Jimmy Neutron on the Essence of Marketing and Sales

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My boys and I were just watching The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (a great kid’s series about a nerdy genius boy – kind of like Rich Tong – who invents all kinds of stuff to solve his problems). They really love this show, but little did I think that it would have lessons for marketing and sales people.

The episode is called “Birth of a Salesman” and the background is a school sales drive/contest to see which kid can raise the most money by selling candy. In this episode, we learn all about persuasion, targeting, technology andfeatures vs. customer empathy, and the benefits and pitfalls as using premiums to drive initial customer acquisition. And the overall lesson that being too smart often leads to bad marketing(makes me feel a bit better).

The vehicle for these lessons is the rivalry between Jimmy (and his technical prowess) vs. his nemesis Cindy (and her charm, persuasive talents and force of will).

Jimmy’s approach, like many tech firms, is to focus on the technology. He goes door to door trying to sell candy by explaining its chemical make up (wow, even worse than just focusing on features). Unsurprisingly, no one buys.

Meanwhile, Cindy adapts deftly from customer to customer. When knocking on a mom’s door she plays the poor orphan girl. With the tough guy janitor, she plays a scene from the Godfather. And when selling the truly goofy parents of Jimmy himself, she resorts to singing and dancing and sells them more than their own son. This is too much for Jimmy and leads him to give the following deeply insightful marketing quote:

“I have miscalculated. It’s not about superior intellect. It’s all about manipulating emotions with shallow, unscrupulous behavior”

Right on!?!? ;-o

Inspired by this he creates a robot that he thinks embodies all these qualities. It is called (in an off hand literary reference) the Willy Loman 3000 or WL3000. Unfortunately, WL does a very pushy, cheesy job that is way too transparent. So he employs a standard act of desperation – the giveaway. In order to make the sale (because that is his only objective) he starts using every cool invention and possession of Jimmy’s as a premium for making the sale. All the way to actually giving Jimmy away. Not the best outcome.

So what are the lessons we all can take from this profound drama?

  • Just because you have a high degree of competence (or even genius) in one area, does not mean you can apply it effectively in another;
  • The superior technology features of your product and the background of how they came about may be very interesting to you but you should not assume they are to anyone else;
  • Speaking in your customers’ language and changing this depending on which customer you are talking to is not only perfectly moral (not two faced, really), it is a lot more effective than the above;
  • Beating people over the head doesn’t ususally work; and finally,
  • Bribing people to buy your product – with premiums – can be a great way to get people to act, but do so with caution, you could end up losing your shirt (or more) in the long run.

For more such profound Jimmy Neutron quotes look here.