I realize screeds about mothers-in-laws are at least as old as time itself. You'll find them in the myths and stories of the ancient Greeks, through Fibber McGee and Mollie, through the Kramdens, Flintstones and whatever other contemporary references I'm missing.
As Henny Youngman once said, "I just got back from a pleasure trip. I took my mother-in-law to the airport."
As far as new mother-in-law traumedy goes, this post will break no new ground. But nonetheless, for all her cranial cobwebs and antiquated antagonism (she puts the miss in misanthrope and the miser in miserable) she did make me think this morning about marketing.
Here's the scene.
We're staying in an expensive air bnb in Boston. My elder daughter Sarah, her husband and my grandson live up here. My younger daughter flew in from San Diego, and my wife and I drove up with my wife's mother so four generations could get together for Passover.
Traditionally on Passover, Jews who observe don't eat bread with leavening. We're having breakfast matzo rather than breakfast bagels.
This morning was day one of Passover. Way too early to start bitching about skipping bread for the bread of affliction, matzo.
Not too early for my mother-in-law.
She takes a piece of matzo with cream cheese spread on it.
"This matzo is dry."
I look at my younger daughter who looks at me.
"Millie," I bark, "that's a tautology. By definition, matzo is dry."
My younger daughter, Hannah, rarely one to agree with me, agrees with me. And nods her approval.
"Not my matzo at home," Millie corrects.
"Your matzo at home is moist?" Hannah asks.
"Well, it's not dry like this," Millie growls.
Minutes later I was on a call with a young person who's turned to me for help breaking into the industry. (If you need someone good, call me.) I went on a long gallop how the things we do for brands to differentiate them, we have to do for ourselves.
In other words, there are approximately 1432 candidates who have your level book and your level experience and your level recommendations. How do you stand out?
Most people--today, most brands--don't seem to care to take the time to think about standing out. My belief is that the direct marketing dogma that rules the current marketing universe runs on the idea that marketing success is based on 1) List. 2) Offer. 3) Creative. (Who/what/how.)
I never believed that. But as an industry we seem to buy into it. Most ads don't seem to work to get your attention, to make you a promise, to persuade you to buy. They seem to be like that ballpark in Iowa, working on the assumption that 'if you build it, they will come.'
No. The world doesn't work like that.
If it's better, they will come.
If it's funny, they will come.
If it works for me, they will come.
If it gives me something special, they will come.
What I realized was that my mother-in-law had hit on something with her morning matzo.
From Manischevitz, to Streits, to Yehuda, all matzo are the same. But who wouldn't buy "Millie's Matzo. 'The moista matza.®'" Likewise, as a line-extension, who wouldn't buy "Millie's Seltzer. 'The wetta water®.'"
In other words, whether it's a Fast Moving Consumer Good or a Slow Moving Harridan, differentiate or die.