Lars Perner, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Clinical Marketing
Department of Marketing, Marshall School of Business
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0443
Phone: (213) 740-7127 Cell: (213) 304-17264



Sub Image


Rudolph, the Redneck Reindeer

A Story That Only A Marketer
Could Have the Vision to Write


Copyright (c)  1991 Lars Perner


    Rudolph had never felt comfortable in the plush reception area outside his employer's office, and he felt slightly apprehensive about the summons.  With the state of the economy, the message would probably not be one of a raise.  Still, Rudolph had never expected the worst.


    Rudolph's heart sank when he saw the expression on his employer's face.  The man in the red suit was looking so miserable that it was quite unlikely that anything pleasant would come out of the meeting.  But, still, maybe he had just had an argument with his wife or one of his toy suppliers.  Maybe he just needed Rudolph's advice.  He had never asked for it before, buy maybe this would be a first.


    Rudolph, who had never felt comfortable in a chair, sat on the floor.


    With a heavy heart, his employer began to tell him the story of why he had to let him go.  Rudolph could not believe his own ears.


    "You see, Rudolph, people today are, on the average, more educated than those of previous generations.  They are beginning to demand more sophistication from Christmas seasonal workers.  Of course, the first to go will be rednecks like you, who know nothing about manners, but it won't be long before even I will have to start wearing a more respectable suit, and maybe even a tie.  Maybe I'll even have to start shaving one day.  The bottom line is this:  You get three months' severance pay, but you'd better start looking for another job fast!"


    Rudolph started to talk, but his employer cut him off.


    "No, it's not just a matter of reducing your salary another ten percent.  I know that pulling a sleigh is all you know how to do, but face it, I'm a businessman, and people today demand sophistication.  Last week, I had employment applications from five sophisticated reindeer.  You know, one of them even listens to classical music!"


    Rudolph had always been suspicious of unions, but since there were no right to work laws on the North Pole, he had been forced to join.  Now he had to make use of that liberal institution.  He hadn't paid his dues for a few months, but maybe there would be a law compelling the organization to help him anyway.


    "What do you mean, you can't help me?  I've got more seniority than any of those reindeer who use correct grammar and know how to curse in foreign languages," he protested when the union steward explained that his hands were tied.


    "Sure, but with the state of the economy at the moment, I can't call a strike right before Christmas.  Our other reindeer need the income.  Besides, your nose is just a little too bright.  That's just not in fashion any more."  Of course, the pale nosed union steward did not mention that he had just received a "facilitating payment" from their mutual employer the other day.


    But despite his lack of manners, Rudolph was not without resources.   He remembered that he had overheard his employers talk with one of his suppliers the other day.  The supplier had experienced a serious decline in sales of his toys.  Afraid that he would have to engage in some costly innovative scheme to meet competition, the manufacturer had gone to a marketing consultant who had conducted some research.  The recommendation had been a hefty increase in prices, particularly that of toy reindeers, to underscore the perception of quality of the products.  The manufacturer had never thought of this before since the quality of his toys was, in fact, quite poor, but the strategic repositioning had worked.


    Rudolph got out the yellow pages and called up the marketing consultant, who agreed to do a study.  He immediately arranged for a focus group.


    Three weeks later, the consultant called Rudolph with the good news.  People, it turned out, were really quite sentimental after all.  They wanted Christmas the old fashioned way.  In fact, the major criterion on which parents and their children seemed to evaluate the quality of a reindeer turned out to be the brightness of his or her nose.  Shininess was much more important than sophistication.


    When the marketing consultant faxed in the executive summary of his findings, Rudolph's employer was so impressed that he asked for an immediate meeting to discuss the study in more detail.  By this time, the marketing consultant had also gathered two hundred responses from a mall intercept survey so that he was able to say with 98% confidence that between 82% and 89% of shoppers actually preferred redneck reindeer.


    There was no question about the evidence.  Rudolph got his job back, but his employer decided to lay off some of the more sophisticated reindeer.  The rest of the sophisticated reindeer had their wages cut by fifteen percent.