• 2018-05-08

Is there a secret your brand could learn from Sesame Street?

Why do so many people, companies and brands willingly surrender, sacrifice and butcher some of the most essential ingredients of their brand strategy? 

Could it be a case of not knowing or not caring to know, about the 2-6 elements that are crucial for any marketing approach to fully succeed?

In many respects any exercise in effective branding is as simple as watching what happens on Sesame Street. Just for fun, imagine if Kermit the Frog himself commandeered this keyboard and explained that there are 2-6 key WORDS that represent a major difference between recognition or obscurity. Vital pieces of the puzzle that could get you noticed like Big Bird or leave you irrelevant and ignored.  

In many ways, the marketing game is a lot like real estate. Much of the winning strategy can be summarized in three words that all begin and end with the letter "L". 

Location - Location - Location. 

And the most valuable piece of marketing real estate you are trying to acquire is the distinctive, singular memory you hope to indelibly stamp in the mind of the customer you hope to do business with. Think of that one stamp-worthy idea you want to plant deeply in memory banks and brains so that it takes root and grows like the mightiest of oak trees.   

For the purposes of this exercise, let's say the one idea we want to communicate involves the uniqueness of the letter "L".  Out of the 26 letters in the alphabet, why would you want to rent that space when you can flat out own it? And in the span of a few moments, let's see if the letter "L" can be easily owned in your brain if our friend Kermit (who is still controlling this keyboard) makes a concerted and deliberate effort to draw your attention to this fact. 

For example, not only is the letter "L" the 12th letter in the modern English alphabet, it's also a crucial factor in how we as humans connect and communicate with each other. If not for the letter "L" how could any one of us express private feelings of Love? How would you scroll through social media feeds and indicate public displays of approval with your on-line Likes? 

Jim Henson and his friends on Sesame Street figured this out a long time ago. 

No different than teaching pre-schoolers, effective branding has always hinged on the ability to take a single idea and leverage enough intrigue, imagination and repetition around that thought so that it becomes firmly embedded in the mind of the market.  The difference between merely renting brain space or actually owning it and building share of mind that becomes share of market are the actual WORDS that you employ.  

That's right Elmo.  

The 2-6 WORDS you hope to become known by everyone you meet, when you're walking down the street each day.  Currently, the Second Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary contains entries for 171,476 words.  There are also 47,156 obsolete words along with about 9,500 derivative words. And your brand gets to choose between any 2 or 6 of those wondrous WORDS! 

WORDS that are either power-packed with the electricity of emotional energy or filled with the hollow puffery of empty, meaningless, promises such as... 

Premium-quality products, unwavering commitment to innovation, state-of-the-art technology, world-class customer service and core values of integrity, honesty and trust.  With everyday low prices and our friendly & knowledgable staff,  ABC Company is the leader when it comes finding the quality, selection and service you need.  

(Abstract, white noise and unsubstantiated hype has never been known to plant meaningful oak trees of any kind in the mind of Big Bird or your customer). 

The best brands in the world have always known it takes about 2-6 WORDS to actually make a dent in the universe. 

  • That's why Timex told us they "took a licking and kept on ticking" and why the Colonel reminded you that his chicken was "finger lickin' good". 
  • That's why Avis - the number two provider - stressed "We Try Harder" and why Debeers promised "Diamonds Are Forever".
  •  That's how NIKE still encourages you to this day to put down that bag of Doritos, get off the couch, lace up your running shoes and "Just Do It"

When it was founded back in the 1960's, Sesame Street was built around a single, breakthrough insight: 

If you can hold the attention of children, you can educate them.  

If you want to capture and hold the attention of any audience today, you will have to decide on the 2-6 WORDS that will form the razor-sharp spearhead of those efforts. Whether through rhyme, reason or revelation, sparkling WORDS capture the essence of your brand with a brilliant language all of its own.  And with Kermit nodding in agreement, feel free to include the lovable and loyal letter "L" in your WORDS if you think it might help your brand lead a long and loving life. 

"Life's like a movie, write your own ending. Keep believing, keep pretending".    Jim Henson

p.s… If you're a small to medium-sized business owner who is scratching your head about how to actually implement this idea, look no further than folks like Gary & Dave. As the owners and cultural architects of a pool cleaning company headquartered in Tampa, Fla, they make a strategic decision several years back to capture their brand essence in 2-6 WORDS and become known throughout the land as:

POOL TROOPERS: America's Backyard Heroes 

p.p.s… In case you were curious, Sesame Street has won 167 Emmy Awards and 8 Grammy Awards-more than any other children's show and part of its enduring success can be owed to going completely against the grain. Instead of hiring teachers to write for the show, as most educational television programs did back in the 1960's, founder Joan Ganz-Cooney felt that it would be easier to teach writers and comedians how to interpret curriculum than to teach educators how to write comedy.The approach obviously worked with a 1996 survey showing that 95% of all American preschoolers had watched the show by the time they were three years old.

p.p.p.s…. Who are your all-time favorite Sesame Street characters?  From where I sit, it's a toss up between The Count and Oscar the Grouch.