Remarkable work is easier than average work

Fringe benefits come from creating exceptional work. I was reminded of that idea recently at a presentation by two of the founders of Posh Tots.

Posh Tots is an interesting company that sells extremely high-end home furnishings for kids’ rooms. We’re talking about beds for kids that cost over $20,000 each (but they are pretty cool). Andrea Edmunds and Pam O’Hallaron, founders of Posh Tots, shared thoughts about their company at a recent Friday Forum (presented by the VCU Brandcenter).

A few of the important things I took away from the presentation were:

The things that these two kids stand for can help students learn to advertise smarter. The kids can also teach students how to get a job.

1. Being remarkable generates buzz automatically. To make a splash when they were just starting out, Posh Tots created a few remarkable things like a Cinderella carriage bed ($47,000) and a pirate ship bed ($4,000). They pushed those remarkable things out via nice photography to select magazine editors, and let their remarkable work create the buzz.
Looking at this same concept on the other side, it will say something like this: “Being average takes a lot of extra work to be noticed.”

2. Find solutions not excuses. The company began in 2000. Within two years of launching this new luxury brand, the US economy was in the tank deep. It was a terrible time to start a company. It was a super-terrible time to try to sell high-end luxury children’s furnishings. They had plenty of excuses to fold or to accept poor results, but they didn’t.

3. Appeal to a few passionate people. Posh Tots markets to the super wealthy with young children. That’s a puny market by anyone’s standards. They didn’t want to appeal to lots of consumers because that’s not what they are about. Focusing on the niche means that there was little or no competition, and that’s always good. With a narrow focus, Posh Tots is able to become experts at what they do… and that reduces the likelihood of legitimate competition. These passionate clients told their friends, and the buzz spread (see point #1 above).

4. When someone becomes an expert at a particular thing, other people will think that he/she is an expert at other things. Posh Tots began in the business of remarkable furnishings for kids. And that’s still their core focus. However, clients are coming to them to create furnisings for grownups, for interior design, and for many other things outside of their core focus. Can you imagine going to the person who sells living-room recliners at Sears and asking that person to design an office? No, because most recliner sales people are not creating remarkable things.

Posh tots does exceptional, remarkable work; they don’t accept failure, and they focus on their specialty niche.

Let’s relate the concepts from Posh Tots to teaching advertising. When presenting an ad assignment, discuss how students can create good work easier:
1) Find a focus; don’t try to appeal to everyone. Everyone will NOT buy your client’s stuff. Everyone will NOT love your ads. Branding is ALWAYS easier when trying to appeal to a narrow, well-defined target audience (rather than a broad, blurry audience).
2) Don’t give up. Branding that works is really hard, but it’s not rocket science. Everyone can make pretty good branding by keeping focused on the objective, keep trying, and thinking deep.
3) Make people talk. Create work that is going to generate attention on its own. Students often have difficulty evaluating the creative merits of their own work. I have found that students can easily answer this question: “Will that ad make people call to their friend in the other room and say, ‘Come look at this!’?”

When students create a portfolio, a resume, a cover letter, etc., they often want to try to be a jack of all trades. They don’t want to position themselves too narrowly for the fear that they might be typecast and excluded for many jobs. As Posh Tots shows, job seekers should focus on becoming exceptional in one area, and other people will assume that they are exceptional in other areas, too.

If students take the Posh Tots advice, in a few years they can afford a Chuckwagon Toddler Bed ($14, 918). Sweet dreams.