don't get me wrong. It was a crap year for a lot of people. I have some friends who lost jobs. There was some health problems for people around me, some friends lost loved ones. There's the fact that we're still at war despite everyone saying in public that there's no reason for it, and some people I care about had friends and brothers killed in what seems to be pointless fighting. The economy's still in shambles and, just to top thing off, it's been one of the hottest summers on record (I can't really back that last statement up with stats, tho).

In short, to paraphrase Chuck Dickens, it was a year like all other years.

But it makes me appreciate the good fortune I've had. I live in a nice neighborhood with a beautiful Supermodel Wife, two great kids, a house with a roof that doesn't leak. I dropped 35 pounds in the last 6 months and my cholesterol and blood pressure are both down to normal. My health is better than it has been in years.

So, I really can't say I would change anything personally.

Oh, wait. I just thought of something I would change. You remember when I bought that lottery ticket that would have paid out $300 million if I had won? Well, I'd change things so that I would have bought the winning ticket.


And I suppose a close second would be that the Japanese tsunami hadn't happened.

Got something on your mind? Something troubling you? Need a little compassionate input? A little constructive criticism? Well, that's what I'm here for. Plop your question in the text field at the left and hit the submit button. It's fun, it's easy, and if you're not careful, you might learn something.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

YouTube Tuesday: Bugnado

I'm no biologist, but I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night. And based upon that expertise, my theory is that the high flood waters in Missouri have created a fertile breeding ground for flying insects.

This brave videographer ventured out into the northwest Missouri wilderness one July evening to capture swarms of bugs flying into insectoid vortices which he termed "bugnados" and which totally give me the heebie and/or jeebies.

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

As Seen in Kansas: The Western Home

One of the truths that I hold to be self-evident is that places aren't boring, people are.

As a life-long Kansan maybe that's just some kind of defense mechanism. But I've traveled a fair bit both domestically and abroad, and I find that no place it boring as long as you're curious.

Take, for example, the middle of nowhere.

It would be tempting to look at a flat, mostly blank spot on the map, such as Smith County, Kansas, (the entire population of which numbers fewer than the available parking spaces where I work) and conclude that there can't possibly be anything of interest there.

But with a good guide and sincere curiosity, I've found that even such places as these have interesting nuggets to yield. And, to steal a line from Bill Cosby, if you're not careful, you might learn something.

One of the nuggets of interest we checked out on our recent visit there was a small, ancient cabin in the woods.

The cabin, of basic construction and even more basic amenity, is notable for it's original occupant, Dr. Brewster Higley, né Brewster Martin Higley VI, a homesteader originally from Ohio.

Higley's primary claim to fame is a poem he wrote in 1873 after moving to the Kansas prairie and building cabin by a small creek. The poem was called The Western Home, and it so captured life on a pioneer homestead that it was set to music and became a popular folk song.

The Kansas Legislature adopted it as the official state song in 1947.

The cabin, as it stands today, in the midst of a wild cannabis grove near a wooded creek, has been reinforced with stone, cement and angle iron. There is also a gigantic circular saw blade that I'm pretty sure wasn't part of the original structure.

But much of the original log structure is still there. You can see axe marks in the wood and the rusty square nails from the era.

It's difficult to imagine being the original occupant of this house. Indeed, most people these day's have nicer garden sheds. I'm fairly certain that nobody today would be inspired to think of "home" given a life in these accommodations. The interior has barely room for a single mattress, let alone a queen sized bed. The "kitchen" consisted of a small, camp-sized wood-burning stove and the air conditioning was provided by half-inch gaps between the logs (though I assume these were patched when people were actually living here).

I guess it's possible that Dr. Higley's poem may have been more aspirational than inspirational — not so much an ode to his little hovel, more of a longing for something nicer. Still, it's impressive to consider the hardy folk like Dr. Higley (and perhaps more impressively, Mrs. Dr. Higley) who chose this lonely, primitive lifestyle in pursuit of their American dream.

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Tuesday, August 09, 2011

YouTube Tuesday: I'm Yours

I'm not a huge Jason Mraz fan, in fact I'd say I'm not a fan of his at all. But I wanted to post this for you JM fans who were unable to get tickets to this weekend's Farm Aid concert at Livestrong Sporting Park in KCK.

This cover of his signature hit is pretty much just as good as the original.

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