I woke up yesterday, thinking about how the wheelbarrow made me feel like the greatest dad in the world as I listened to the sound of the rain. I was alone with my son, and I realized that I wanted to do a road trip with him.
I am still living in a tent, and even though I am relaxing and enjoying every aspect of the solitude, I am also thinking about the importance of relationships. Today, I’m stressing the importance of family, and especially the relationship between a son and his dad. But there are also several marketing lessons between the lines.
I’m taking you on a journey, along with my five year old son and me. Before we get started, I just want to assure you that the day was a huge success. My son is still talking about it.
Now, as I am writing this, I’m sitting fairly high on a mountain overlooking the ocean. I can feel the warm breeze, and see three sail boats far ahead. The two seagulls just beneath me are looking relaxed as they are on the water, going wherever the waves are taking them. It’s hard to think that yesterday it was raining hard, and that the rain was the reason for one of the best experiences this summer.
A stranger saves the day
I wanted the trip to be a surprise. Because to me, surprises are the best way to get people excited. But, I revealed the plans, one step of the time. If I hadn’t, I would probably have had a hard time to get my son to come with me. First, we had to walk close to 30 minutes in the rain, so I told him that we were going to take the bus to the city. I didn’t really have to tell him where we were going, because all he cared about now was the bus.
From then on, every five seconds, my son asked me; “where’s the bus? “I can’t see it. Dad, where’s the bus?” Standing inside a shed, hiding from the rain, he kept looking. We talked about the color. He thought that the bus would be red, I told him that I thought it would be green, although I had seen the bus already and it was yellow.
I let him be the first one to see it when it appeared far away. He jumped, pointed, and shouted, “Dad there’s the bus, it’s yellow!”
He was excited, so was I. He hasn’t been on many buses in his short life. And, I could see the way he jumped that this was one of the highlights so far. The bus stopped, I jumped out of the shed, and so did my son. The rain was pouring down, and we ran inside as soon as the doors opened. “Finally,” that was my first thought.
I smiled to the woman driving, she didn’t smile back. She was in her mid fifties, and this was not one of her best days at work. I continued to smile as I asked for the price to the city. $7, she said with a voice that reminded me of Lord Voldermort from the Harry Potter movies. I forced another smile as I gave her my VISA card. She didn’t move. Not any gestures at all. She just looked at me, and I could see what she was thinking. “Who does this guy think he is?” That’s exactly what she was thinking. Then Lord Voldermort spoke again. “Cash only.”
Standing there, watching my excited son, I realized I had a major problem. I didn’t have any cash. I never do. I had no idea that I couldn’t pay with VISA. And, we just couldn’t wait for the next bus, it would be more than 90 minutes of waiting. The day would be ruined for my son. So, I was begging the driver. Please, can I pay once we get to the city, or pay double on the way back? She had stopped speaking. She just turned her head in the opposite direction. My son was already in his seat all the way back in the bus, and I could see the disappointment in his face as I was about to pick him up and carry him outside.
Then, an angel spoke to me. A woman in her forties, grabbed my arm. “I saw what happened,” she said. I looked at her. I had never seen her before. “Consider this a gift,” she said as she handed me $7. I was stunned. At first I said I couldn’t accept it, but she insisted, so I ended up saying thank you, taking the money and paying the ticket.
Now, this woman was more important to me than the president. I was like an agent from the Secret Service, and I realized that I would have done anything for her. I would have taken a bullet for her. Her $7 saved the day.
I’m lovin’ it
We arrived in the city. It was still raining. After the exciting bus trip, we needed some food. We needed something to eat before I was going to reveal the plans to watch a movie at the movie theatre.
I asked my son where he wanted to eat, although I already knew the answer. “McDonald’s, Dad.” I said sure. Let’s go. It’s not really about the food. It’s about the playground and the experience. I guess it’s ok, because I don’t hate McDonald’s anymore.
I can talk for days about McDonald’s and marketing. But their marketing department sure understands how kids are thinking. The Happy Meal is brilliant. My son wanted McNuggets, but after he discovered the toys inside the cool Happy Meal “box”, he suddenly wanted me to order a Happy Meal instead.
McDonald’s is to kids like being picked up at the kindergarten in a wheelbarrow. It’s all about targeting the customers. Kids don’t want a fancy restaurant. Kids don’t want to drive a brand new BMW. The wheelbarrow is perfect. McDonalds is perfect. I had to order a Big Mac without meat (because I’m a vegetarian). But my son was happy, so I was happy.
Kung Fu Panda 2
It was hard to get my son away from his new friends. One of the kids had red and blue hair, and was the king of the slide. I had to show my son a preview of the movie on my iPhone to get him excited all over again. Kung Fu Panda 2, and an extra large popcorn. The perfect combination after lunch at McDonald’s, on a rainy day.
Kung Fu Panda 2 was awesome, and my son had an amazing time. What I kept thinking of, was not about the movie or how my son managed to eat most of the popcorn, but why on earth they showed advertisements before the movie (to the kids). Well, I know why, but they shouldn’t. Ads are not suitable for kids. Kids have too much power over their parents. And kids want everything they see. I was afraid that my son would be too excited about what he saw on some of the ads, especially about the new BMW – I can’t possibly afford it.
Saving the best for last
I discovered that, when it comes to kids, it’s not really about money and things that we think we need to buy in order to make them excited. It’s hard to buy something that can cause the moment I witnessed when my son was running to a playground in a random park, after the movie. I didn’t tell him this, but the playground was not part of my plan. It just happened to be there. The best part of the road trip seemed to be happening at the playground, in the rain.
Now, you might not think that this is such an exciting road trip, but if you do, then you’re wrong. It doesn’t matter what you, or your friends, or anyone thinks, because what I did was all about my son. And this road trip was highly targeted to satisfy his needs, on this particular day, after spending three weeks in a tent, by the beach. My son is still excited about what we did. He keeps talking about the yellow bus, the kid with the red and blue hair, Kung Fu Panda 2, and the awesome playground.
Whatever I do, marketing or not, I try to target my actions.