Marketing For Kids, Part 2: Finding a Unique Product

No amount of marketing will save a bad product; many businesses have tested this cliche and found it true, to their dismay. Before we do anything else, we have to ask: does anyone want the product we plan to make?

As a parent, nearly everything my child makes is great – to me. One of the jobs of a parent is to provide encouragement, love, and support. As a marketer, a guaranteed market of one customer is a terrible place to be. If we want to sell our stuff, we need to know lots of people want to buy it.

Let’s begin by understand what people want.

What People Want

When people want something, they tend to search for it, discuss it, and then perhaps buy it. We want to find a broad category of product people want, then find our own unique take on the category, something that fewer people want, but want it very badly. For example, peanut butter in chocolate is a very popular combination in America. Garlic in chocolate is not; however, it’s a popular kind of candy in Lithuania. If we were to make it in America, we might be able to find people of Lithuanian descent in America and sell them their favorite candy that’s extremely hard to find here.

Another example is a particular type of Norwegian cheese called gjetost. Gjetost is a caramelized cheese, made by slowly melting and cooking it for hours until the natural milk sugars caramelize. It’s almost impossible to find in America except for one or two restaurants. In this example, the broad category is cheese, which lots of people search for. The narrow, unique take is a very difficult to find kind of cheese.


What if we don’t necessarily know exactly what people want? We can use tools and software to help us. While grownup marketers have million dollar software at their disposal, kids generally don’t. So what could our kids use to find out if their great idea is actually great? Google provides 3 excellent, free tools to help us identify if our idea is on the right track. If you’re following along, you’ll want to have a paper and pen or spreadsheet handy – and if you’re a kid, be sure you have your parent’s permission to use the Internet.

Google Trends

Our first stop is Google Trends. Google Trends tells us how many people are searching for certain kinds of words, based on a starting word. Here, I’ve typed in chocolate candy:


Hit search, and we get these results:


We see that chocolate candy is quite popular, and is especially popular every December, February, and April, corresponding to three holidays – Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter.

If we scroll down the page, we can see some additional ideas for our product based on what people search for:


People look for candy bars and white chocolate; if we’re thinking about making handmade chocolate, we should put white chocolate versions on the list.

Google Autosuggest

Our second stop is Google’s Autosuggest, which pops up any time we start typing a search into Google:


Here, we type and look to see what else Google suggests for ideas, for what it thinks people are searching for. Anything that sounds like a product we should make (or an idea for a product) should go on our sheet of paper.

AdWords Keyword Tool

The third tool is part of Google’s advertising system, and requires parental supervision. The AdWords Keyword Tool is part of Google’s AdWords advertising system. You don’t need to spend any money, but it will ask you as part of signing up for it to put in a credit card. For safety, I keep an unfunded (but still valid) American Express gift card handy to put in for the credit card.

Once you’ve signed in and created an account, go to the Tools menu and choose Keyword Planner:


Choose “Search for new keywords” and type in our list of ideas we’ve generated so far:


Click Get Ideas (the blue button at the bottom), and look at the results:


In this long list will be additional ideas. What we’re looking for are things which are searched for frequently (a high number of average monthly searches) and low competition. These are the products and services that are relatively underserved; people want them and search for them, but companies that buy ads aren’t necessarily spending much or competing much to advertise to those people.

Finishing Our Unique Product Idea

The very best product ideas combine popular things in interesting ways. If you like horses, making white chocolate candy (which is popular) in the shape of horses (also popular) is a more unique idea. Use these tools over and over again until you find an idea you really want to make and that you’re capable of making.

In the next post, we’ll look at the marketing tools and technologies you’ll need to sell your product online from home!

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Marketing For Kids, Part 1: Introduction

Marketing For Kids

Few things teach us the value of money like not having enough. For good or ill, many of the experiences we have in life are governed by two primary resources: time and money. Parents strive to teach their children the value of both. As a parent myself, I want my kids to grow up understanding not only that time and money have value, but how to create more of both when necessary.

Many parents try to teach the value of money with methods like a weekly allowance. The catch with an allowance, as most parents implement it, is that it creates a fixed labor mindset: you do X and you get Y, and that rarely changes. Reality is far from that; from uncertain job markets to entrepreneurship, life is rarely so predictable or secure. Allowances also tend to teach that it’s okay to do the minimum amount of work to earn the minimum amount of money, which is not a life lesson I want to reinforce.

What I’d like my kids to learn instead is that with the right mix of time, effort, and knowledge, they can achieve more than just the minimum. They can create results – including money – which go beyond just punching a clock for 8 hours a day or collecting federal minimum wage. If they want something, they’ll have the tools and talent to generate the necessary resources to earn that something. What they will need to provide is focused effort – and that’s a lesson for all of us. Every day, we make choices that improve or diminish our lives, from what we eat to who we call friends to what we do with our leisure time.

This multi-part series will tackle the fundamentals of marketing as it applies to a home-based business. My eldest child is interested in setting up an Etsy-style shop, so in this series we’ll look at the basics of setting up a home-based business and focus on the marketing of the products. We’ll start with things like the USP – the unique selling proposition – and customer profile, walk through the necessary marketing technology infrastructure, and build out a marketing plan that a technically savvy tween/teen can execute reliably.

Will my child strike it rich with these techniques? Probably not. Will they create a reasonably reliable, consistent stream of income above and beyond their allowance? As long as they put in the work. I’ll provide the tools and knowledge; they have to provide the effort.

If you’re a parent, or someone who wants to develop a “side hustle”, please join me on this journey over the next few posts. I also want to emphasize that this is not the “right” way to parent, nor are the lessons I want to teach my kids necessarily the lessons you should want to teach yours. This is one person’s opinion only; take whatever is valuable and leave what isn’t. The only people I take responsibility for are my own kids.

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The Difference Between Sympathy and Empathy

I recently had a discussion with one of my SHIFT colleagues about sympathy and empathy. We often conflate the meaning of these two words, but in practice, they separate (but related) concepts.

Sympathy translates from Greek as “with feeling”.

etymology of sympathy.png

Empathy translates from Greek as “in feeling”.

etymology of empathy.png

Both words share the root pathos, which originally meant a quality that evokes pity or suffering.

This is the key difference:

  • Sympathy means to feel pity or suffering with someone.
  • Empathy means to be inside someone else’s pity or suffering.

When we need to help others, sympathy helps no one. Sympathy simply doubles the amount of suffering in the world. Empathy – the ability to understand someone else’s suffering, to see the world through their eyes – is far more useful.

When we see the world through someone else’s eyes, we understand why they make the decisions they make, even if we don’t agree with those decisions. We perceive the conditions which generate their choices.

When we truly see the world through someone else’s eyes, we can help guide them to make better decisions while still being mindful of their limitations.

Adding extra emotion – sympathy – to already emotional situations does little to nothing to help improve things. Perceiving correctly, seeing things as they are from someone else’s point of view – empathy – can help me to help others find solutions to their problems. Given a choice between sympathy and empathy, I choose empathy every time.

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