Elementary marketing: Learning from the louse
April 20, 2011
Every year, the notes get sent home from elementary schools across the country, notes that every parent dreads.
“There has been a lice outbreak in your child’s classroom.”
Now, lice are no fun. But they do two things incredibly well. They spread like crazy, and they stick. Biologically speaking, they’re an incredibly well-designed parasite.
So let’s look at how lice infect a classroom to see if we can’t find some parallels in the marketing world.
First, the spreading of lice requires personal contact. In elementary schools, this typically by head-to-head contact (such as hugging) with another person who has lice. It can also spread by wearing another person’s hat or clothing, or by using someone else’s comb, brush or bedding.
Similarly, ideas require personal contact (communication) in order to spread. That’s how marketing (and advertising) works, by making a connection—by making contact—with individuals on a personal level. Even if the message is delivered en masse, via television, radio, magazines or the internet, the idea is being sent to and received by individuals on a personal level. Personal contact is the key to transmitting ideas.
Second, once lice make it onto a new carrier, they stick. Adult lice stay close to the ol’ noggin, laying eggs (nits) on the hair as close to the scalp as possible. Nits which are dislodged from the hair will not hatch in the environment.
Ideas also need to stick or they will die. And sticky is tricky. Hundreds of businesses, products, TV shows, CDs—hundreds of ideas—die every week, every month, every year. So how do you make your ideas stick?
That’s the real question, isn’t it?
The answer, in my mind, isn’t revolutionary so much as evolutionary. The fittest ideas evolve and survive, the rest don’t. And the only way to check the survivability of your idea is to put it out there.
Throw it at the wall and see what sticks.