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A Covert Marketing Tool For Parent Buyers - The Kiddie Ride

By Damon Carson

Choosy mothers choose Jif. But what do choosy kids choose? "Automobiles and electronics," says Mark Snyder, senior vice president of brand management for Holiday Inn. "Children very much get to participate in making those purchasing decisions." Let's face it. Anyone who has ever stood in a checkout line in the supermarket knows that kids have always had a say in purchasing toys, food and other smallish items. What's new is how far that influence now stretches"and how advertisers are reacting.

Let's look at one tool the grocery industry uses to influence kids and ultimately to get parents to buy foodstuff at their location. This tool is beginning to be used by smart marketers in other industries as we'll detail. The tool - a kiddie ride.

Every grocer wants to create a carnival type atmosphere to attract kids and their grocery-buying parents. Kiddie rides provide a great way to attract kids and their money-spending parents. Most every parent can tell you which grocery stores have kiddie rides because their kids alert them to the fact, and of course, which grocery store is the kid going to want to shop at when tagging along with Mom or Dad. Of course, the one with the kiddie ride.

Let's look at some other industries that are taking a page from the grocers of America and utilizing kiddie rides in their marketing efforts.

Pulte Homes knows that part of selling houses is selling the kids. "We always make sure we are marketing to the children," says Deborah Blake, the company's vice president of marketing for Arizona and Nevada. "We want the kids to say, 'I have to live here,' as the parents are driving by the model homes." A fun and novel way to make a model home stand out to children is to have a kiddie ride in the living room. The stone fireplace may, or may not, stand out in the children's minds. A kiddie ride sure will, though.

A very different example of the kiddie ride as a marketing tool is in the lobby of a pediatric doctor. Whether the doctor is checking a child's teeth or their warts, it is really hard for a doctor to differentiate himself from another doctor in the mind of his layman clients. One way to differentiate a practice is to create a fun carnival environment in the lobby with a kiddie ride. The kids, and parents for that matter, probably won't remember the dull office visit, but they most certainly will remember and want to return to the fun lobby. This is to say nothing of a doctor offering a "magic" token to operate the ride as good behavior during an examination. Think of the time a doctor could save over the course of the year if just one minute was shaved off each exam because of good behavior.

"What a great motivational tool our kiddie ride has been in our doctors office, said Linda Day of Pediatric and Teenage Dentistry in West Virginia. "The kids look forward to their office visits because they know an exciting ride is waiting for them at the end."

Another great example of the kiddie ride as a marketing tool is at a car dealership. When a family with children walks onto the lot, instead of immediately taking them to the vehicles the salesperson takes the family to the kiddie ride. Out of his or her own pocket he pulls out a quarter to treat the young kids to a "free" ride. This harkens back to psychologist Robert Cialdini's seminal book "Influence", and his examination of the "click" and "whirr" of reciprocation. The salesperson has given the kids a free ride, now the parents will reciprocate giving the saleperson their time and attention, and quite possibly, the opportunity to match any offer of a competing dealership. This is to say nothing of the fact that the dealership with the kiddie ride will stand out in the children's minds and probably get talked about at the supper table.

While they were created originally as vending machines, the real earning power today of a kiddie ride isn't in how many quarters are in the coin box each week, but in how effectively marketers can use this classic amusement ride to build goodwill with kids and their money-spending parents.

About The Author
Damon Carson lists more marketing ideas on the "Why Kiddie Rides tab at

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