A spoonful of sugar helps the marketing get planned: Business insights from Mary Poppins

Marketing insights with Mary Poppins (Image Wikipedia)

Did you know that the iconic musical film, Mary Poppins, was written at Walt Disney while five other films were being worked on?

And some of the most memorable songs came together through chaos, luck and timing, which sounds like a recipe for small business marketing.

Over the recent school holidays, my wife bought Mary Poppins on DVD to show our young girls.

What struck me was how worldly wise many of the scenarios and song lyrics were.

The major theme is one of work-life balance; enjoy what you do BUT make sure you make time for your family and life.

But the biggest surprise to me was a bonus track on the soundtrack in which the two composers, Richard and Robert Sherman, share a behind-the-scenes insight into the songs in the movie.

Let’s go fly an idea

The Sherman brothers were apparently working on five other movies at the same time as Mary Poppins.

I think most people I meet in small to medium businesses can empathise with that overload and juggling.

However, I’m sure you are likely to be flabbergasted to realise that musical gems such as Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, Feed The Birds and Chim Chim Cher-ee were written under such intense pressure.

For many of us, the overwhelming loads on our plates are excuses for dropping quality, not excelling.

A spoonful of observation helps the medicine go down

Amid the pressure of writing songs for Mary Poppins and other movies all at once, the Sherman brothers were told that the main song they had written for the film, The Eyes Of Love, was rejected by Julie Andrews and Walt Disney told them to write a more ‘Mary Poppins’ song quick smart.

They started working through pithy sayings and proverbs, things like, a stitch in time saves nine, to try to get to the hear of the Mary Poppins character.

And this is where putting down a task until tomorrow can be invaluable.

One of the brothers was home that night, talking to his son who told him he’d had his vaccinations at school that day.

Did it hurt, asked Mr Sherman, no, said they son, they dropped the medicine onto a sugar cube, it was a piece of cake.

In a moment of presence, observation, luck and timing, an idea was sewn. This makes me wonder how present we are, as life, chores, and busyness clog our ‘down time’; how many ideas are we missing?

The next day, the idea was shared with the other brother, what do you think of a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down?

Ridiculous was the response, until it seeded a second idea.

Stay Awake, an unexpected lullaby

The Sherman brothers had an epiphany as they played with the spoonful of sugar, and it is the sort of thinking marketers should work hard to develop.

They realised that the essence of Mary Poppins’ character was to see things differently (or more truly, depending on your perspective) and so one of her lullabies to get the children to sleep was called, Stay Awake.

That realisation gave the Shermans the idea that when Mary sang ‘down’ in, a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down. the music mood should go up.

This really is an important lesson for marketers.

If our ads, products, services, websites, sales spiels, social media updates match exactly what people expect a business like ours to produce, we risk boring ourselves out of existence.

So, a little Mary Poppins could just be the spoonful of sugar we need to breathe new life into our marketing and ourselves.

Can we all try this week to do something unexpected, surprising, delightful, or, heaven forbid, fun?

And I don’t just mean something random, but something in keeping with our brand’s essence, just as the Shermans teased out the essence of Mary Poppins in their songs.

If you need some inspiration, here is the very song itself.

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1 Comment

  1. Julia Kennewell

    Hi Steve, Well I can’t believe I just watched this video as I finished off a quote. For some strange reason I snapped my fingers just like Mary, and soon found myself tidying up my office – and rediscovered a document I was missing! So thanks for the inspiration, you just never know what unintended benefits your tips will achieve.

    Regards Julia


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