The consumer is not a moron, she is your wife…tune into her.

By Patrick Nycz

“The consumer is not a moron, she is your wife.”
-David Ogilvy, Elements of Advertising. Published in 1983.

In 2005 Mega Bloks, an international toy company that specializes in plastic-studded blocks and molded-plastic dragons and pirate toys, bought Rose Art Industries, the parent company of the puzzle and game division I worked for.

At the time of the transition Warren held 38% of the market share/SKUs at Walmart, which made us the national leader in the puzzle category.

Part of my job as Director of Marketing and Creative Services was to educate the Mega Blocks sales force on our product. There was a big gap in product and market knowledge. They were used to making big, fun, high-tech toys that made little boys crazy with need and fall into a fit in the toy aisle if their mom didn’t get it for them right then…sort of like an evil, calculated “pull through” strategy designed to drive parents crazy. It was pretty cool.

By contrast, my product line was puzzles. And by puzzles, I mean mostly adult puzzles. And by adult puzzles, I do not mean naked people. I mean the lowest tech toy imaginable: a 27″ x 18″ poster of a mountain or beach glued to a piece of cardboard and cut into 1,000 pieces. Our strategy was all about research. We held focus groups and tested images, style, and market. We knew the psychographics and demographics of our target audience. This target audience was not an 8-year-old boy. It was his mom, grandma or aunt. She needed a puzzle to relax with after the meltdown her little boy made her endure in the toy aisle at Target.

The first year did not go well. The sales team just did not get it. They were dismissive and disinterested. Our market share was slipping. I needed a way teach the sales team about our consumer in an easy-to-grasp, easy-to-communicate way that they would understand, internalize and own…and sell.

So I turned to Ogilvy. I needed to show them the consumer. I invented Puzzle Mom.

First I asked the HR team at Mega Bloks headquarters do an internal secret poll to find the puzzlers who worked there among the thousands of employees. At the next big sales line presentation I trotted out a huge line of Mega employees (most were women) who worked alongside the sales team and did 1 to 2 puzzles a month. The women were all carrying their favorite puzzle in their favorite piece count. They were holding puzzles of mountains, wolves, beaches, lighthouses and whatever images they loved. I made Puzzle Mom real.

Next I found a picture of an attractive 40-something woman and created bullets describing her demographic and psychographic make-up—who she was and what she cared about. And I outlined her favorite images and puzzle types. I gave that to the sales team to include in their presentations. I made the Puzzle Mom concept easy to communicate in their sales meetings.

Introducing the consumer to sales teams is something I now do on a regular basis with my clients in food, consumer retail products, and yes, puzzles. It helps keep everyone focused and in tune with our brand communications and product development.

Even though we marketers have known that mom is the CFO (here’s a 2006 article by Kara Stefan CFO of the Household—A Job with Limitless Growth and Opportunity) and gatekeeper of the household for a number of years it seems, like the sales guys a Mega Bloks, we all need to be reminded of this once in a while.

Recently I was invited to read an advanced copy of Tuning into Mom, by Michal Clements and Teri Lucie Thompson. This book not only underlines mom’s role as CFO in the household, but also shows us how her concerns and priorities change with her age and the age of her children. That makes sense. Look at yourself. Do you still care about the things you did 10 years ago? Now add children to the mix. What they eat, who they play with and what they watch on TV are just a few of the concerns parents—mostly moms—face on a daily basis. As the kid gets older those concerns change.

To be honest, I liked the book and plan to use it with my team, but the best part is the Theme Resource Guide, which acts as a reference and allows a marketer to easily ‘tune in’ to what mom is focused on at any stage of her life. Makes it very easy to check that message and product development are on target and in context. I shared the guide with a client a few weeks ago and had to promise him I would let them know when it was on sale. It is. And I did.

I was reminded of this book a few days ago while watching TV with my family. Lowe’s “Don’t Stop” commercial came on. It is like a little movie:

Lowe’s has been ahead of the curve on understanding women’s roles in home improvement decisions for years (check out this 2010 Chicago Tribune article), but this television spot not only focuses on the woman, but also focuses on her at every stage of her purchasing life and makes her the centerpiece of the spot. Right where she should be.

About the Author: Patrick Nycz is the president and owner of idc, he is currently developing product and retail marketing communications that are in context, relative, relevant and aimed at Mom. He spends his days, among other things, as a marketing strategist, account exec, chief cheerleader, salesman, and excitable creative. Get connected to Patrick at LinkedIn, follow him on Twitter at @PatrickNycz or email him at Also “like” idc on Facebook.
This entry was published on October 2, 2011 at 9:38 pm. It’s filed under advertising, brand, brand affinity, consumer goods, context, marketing, Patrick Nycz, retail and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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