This past weekend, while I was busy prepping for Christmas, I learned something new about myself as a marketer.
My dad, Jim Brown, died over 3 years ago from glioblastoma, a deadly form of brain cancer. Any of you that have lost a parent know that you never quite “get over” it. Recently, my brother and I were cleaning out a bunch of things from my dad’s barn and I came across some wooden fishing plugs that my father had made. Instantly I recalled that he spent his spare time lovingly manufacturing, painting and assembling wooden plugs for fishing, a hobby that he adored. He sold some of his wares through a local tackle shop.
When I saw the plugs, I decided I wanted to make a shadowbox for my brother as a Christmas gift (shhh, don’t tell him). He and my dad were very close and he, too, has always loved fishing. He’s also one of the most difficult people to select a gift for, but that’s beside the point. After a couple hours reminiscing with my brother in the barn, I filled an old wooden toolbox with some of the fishing plugs and a few butternut squashes from my brother’s garden.
This weekend, I sat down to assemble the shadowbox and I pulled out the three plugs I had selected. Two of them were about 10 inches long and a third was 6 inches. I looked at them closely – they had been packaged in a small clear plastic bag with a label, hand-affixed with staples to close the bag. The label had a cute little logo printed in black on light blue heavy stock and words that that read:
Plug Builders Supply Co.
Hand made in the U.S.A.
Lead free for a safer environment
I started to laugh and to cry at the same time. My father, a life-long manufacturing manager was always a quiet man. He could build or fix or climb or lift anything. He had “working hands” and could hold his breath underwater for what seemed like an eternity. He had a lethal cannonball, which meant nobody was ever safe in the pool – or on the pool deck. I never thought of him as a “businessman,” yet here I was, staring at his marketing – his differentiators – spelled out for all to see on a product he loved.
I carefully removed the staples and took out the first plug. It was painted in shades of green, carefully applied in a gradient fashion. There was silver glitter over the green, visible through a glossy clear topcoat with happy yellow plastic eyes and big menacing triple hooks, used for sea fishing. Inside the bag was a small piece of paper with instructions on how to bend the lip in order to make the plug swim in different patterns and the benefits of doing that. My father’s words.
I assembled the shadowbox with the two big lures placed vertically side-by-side and the small one aligned horizontally over them. And, the marketer in me couldn’t help but include the label and the instructions.
I always knew I had some of my dad’s traits. He taught us how to work hard, fostered our love of animals, and encouraged our inner geeks (my brother and I both have that.) What I didn’t realize is that maybe my love of marketing came from him, that this career I love is a piece of him carried with me. Or, maybe it’s not. Either way, there’s no denying that marketers love to market a good product that is differentiated. And, in that way, I’m no different than my dad.