The Most Brilliant Marketer of All Time: Elmo

Justin Seibert | |

If you’re a parent, you already know everything I’m going to write in this post. Quit reading and come back tomorrow. Thanks for stopping by.

If you’re not a parent already (that you know of*), enjoy. This is your chance to learn something about kids that you can speak to your married with family friends without having to try to engage them in all the stuff about kids that you hate hearing about. It’s not that you hate kids necessarily, the talk just bores you because you have less important more interesting things to discuss.

That’s part of the reason you hang around single friends. Dads and moms lose the time and hence ability to relate to any matters that don’t relate to their kids, save sports and shopping. Ask the father of a 4-year-old what they think about Iraq and they’ll likely say, “I think it’s hot and they have that Saddam Hussein guy who doesn’t seem that friendly. He was funny in Hot Shots! Part Deux. Why? Did something happen over there?”

So here’s the knowledge. Elmo, pictured right, is the greatest self promoter of all time. Don’t even try to make an argument for Donald Trump, Barnam & Bailey, or anyone else. You’ll just embarrass yourself. The following reasoning provides both anecdotal and empirical evidence.

Anecdotal Evidence of Elmo’s Promotional Excellence

My daughter was a little slow to talk. She understood everything you said, but didn’t say a whole lot of real words because she was able to get whatever she wanted based on her charms and the sucker-sceptibility of her parents, grandparents, and extended family.

One of her first three words (I won’t go into detail here for fear of boring the non-kid owner) was “Elmo”. Well sometimes it was “Momo” and sometimes “Elmo”, but it always meant that red fur ball from Sesame Street.

She would say it over and over again. And she’d get really excited whenever we hit the road to grandma’s and grandpa’s house, chanting “Momo Momo” because she knew she’d get to see his videos when she got there.

She remembered his name, could articulate it, and loved his videos, which she convinced us to buy for her. She also now owns a 2 foot tall stuffed Elmo (because the one with his real innards kind of smelled) and recently got an Elmo balloon. Scratch that, Dad got an Elmo balloon for “his” 30th birthday.

Look at the Products Elmo’s Self-Marketing has Produced

Don’t think those kind of sales are unique to my family. This guy uses free airtime on public television considered “good for kids” to boost his sales through the roof. This little red monster has a higher GNP than that of Iceland, Botswana, and American Samoa combined.

He has videos, books, balloons, clothing, diapers, eating accessories, lunchboxes, figurines, lamps, figurines, bedding, and much, much more. Just today I received an offer to buy TMX Elmo – that’s the 10th anniversary of Tickle Me Elmo**. Yes, Tickle Me Elmo is so popular that they have special editions of this battery powered plaything. He’d sell nuclear reactors if marketers thought they could convince kids to get their parents to buy them for them.

How Does Elmo Do It?

It starts with pushing his name. It’s as though Bob Dole had a baby with any rapper from the 90’s and then that baby was bitten by a radioactive spider. The muppet can’t go 10 seconds without saying Elmo this or Elmo that. Insert old joke about selfish love-making here.

On top of saying his name over and over again, kids relate to Elmo because he talks a little like them, sings a lot, and hangs out in Elmo’s World, a strange netherworld featuring sparsely colored animated objects, a Goldfish, and Mr. and Ms. Noodle. He also has a weird voice, looks funny / friendly, and has huge eyes. Huge eyes makes a difference – a good friend of mine did a great piece about it last year for Studio 360.

What’s Next for Elmo?

I really think it’s world domination. Get on his side now because he’s been indoctrinating billions of kids for at least a decade now. He starts slipping in subversive messages ala South Park, we’re all in for big trouble come 2020.

* I had an old-time stand-up comedian friend whom I sometimes performed with. One time I was watching one of his rants and he said, “I’ve never even kissed a girl…that I know of.” The rest of the audience – dolts, all – didn’t respond, but I cackled, which of course reverberated around the room because everyone else sat their on their hands. It probably doesn’t translate into a written blog post, but it cracked me up and I can’t say or hear the phrase “that I know of” without thinking about that night.

** I’m old enough to remember seeing stories on the news about the European soccer event-style rush for Tickle Me Elmos when they first came out. Being single without kids in college, I could not even comprehend the madness.

Justin Seibert

About The Author

Justin Seibert is the President of Direct Online Marketing. Justin holds a Bachelor of Arts from Vanderbilt University. He contributes a wide range of online business-oriented topics, including the subject of exporting. His contributions can be found on publications such as the Pittsburgh Business Times, Advertising Age, SES Magazine, and La Voz del interior. Justin and his family enjoy learning about new cultures during their travels.

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