Last fall, Boston’s Museum of Science featured its newest K’Nex exhibit, "K’Nex: Building Thrill Rides." If you’ve never heard of it, K’Nex is a construction toy using rods and connectors. It’s similar to Lego, but with gears and other moving parts that make it possible to create elaborate gizmos such as giant Ferris wheels.
My family and I discovered the exhibit by accident. Along with the six-foot-tall Ferris wheel, there was a K’Nex roller coaster, a carousel and dozens of other thrill rides on display. They were designed to teach kids basic scientific concepts like centrifugal force and kinetic energy. Forget it. My daughters, ages 5 and 7, went right for the big bins full of colorful K’Nex pieces and began to play, as did most of the other kids. There were easy-to-follow instructions for building trucks, planes and bridges. And after kids were finished, they could buy their magnificent creations and take them home.
I was skeptical at first, appalled by the blatant display of commercialism. And then I was simply amazed. Nearly every kid went home with a K’Nex toy. Few parents tried to resist, or even appeared to want to. The more I studied the exhibit, the more I realized what it was really all about: the science of marketing.
As we embark on a new year full of exciting possibilities (hopefully), it’s worth considering the important lessons of the exhibit. Some essential components of successful marketing were on full display.
Appeal to both key decision makers and end-users
By stressing "education" and "fun," the K’Nex exhibit spoke to both parents and kids. Make sure your marketing materials appeal to all your critical audience segments, whether they’re patients, docs, lab technicians, lab managers or the "C" suite.
Think outside the box for product placement
Thanks to its ongoing presence at the museum over the years, K’Nex is no longer just a toy. It has a higher purpose. Think beyond movies and TV medical dramas for product placement. For instance, the Broad Institute, a world-renowned genomics research center down the street from our offices in Kendall Square, Cambridge, has turned its lobby into an interactive exhibit for new scientific approaches. Called the DNAtrium, it showcases automated liquid handlers, multilabel plate readers and other instruments.
Let customers touch your brand
Allowing kids to play with K’Nex was the ultimate product demo. If you want to demonstrate the incredible ease of your device, or emphasize a specific performance feature, why not create a fun and engaging interactive demo? For one of our clients, we used augmented reality to bring their product to life.
For another client who makes an adhesive mesh for surgical repair, we sent out samples that physicians could dip in liquid and test for strength. Don’t just talk about your product. Give customers a feel for it.
Marketing your product, service or company is never child’s play. But by considering some of these lessons, you can have it down to a science.
Tod Brubaker is an associate creative director / copywriter at Seidler Bernstein. He has extensive experience in general consumer and medical B2B advertising and communications. Tod’s work has won numerous industry awards, including Cannes, Addy, Rx Club, and top honors for print from the Johnson & Johnson James E. Burke Marketing Excellence Awards.