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.