Monday, February 7, 2011

Marketing Lessons I've Learned From Big Idea

Back in 2001, I started at this wonderful company called Big Idea. I spent my time creating Veggie Tales stories for your kids.  It was, believe it or not, a pretty tough job.  With demanding schedules, many fellow artists to try to keep up with, and the pressure of making something that millions of people would see, it was a scary start for a 23 year old.  But my years there were a blessing, and I loved every second of it.  

I walked away about ten years later having learned a few things about pleasing an audience, such as don't expect them to be overjoyed with everything you do. We put out some shows that I personally thought were the best-of-the-best, but only received a luke-warm reception from our audience.  That left those of us in the development side of things a little stunned. On the flip side, we would put out a show the development team only felt luke-warm about; and in contrast, the audience loved the show and wanted more of the same! 
Why was that?  I now think that having a show full of fun, simple humor was a must for a positive reception with our niche audience.  Speaking of our target audience - I was shocked when I found out from the marketing team that our audience was somewhere between 3 and 6 years old.  There were so many jokes written for the shows that we, as adults, thought were quite funny, but many of those jokes must have gone far over the heads of those 3 to 6 year olds. It was a tough balancing act to catering to the kids, while still making sure the parents enjoyed some good laughs, too.

Another lesson I learned at Big Idea was to avoid paying too much attention to what the media was saying about our shows.  Many years ago there was a bit of a scandal about NBC making the "Veggie" shows more mainstream and removing some of the Christian content. NBC required that we make some minor changes to our shows in hopes that it would reach more of their audience. Many fans were confused and alarmed at this news- why had we gone from God to Sponge Bob??  The edits we had to make were fairly insignificant. And there remained a strong sense of 'God's presence' palpable with our show.  Another show that aired on NBC called "3,2,1 Penguins", actually depicted our characters praying to God - on public TV!  I thought that was pretty ground-breaking for our little show. Unfortunately, the message that got out was not that we had remained true to our core principles, but that we had sold out to appease the network.  People obviously didn't do the research, and many just assumed we had lost touch with our audience.  The results were damaging.  

I'm learning that the app arena is really no different.  The same rules apply: 1) have a mission and, 2) get to know your audience. Try to please them as best you can, while realizing  you can never please them all.  Goosed Up Rhymes will come out and many people will love it, and I mean LOVE IT, but some people will find little things that make it a problem for them. I can already hear a parent telling me it wasn't "educational" enough for their child; clearly, they would be overlooking all of the educational aspects we are putting into our app, such as 'touch-based' reading, and other things kids seem to find intuitive.    

I've been warned to 'not sweat the occasional one-star rating' from a disgruntled customer.  You can't make everybody happy. Unless, of course, there are a LOT of those one-stars; then you might really want to look into that. Good luck to all my fellow app developers out there!

PS.  Big Idea has book apps out there.... check them out! 

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