retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

Living as we do in a world of choices, the only way any business can survive is to build a point of difference that matters to customers and constantly reinforces that difference in actions and words. That’s a fairly simple statement, but delivery is anything but.

We here at MorningNewsBeat share that challenge and live with our simple truth: while we don’t run a retail, wholesale or manufacturing company, we do run a business with more sources of competition for your time than you can imagine. Every day (for Kevin), every week (for me) we have to give you a reason to come back.

Which brings me to the 10-second kiss.

Last week, I wrote about an episode of “Oprah” that focused, among other things, on how couples could reignite their relationships by exchanging a 10-second long kiss each day. I suggested that business might want to think along the same lines, trying to find something small to do each day to win the hearts of customers time and time again.

I think I hit a nerve.

In fact, I have never gotten so many e-mails about anything I’ve written or said in a speech and, incredibly, every one of them was positive. As one reader so beautifully put it, that article was a clear demonstration of why she reads MNB daily. Because we try to give something beyond just the story; we try to give perspective, context and, frequently, the unexpected.

In short, it’s our selling proposition that we cannot ever forget.

And that got me thinking of “SpongeBob SquarePants.” Now the simple truth is that many more of you actually know about SpongeBob than might admit it publicly; and everyone who doesn’t is at a loss.

SpongeBob is a cartoon on Nickelodeon that follows the silly adventures of a walking talking kitchen sponge and his friends and neighbors in the underwater town of Bikini Bottom. There’s his dimwitted friend Patrick, his cranky neighbor Squidward and Mr. Krabs, the extremely frugal boss of the fast food restaurant where SpongeBob cooks. There’s so much more that goes beyond description and quite honestly the goofiness of SpongeBob really doesn’t lend itself to any kind of business lesson…except it does.

“SpongeBob SquarePants” just celebrated its 10th year on the air, which is no small achievement for any kind of television show. More shockingly, it is one of the highest rated cable shows ever and has grown into a global phenomena. The show is seen in 51 countries around the globe, meaning the kids in Israel and some Arab countries; India and Pakistan; China and Taiwan (I think you get the point) are all giggling to same stories. The United Nations should have such luck.

But if you watch it, you’ll notice a couple of thing. First, it isn’t a very high tech cartoon. The backgrounds are very simple as is the character animation. Rather than relying on technology, “SpongeBob” succeeds by offering up simple story lines that are incredibly funny for both kids and adults.

Most importantly, every episode you watch delivers on the same basic promise: It’s guaranteed to make you laugh with delight.

In short, “SpongeBob” delivers that 10-second kiss. Every show is filled with energy and zaniness, as though it were the first of the series. Every story is filled with small delights to keep to watching all the way through. And by holding to that standard episode after episode, the creators of this little cartoon gem have turned a silly premise for a show into a marketing powerhouse.

Simply by delivering a delight each and every time.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@morningnewsbeat.com .
KC's View:
Another, tangential business lesson, if I may…

One of the important things in any business is different perspectives. Which is why it is a good thing, I think, that here at MNB we have a situation where Michael watches “Oprah” and “SpongeBob SquarePants,” and I watch ‘”Burn Notice” and “24.” But it’s also important to have areas of commonality …we both watch the Mets and “Star Trek.”