Green Eggs and Market Plans: Learning Marketing from Dr Seuss.

Dr Stephen Dann When this paper was first drafted, the true nature was concealed behind a veinier of post modern marketing acceptability, as I proposed to have uncovered a hitherto unknown marketing genius by the name of Theodor Geisel. Theodor, for those not versed in literary history, is none other than Dr Seuss. The message is still the same - long before Andreasen strode amongst mortal marketers, Dr Seuss was laying down some valuable marketing lessons. This paper sets out to uncover the Seuss, the whole Seuss and nothing but the Seuss (so help me Kotler). Between 1950 and 1965, a range of marketing texts were released by an unheralded marketing scholar by the name of Theodor Geisel. At the time, the marketing texts were unrecognised by industry and academia, who discarded the theories concerning relationship marketing, promotion, service recovery, and the dangers of product over complication and neglect of front line service staff. This paper sets out to recognise the role and value of the texts of Geisel, in light of post modern marketing theory and practice. The paper takes a historical perspective of how Geisel's works of the 1950s and 1960s integrated many of contemporary marketing's theories and practices, and how post modernist marketing can benefit from the insights of this unheralded scholar. Dr Seuss's work spanned several decades, with the publication of a range of children's books which acted both as literary training, and introduction to marketing texts. At the time, their value as marketing texts were unrecognised by industry and academia, who failed to notice the lessons concerning relationship marketing, promotion, service recovery, and the dangers of product over complication and neglect of front line service staff being taught to children. For the most part, the texts were dismissed as childish, nonsensical and irrelevant to industry. Strangely enough, marketing itself is often on the receiving end of such criticisms, and accused of being merely applied commonsense instead of being a scientific discipline. But what if the reason the methods of marketing seem so commonplace and "obvious" is because they are inadvertently taught to us as children? The 'brandwidth' of the Dr Seuss franchise rivals Disney, and leaves Kotler as a comparatively unknown phenomena. In order to explore this idea further, it is first necessary to examine the contemporary view of marketing in society, before examining the inherent marketing messages in the works of Dr Seuss CONTEMPORARY MARKETING, AND MARKETING IN SOCIETY Marketing's role in contemporary culture has been under scrutiny in recent years with the rise in prominence of key marketing and promotional techniques. Tiger Woods wins a major golf tournament by a record margin, and a portion of the television and news coverage discusses the marketing implications for Nike. Releases of major movie blockbusters come complete with coverage of the marketing, promotion and merchandising budgets, and these often make headlines ahead of the actors, storylines or movie itself. More interest was shown in the marketing of the Blair Witch Project than in the movie, possibly for justifiable reasons, but most likely because marketing has become a phenomena in itself. Since marketing went out of the boardroom and into the mainstream, post modern marketing research has examined the impact marketing has had on society. Usually this impact comes in the form of marketing's role for image creation (McEnally and Chernatony, 1999), use of ethnic groups (Szmigin and Carrigan, 2000), and the usual array of ethical considerations

(Hunt and Vitell, 1986, Waller, 1999). Marketing has also started to become a marketable element of contemporary culture, with pop icons such as Dilbert ( featuring sketches on marketing, and marketing making cameo appearances in other aspects of contemporary culture. The prevalence of marketing in contemporary culture has often disguised the two way interaction between marketing and society. Society has gained an understanding, and misunderstanding of many of the key aspects of marketing whilst giving back many ideas to the study of marketing. Marketing, by responding to popular culture, has gained an understanding of green marketing, the importance of relationship marketing, and the appreciation of its role within society as a conveyor of information, attitude and ideal. What has been lacking in marketing's understanding is how many marketing theories have been taught from childhood in the most unexpected marketing education medium. MARKETING'S LOST INNOVATOR: LESSONS FROM THE DR SEUSS MARKETING MANUALS Dr Seuss had had previous success as a political cartoonist and documentary maker, even if the role his children's books as marketing text was unrecognised. The implication of the breadth of publications and range of skills exhibited by Geisel is twofold. First, it demonstrates the writer was well versed in contemporary society and social theories, and had an awareness of political and social situations. Second, although apparently drawing a long bow, it demonstrates that the author had the capacity to be synthesising the "common sense" aspects of marketing from the social context around him. What is no longer claimed by this paper (since I no longer need to hide the nature of the work) is that Geisel created these concepts. Instead, I argue the reverse proposition that the nature of marketing as a ubiquitous social force has been reflected in the Seuss theory. The following section examines three classic Dr Seuss titles, "The Cat in the Hat", "Green Eggs and Ham" and "The Sneetches on the Beaches" to demonstrate the inherent marketing theory that permeates these literary works. (The original version of the paper also contained the Yertle the Turtle management theory case, which has since been excluded for reasons of brevity) Service failure and Service recovery - The Cat in the Hat Home Entertainment One of the more famous of the Dr Seuss collected works is the paired books of "The Cat in the Hat" and "The Cat in the Hat Returns". These two books profiled the endeavours of the Cat in the Hat home entertainment service, which can be seen to parallel a case examples of service failure and service recovery. The Cat in the Hat offered a home delivery service, with a range of services and products with an over emphasis was placed on tricks portfolio. The service employee, the Cat in the Hat although never clearly stated, appeared to be a franchise owner, using a corporate uniform of red and white elongated hat, red bow tie, white gloves and an umbrella all of which was designed to create a strong branding image. Products and services offered by the Cat were predominantly based on increasing the complexity of the initial offering of "Up-up-up with a fish". The expanded entertainment service incorporated the initial Up-up-up with a fish, and added holding up a cup, milk, cake, books, fish (on a rake), toy ship, toy man, red fan, whilst engaged in fanning (with the red fan) and hopping on a ball. With the over complication of the service task, resulting quite possibly from a lack of clear service script, service failure occurred. Complaining behaviour to the service provider (from fish to Cat) resulted in a second service offering from the cat, despite objections from the clients. Zeithaml and Bitner (2000) outline the typical response scenario to service failure, including complaining behaviour directly to the service provider, as was the case with the fish. This gave Cat in the Hat a service recovery opportunity, which in this instance was

replaced with the production orientation belief that a second service encounter would provide sufficiently positive outcomes to outweigh the initial service failure. The error on the Cat's behalf was not to take the complaining behaviour of the client seriously, believing that the complaint from one, and silence from the other two clients equated tacit support. Zeithaml also outlines passive complaining behaviour, where the customer does not complain directly, but refuses to reuse the service. The Cat also compounded the service failure with a second service failure, this time involving two "Things" (Thing 1 and Thing 2) who were employees of the Cat in a Hat. Following the second, and more serious service failure, the clients were left in a difficult situation where damages had been incurred, and senior supervisor of the clients (their mother), was due to make an inspection. A second instance of complaining behaviour to the cat: "Then I said to the cat," Now you do as I say. You pack up those Things And you take them away" resulted in the service provider, and his staff, departing from the premise, leaving the damages behind. Damages from the service encounter where initially estimated as "And this mess is so big And so deep and so tall, We can not pick it up. There is no way at all" It was at this point, that the Cat in the Hat offered a service recovery solution. Service recovery can take many forms, all of which rely on quick action, outcome, procedural and interactional fairness. In this scenario, the Cat returned to repair the damages caused by his two previous service offerings. Reinforcement of the Cat in a Hat product experience was integrated into the service recovery, increasing the consumer satisfaction, decreasing consumer complaining. Outcome fairness was established by the Cat repairing the damage done. Procedural fairness, which was lacking in the first service recovery attempt, was evident by a timely handling of the situation, resolving the problem before Mother's return home. Cat in the Hat was clearly empowered to make service recovery decisions without reference to senior management, and was able to make a timely recovery. Interaction fairness was displayed by the Cat's handling of the mess identified by the clients as the negative outcome of the service failure. Geisel (1957) makes an interesting use of branding in service recovery by the Cat's continued reference to his service recovery behaviour as being part of the product line up of available tricks in his statements of "Have no fear of this mess said the Cat in the Hat I always pick up my playthings And so… I will show you another Good trick that I know!" Swift recovery of the negative situation, and address a solution to the needs created by the initial service failures allowed the Cat to prevent future complaining behaviours and redeem the Cat in a Hat brand name. Although the clients were unlikely to recommend the company to their supervisor, they were not left out of pocket by the service failures. (See also Geisel (1958) "The Cat in the Hat Comes Back" for further examples of the Cat's role in service recovery in the home cleaning industry) Green Eggs and Ham: Promotion, Awareness and Trial Adoption

Perhaps the most ambitious work of Geisel's extensive career was Green Eggs and Ham, which was based around only 50 different words. The stated purpose of the text was to teach young readers the 50 most important words by use of forced repetition. However, Dr Seuss also inadvertently teaches a basic set of innovation adoption and promotional theories. "Green eggs and ham" were promoted as a new product by Sam-I-am, who used personal selling techniques combined with free product trial. Sam-I-am bases the initial approach with a teaser campaign, (as recommended by Stell and Paden (1999), to entice new use of the product) From the initial product rejection, the teaser campaign was expanded, offering an increased range of delivery options (product customisation to meet market needs). Continual rejection of the product by the target market was met with increased complication of the marketing message. Peer pressure, and the demonstration of peer adoption of the product was also used (Belch and Belch, 1997). Social comparison information, particularly that of social pressure concerning product adoption was employed in an attempt to use peer pressure for adoption compliance to the marketing message (Bearden and Rose, 1990). In addition, the marketing message had become overly complicated (for further examples of the dangers of message complication, see Geisel (1965) "Fox in Socks"). It is noted at this point that awareness of the product remained high, as did unprompted recall by the consumer. This is evidenced by the rejection message which outlines the full list of comparative offerings as to where the customer may like green eggs and ham. I could not, would not on a boat I will not, will not with a goat I will not eat them in the rain I will not eat them on a train Not in the dark! Not in a tree! Not in a car! You let me be!* I do not like them in a box I do not like them with a fox I will not eat them in a house I do not like them with a mouse I do not like them here or there I do not like them ANYWHERE!* I do not like green eggs and ham I do not like them, Sam-I-am (*Consumer frustration at the recurring sales pitch becomes increasingly more evident, possibly as a result of the high level of repetition creating a message burnout, - Belch and Belch, 1997) Whilst awareness remains high, the product is still untried by the client. Dr Seuss was creating a scenario for teaching the use of fifty words, yet he was also demonstrated that awareness without adoption fails to achieve the objective of the organisation. This was to become one of the most common complaints level of advertising in the late 1990s (Aitchison and French-Blake, 1999). In the green eggs scenario, Dr Seuss demonstrates that integrating the promotional message of trial adoption with a free sample in a low pressure environment, provides a greater return than the high pressure awareness campaign. "You do not like them So you say Try Them! Try Them! And you may. Try them and you may, I say" Sam!

If you will let me be, I will try them You will see Trial adoption in this case was specified with the soft sell parameter in that trial adoption was contingent on the Bagozzi (1975) exchange parameter of freedom to leave the exchange being satisfied. After a positive post trial evaluation, green eggs and ham were adopted. Green eggs and ham illustrates the need for an emphasis on trial adoption ahead of brand recognition, and peer pressure, and illustrates the importance of consumer empowerment. Once the consumer felt they had been empowered to reject the offer with no negative consequences, they were willing to engage in trial adoption. Until this point of empowerment, they had resisted trial adoption based on their experience of rejection of the advertising message. Sneetches on the Beaches: Branding, Image Transference and Social Meaning. Long before Nike invested millions into creating a tick logo known and recognised around the world as the "swoosh", Dr Seuss had written a classic story on the social impact of branding, and the meanings that can be attached to promotional imagery. "The Sneetches" outlined the social identification role played by the five pointed green Sneetch belly star, which authors such as McCracken (1989) would later formally recognise as the role of symbolic meaning. Dr Seuss, writing not long after the experiences of World War 2, and having been involved as a correspondent and documentary film maker, recognised the significance of the power of logos as being derived from cultural meanings: "Those stars weren't so big. There were really so small You might think such a thing wouldn't matter at all. But, because they had stars, all the Star-Belly Sneetches Would brag, "we're the best kind of Sneetch on the beaches" The basis of status was associated with the endorsement given by the presence of the star. However, as demonstrated by the intervention of Sylvester McMonkey McBean, and his Fixit-Up services which offered both star insertion and removal, the value of the star was based on economic scarcity, and its role as a class identifying marker was dependent on the lower social groups not having access to it. When faced with a situation where star bellied Sneetches from the original group could no longer rely on the star as an identifying marker, they were forced to adopt a star-free policy as an identifier. Message confusion ensued as both star removal and star addition services were freely available, breaking down the scarcity of the image symbol, and allowing free access to both symbols for both class groups. The end result was the degradation of the message associated with the image symbol, which, incidentally broke down the Sneetch class system (for better or worse). Stars lost their market value as social identifiers once they had become too common a commodity in the Sneetch market. The need for exclusive of image message was recognised by Dr Seuss long before Nike and Harley Davidson had invested heavily in branding, message identification and message targeting. (see also Dr Seuss "Too Many Daves" on the importance of distinctive branding when dealing with an extensive product range of similar products) CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATION OF THE RESEARCH Not for one moment do I claim that Theodor Geisel invented marketing. What this paper sets out to demonstrate is that marketing exists beyond the 4 Ps, outside of LISREL modelling and away from an obsessive focus on industry relevance. There are no real implications for industry because this piece has been about marketing, and the discipline of marketing. This paper intentionally set out to take a light hearted look at how marketing can be found in contemporary cultures from the 1950s and 1960s. The emphasis has been on trying to

demonstrate that much of marketing theory can be found in some of the darnedest places in both contemporary and classic society. Whether industry can learn from the lessons of Cat in the Hat, or advertising will heed the message complications of Fox in Socks is not the main concern of this paper. Marketing itself needs to be able to look at itself, if necessary laugh at itself, and understand who and what it is, where it has come from, and how it has played a role in society. In a marketing discipline increasingly hung up on industry relevance, there needs to be a place for industry irrelevance. Post modern marketing may provide the haven for marketing thoughts not directly relevant to the bottom line of industry. It may also hold the key for discovering the next exchange theory through analysis of marketing in contemporary culture and society. But above all, it may just happen to find marketing hiding where no-one really expected it classic children's literature. Marketing is a social process, and the works of Dr Seuss are part of the socialisation process of many children, who along with learning basic literacy, are picking up basic marketing as an added bonus. If this is the case, then Dr Seuss's role in creating acceptance for marketing messages and practices is more significant to industry and society than most would care to admit. The future of marketing may well depend on how many children accept the marketing activities of a Cat in a Hat as being a normal part of society. REFERENCES Aitchison, J and French-Blake, N, 1999, Cutting Edge Advertising: How to Create the World's Best Print for Brands in the 21st Century, Prentice Hall, Sydney. Bagozzi, R.P. (1975), “Marketing as exchange”, Journal of Marketing, No. 39, pp. 32-39. Bearden, W.O. & Rose, R.L. (1990). Attention to social comparison information : An individual difference factor affecting consumer conformity. Journal of Consumer Research, 16, 461-471. Belch, G.E. and Belch, M.A., Introduction to Advertising and Promotion: An Integrated Marketing Communications Perspective, 4th Edition, Richard D. Irwin Publishers, 1997. Dahlberg, T (2000) Tiger Woods could become sport's first 1 billion dollar athlete (On-line at Adams, S. "Dilbert" ( Geisel (1957) published as Seuss, Dr, (1957) The Cat in the Hat Collins. Geisel (1958) published as Seuss, Dr, (1958) The Cat in the Hat Comes Back, Collins. Geisel (1960) published as Seuss, Dr, (1960) Green eggs and ham, Collins. Geisel (1961) "Too Many Daves" in Seuss, Dr (1961) The Sneetches and other stories, Collins. Geisel (1961) "The Sneetches" in Seuss, Dr (1961) The Sneetches and other stories Collins Geisel (1965) published as Seuss, Dr, (1965) Fox in Socks,Collins.

Geisel (1965) "Gertrude McFuzz" in Seuss, Dr (1966) "Yertle the Turtle and other stories" Collins. Geisel's (1965) "Yertle the Turtle" in Seuss, Dr (1966) "Yertle the Turtle and other stories" Collins. Hunt, S. and Vitell, S. (1986), “A general theory of marketing ethics”, Journal of Macromarketing, McCracken, Grant (1989), "Who is the Celebrity Endorser? Cultural Foundations of the Endorsement Process" Journal of Consumer Research, 16, 310--21. McEnally, Martha R. and L. de Chernatony. 1999. "The Evolving Nature of Branding: Consumer and Managerial Considerations,.," Academy of Marketing Science Review No. 6, Spring, pp. 5-16. [Online] 99 (02) Available: Stell, R. and Paden, N. (1999), " Vicarious exploration and catalogue shopping: a preliminary Investigation" Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 16 No. 4, pp. 332-344, Szmigin, I, and Carrigan, M (2000) Does advertising in the UK need older models? Journal of Product and Brand Management; Vol 09: No. 2 2000; pp. 128-143. Viljoen, J and Dann, S (2000) Strategic management: planning and implementing successful corporate strategies, Addison-Wesley Longman Waller, D. 1999 " Attitudes towards offensive advertising: an Australian study" Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol 16 Issue 3, pp. 288-294. Zeithaml, V. A. and Bitner, M. J. (2000) Services marketing : integrating customer focus across the firm. Irwin/McGraw-Hill.

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Special offer for students: Only $4.99/month.

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Cancel anytime.