Marketing Tips from Mister Rogers


Relationship building trumps flashiness.

Mr. Rogers replaced the flashiness of other television entities with a strong effort at building an honest relationship with his viewers by addressing his their concerns (at least as best a television personality might do in the days of a one-way medium). Most of the time, he addressed his viewers directly, even taking them on trips to meet his friends, and introducing guests who stopped by, things that we would do when we are in a relationship with someone we care about.

Don't promise more intimacy than you can deliver. 

Mr. Rogers often looked into the camera, saying things like, "I've really enjoyed talking with you this week. I hope I have answered a few of the questions you've had. I really wish I could know each, and every one of you personally, but unfortunately this television show is the only way we have to talk. If you have other questions that I haven't answered, find someone you love, and who loves you in your own life, and ask them." Really, is there a more perfect mindset that brands should take, online or off?

For brands that appeal to a large customer base, the company cannot have personal relationships with everyone. Social media, however, does provide a way to be more conversational, as it provides a venue for customer contact when they have a problem, etc. The key is to take the appropriate tone with customers, and to demonstrate approachability, but also to be honest about your limits, lest customers be disappointed.

Be consistent in who you are, and what people should expect from you.

From Fred Rogers' first show in 1968 until his last in 2001, surprisingly little has notably changed. Mr. Rogers’ brand - well defined and constant - remained calm in the changing seas of culture. There were many subtle shifts in the nuances of his shows: the anxieties he addressed, and the topics he covered. But Fred always found a way to address them, and meet his audience’s expectations. Mr. Rogers was a trusted friend to whom we could always turn, a prime example of how brands should be responsive to culture, mindful of context, and remembrant of why audiences come to them in the first place. 

Customers' questions are worth answering.

Mr. Rogers took us seriously, asked us what our pain points were, and offered the best solutions he could. Brands might be well served to do this a little more often for their customers.

Brands can take a stand.

Despite his calm demeanor, Mr. Rogers was known for taking a stand for what he believes in, which was consistent with his public persona. Brands too often shy away from supporting something, or else, when they do take a stand, their ‘causes’ are disjointed from their brand and industry.

Mr. Rogers saw the value of cultivating his own brand, but he did so in a quiet and dignified way that made the tone and authenticity of his show, as well as his relationship with viewers, unmatched by any television property ever seen before or since. We can't help but think that we've all too often strayed away from some of those first lessons we heard as children.

Excerpts from Fast Company's expert blogger Sam Ford, 5 Marketing Lessons from Mr. Rogers, 2010.

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