I know a lot has been written about the Elf on the Shelf. Pro and con, hate and love, who cares? What I want to do is use the elf as my template to conjure up the next big toy/ parenting insanity combo.
I’ve done my research (I Googled) and hello, this elf thing is only 10 years old! A decade is all it took for elf mania to sweep the country. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that a plastic elf is kicking Merry Old St. Nick to the curb. Yeah, that’s right. Santa Claus, a multicentury-old tradition of giving, is being usurped by an 4-inch toy with its own “Claus Couture” clothing line!
And not just usurped, but I fear, brave readers, that this elf thing is on its way to becoming a religion. OK, relax. I’ll concede (just so I don’t get ecclesiastically themed hate emails) that calling it a religion may be overstating things, but for sure it has become a lifestyle choice and as we all know, for many people that’s pretty much the same thing.
So let’s take this knowledge and get to work.
The good news, I, from my own experience of spending many, many hours sitting in school drop-off and pick-up lanes, know that a lot of parents are idiots. I’m not just basing this on their lack of skill of following the proper rules and procedures for the whole kid exiting your car thing.
I’m also using the visual inventory of what kids are wearing and holding as they disembark from their parent’s vehicles as another measurement of stupidity. Let’s be real here. When a 6-year-old has a iPhone 6, a $100 backpack and boots that cost twice that, it doesn’t take a behavioral economist to ascertain that as parents we are not just stooges, but also highly susceptible to the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” peer pressure. In the history of mankind has there ever been a better time to market something ridiculous to moms and dads? I think not.
This means it’s go time for the next lame, yet exceedingly popular, holiday toy/cult. To achieve elf-like success I’ve selected two areas of focus. One, it has to create a lot of work for the parents so that complaining about the toy becomes almost a hobby. Second, and this is the big one, it has to be something that speaks to a certain breed of parents’ psychological need to compete via social media. I believe if the elf came out pre-Internet it wouldn’t have had a chance. Yeah, maybe it would be a so-so holiday book, but it wouldn’t be out there kicking Claus’ kiester.
The whole elf phenomenon didn’t take off until parents began flocking to social media to show off what their elf was doing. It was then that he race was on. Not only are there cutesy, G-rated elf photos, but now you can even find Elf on the Shelf porn, which I believe is the universal sign of marketing success.
I have a few ideas, none of them great. The one I think has the most potential is the “Globe of Gratitude.” It would be a plush, stuffed, circular toy that looks like Earth. Starting on Thanksgiving, parents would take out the globe and pass it to their children as they share what they’re thankful for. Then each night until the New Year parents hide the globe and when their kids find it every morning there’s a small present thanking them for being grateful. This could be big. It checks off the areas of focus and then some!
Let’s break it down. It’s got the work thing covered. Imagine the hassle and expense of having to buy and wrap little presents for your kids from Thanksgiving to Dec. 31. I can already see parents madly tweeting about being so “tired from all the globe present shopping” (#globegifting) and Pinterest pages popping up offering “quick and cute” globe gift ideas, cookie recipes and party themes. (Followed by Pottery Barn Kid’s debuting their Gratitude Globe sheet set and flannel duvet cover.) But that’s just the beginning of the social media onslaught.
You know how people love to do humble/brag gratitude posts? Well, imagine all the Facebook and Instagram competitive postings from parents sharing their kids’ precious and precocious globe gratitudes every, single day! Forget about Kim Kardashian’s assets: This would be the thing that would break the Internet.
Well, now I’ve just got myself really excited. Anyone ready to help me with this? I’ve got a $50 Southwest Airlines coupon we can use. Toy Show, here we come!
Freelancer Sherry Kuehl of Leawood writes Snarky in the Suburbs occasionally for 816. You can follow her on Twitter at @snarkynsuburbs and read her blog at snarkyinthesuburbs.com. She’s also written a book, “Snarky in the Suburbs Back to School.”