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Ordinary People With Extraordinary Ideas (That Play On Parents Fears)

"The Oprah Winfrey Show." on June 19, 2003 featured Ordinary People with Extraordinary Ideas. What is one of the running themes of these successful products and services? Try this on for size: If you want to start a "can't miss" new business, play or the insecurities or fears of the working parents (especially mothers).

Two of the featured guests typify the trend:

Scrapbooking for Moms
Lisa Bearnson promotes scrapbooking supplies on QVC and teaches seminars. She started a scrapbooking magazine called Creating Keepsakes, and a web site - Making Memories - that sell all the tools you need to start your own scrapbooks.

Baby Einstein Video
Julie Aigner-Clark developed Baby Einstein videos, toys, books and flashcards to stimulate infant learning with art, poetry and classical music. Julie sold the company to Disney for $18 million dollars, and collects a hefty salary as a Disney consultant.

Some of the most successful ideas that are promoted on Oprah's show (she does these kinds of episodes fairly often) are ideas that capitalize on the type of parent who has plenty of money, but a lack of time. These parents worry that they are not successfully parenting their children due to work commitments. Their life is a constant balancing act between the necessity to earn money and spend quality time raising their children. These products and services fill a void, real or imagined, in the parents' quest to raise the perfect child. Courtney has a good summation of some of the worries of women considering making motherhood a profession here.

Worried that your child is not going to be gifted? Buy a set of videos that will teach your child.
Worried that you are not documenting your child's development? Subscribe to a scrapbooking magazine.
Worried your child is not socializing properly? Enroll them in an expensive commercially provided play group like Little Gym.

As any parent can tell you the list goes on and on…

So all you really need to make your millions is and idea that plays on the fears of today's parents. The variety of possible business ideas is endless. Here's a quick example I just though of: You could start a class to teach kids about the dangers of strangers (child molesters). Of course you would make the whole thing fun and interesting…

Why are these ideas effective? My belief is that niche products and services like these are wildly successful due to our generation's lack of faith in the public school system. We used to think that our kids would be taught the basics in school, but now most people realize that sending your child to public schools will not prepare them for the real world. Even within the structure of the public school system there are a myriad of extracurricular activities that require that parents pay for the privilege of their child's participation.

A whole cottage industry has developed around catering to the worries of parents. There is a product or service that you can purchase to address most any perceived problem. I use the word 'perceived' deliberately, since your child will probably be no better off in life if they have a scrapbook or watched a video set to classical music.

But that's not really the point is it? It's all about making the parent feel better…

Update: Tiger has a nice analysis of Parental Guilt and Stay at Home Moms!. It is a good analysis of the issues raised here and in Courtney's post.

Comments (1)

They can all kiss my ass.</... (Below threshold)

They can all kiss my ass.

I'd rather be out doing stuff with my kids than scrapbooking "memories" of them with other people.






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