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Why Your Worldview is Wrong…but it Doesn’t Matter.

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People are different. We all have our own unique worldview made up of our own rules, values, beliefs and biases which we’ve picked up from family, friends, neighbors and other influencers in our lives (these traits are sometimes referred to as psychographics but that is actually a broader term). In general, this worldview is very difficult to change. By the marketer, at least. No matter what kind of stats or information you offer, it’s not likely to change someone’s perception. Just think of politics. Someone who believes in the Affordable Care Act is not likely to be convinced otherwise by those who believe Obamacare is a bad idea.

Baby Einstein

A good study in the effect of worldviews, and who can actually change them, is the Baby Einstein phenomena. Since the early 2000’s, parents had bought the videos for their children in the hopes of making them smarter (we still have several although our kids are too old for them now). The funny thing is, according to Baby Einstein creator Julie Aigner-Clark, the videos were never originally marketed as educational (although the name does suggest otherwise). The videos were created to give babies time with their parents to interact and be exposed to colors, music and words. The my-baby-will-be-a-genius-if-I-plop-them-in-front-of-this-video concept came from word of mouth and parents who need a half an hour to do some house work. Soon after the company was clearly successful, Aigner-Clark sold to Disney and the company expanded the offerings into toys, additional videos and Little Einsteins. Disney quickly observed this worldview held by many parents and continued to tell the story they wanted to hear: This stuff is educational and good for your kids.

In 2007, however, a study by the University of Washington came out stating, among infants aged 8 to 16 months, exposure to “baby DVDs/videos,” such as Baby Einstein, was strongly associated with lower scores on a standard language development test. The university released a statement claiming there was no clear evidence of any benefit and there is some suggestion of harm. This, of course, became very public and the media began to question the value of the videos. Although there weren’t many direct claims against the videos and even multiple studies which found evidence contrary to the University of Washington’s, the damage was done. Sales fell and support for the videos in parental circles (from my experiences) dropped off. Our kids are fine by the way.

The rise and fall of Baby Einstein was completely powered by forces outside of the company’s control

The rise and fall of Baby Einstein was completely powered by (1) forces outside of the company’s control, (2) which may or may not have been true that (3) changed the target market’s worldview. Did Disney try to change the public’s new perception that the videos weren’t beneficial in order to save sales? Not really. They released statements standing behind their product and revised their marketing due to a class action lawsuit. They didn’t commission their own study or do an ad blitz to state how great their videos really are. They understood their target market’s view had changed and adjusted their actions accordingly. They knew anything they did would be perceived as self-serving and met with skepticism.

It’s an important message in publicity. Good and bad. People trust sources like educators and the news more than anything you will say as a business. Reviews and testimonials are even questionable these days. The whole idea you can “get out in front” of bad news or “control the message” is misleading. The best marketers and companies are the ones who are quickest to adjust to the news and changing opinions. The only things they’re out in front of are the competitors.