Ornaments hang on a Christmas Tree

Pop Culture Incorporated: Why I’m Hiring Ralphie from “A Christmas Story”

It was while watch­ing “A Christ­mas Sto­ry” for around the 800th time over the week­end that I real­ized I should prob­a­bly offer Ral­phie a job.

Sure, there are some down­sides, most­ly that he’s fic­tion­al, lives in the 1940s and also is nine years old. But the upsides are plen­ti­ful. In his quest to per­suade his par­ents to buy him a BB gun as a Christ­mas gift, the per­sis­tent, cre­ative kid employs a num­ber of tried-and-true com­mu­ni­ca­tions strate­gies and tactics:

Key mes­sages: To make sure his audi­ence knows he wants not just any BB gun, Ral­phie gets extreme­ly pre­cise in his mes­sag­ing: He specif­i­cal­ly and repeat­ed­ly asks for a “Red Ryder 200-shot range-mod­el BB gun with a com­pass in the stock and this thing which tells time.” You know the mar­ket­ing adage that some­one needs to hear a mes­sage sev­en times for it to start to sink in? Accord­ing to IMDB, Ral­phie repeats that he wants the BB gun 28 times over the course of the film.

Paid media: Ral­phie strate­gi­cal­ly sneaks a BB gun ad into his mother’s copy of Look Mag­a­zine, so she “would find her­self clev­er­ly trapped into read­ing a Red Ryder sales pitch.” It’s a bulls­eye-shot exam­ple of deliv­er­ing con­tent to an extreme­ly tar­get­ed audi­ence, his mom.

Sto­ry­telling: Ral­phie gets his par­ents’ atten­tion at the break­fast table by clear­ly and com­pelling­ly com­mu­ni­cat­ing a prob­lem that get­ting his cov­et­ed gift could solve: A friend saw some griz­zly bears near the can­dy store. Yes, he made it up, so we’d have to work on that. But it did break through the noise. His father even put down his news­pa­per for a sec­ond to lis­ten to Ralphie’s tale.

Con­tributed con­tent: When his teacher assigns an essay detail­ing “What I want for Christ­mas,” Ral­phie sees an oppor­tu­ni­ty to build a coali­tion of sup­port. “I knew that when Miss Shields read my mag­nif­i­cent, elo­quent theme, that she would sym­pa­thize with my plight and every­thing would work out some­how.” Spoil­er alert: she didn’t.

Influ­encer mar­ket­ing: He ulti­mate­ly takes his case to the one guy who might be able to per­suade his par­ents, the depart­ment-store San­ta. Ral­phie wasn’t sure, but he sus­pect­ed that when a kid sat on Santa’s lap and told him what they want­ed for Christ­mas, the (not so) jol­ly old elf passed the mes­sage along to mom and dad. “Most of us were scoffers,” Ral­phie said. “But moments before Zero Hour, it did not pay to take chances.”

Even though Ralphie’s efforts were met with strong objec­tions every step of the way (“You’ll shoot your eye out!”), in the end, did he achieve his goal? As sure as Scut Farkus is a grade‑A jerk, Ralphie’s pow­ers of per­sua­sion did the trick.

So, con­grat­u­la­tions, and wel­come to Bell­mont Part­ners, Ral­phie. Your intern­ship starts Mon­day. But please leave the BB gun and your bun­ny suit at home.

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