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A Christmas (Marketing) Story

Charles is an entrepreneur.  He plans to make it big.

It’s Christmas time, but Charles wants to be ready for the first quarter, so he’s alone, working on his marketing plan.  He needs to delve into his target audience to outline important characteristics and demographics.

But the data isn’t coming together.  Charles realizes he doesn’t really know the people who might buy his product.  What’s their story?  How will this offer fit into their lifestyle?

After hours of research, Charles needs a break.  He clicks on the TV and flips through channels looking for a bit of mindless distraction.

Ah, here’s the old classic.  Scrooge dissing the season with the curmudgeon’s delight:

Charles ponders what Scrooge says.

What is Christmas, but a time for buying things for which you have no need, no money.  A time for finding yourself a year older, and not an hour richer.  If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with Merry Christmas on his lips should be boiled in his own pudding and buried with a stake of olives through his heart!

Most unkind, but, Charles wonders, is there some truth to it?  Are those the buyers he needs to target?  Idiots who have no need for his offer – and no money to afford it?

He flips the channel.  Ah, here’s a good laugh.  It’s Ralphie and family on Cleveland Street.  His dad just got the famous lamp!

It’s a major award!

Charles lets the remote go loose in his hand. His mouth droops open as he stares at Ralphie’s dad.  Is this what people want?  Worthless crap infused with sex appeal that gives them a false sense of status?  How, Charles wonders, is he going to craft a message that will sell his product to these people?

He snaps on the remote and changes the channel again.

Charles’ heart sinks before he can even blink at what’s on his screen now.  It’s Clark Griswold losing his mind over not getting his Christmas bonus.

It’s a one-year membership to the jelly of the month club.

The gift that keeps on giving the whole year, comforts imbecilic Cousin Eddie.  Charles wonders if Clark would buy his product – or is Eddie the target audience?  Could his offer be a major award?

Charles reaches to turn off his TV to get back to his data.  Must be an answer here somewhere.  He opens his laptop.

But he pauses.  He gets a sudden shiver as he becomes keenly aware how quiet his empty house is.  On the screen, Cousin Eddie is hauling Clark’s boss in the house tied in a ribbon.  At about this moment, the Bumpus dogs are eating Ralph’s Christmas turkey.  Scrooge is speaking with Marley’s ghost about the night’s coming visitations.

A sudden wind gust causes the walls to creak and the trees to scrape the window.  Charles chuckles to himself as he realizes his heart is racing.

He shuts his laptop and clicks the remote.  Wow, he thinks.  I haven’t watched this since I was a kid.

Linus is right. I’m not going to let all this commercialism ruin my Christmas.

Charles plops on the couch as his body goes limp.  He smiles.  Soon, Scrooge will wake with bemused joy on Christmas morning.  Ralph’s family will have their memorable Christmas dinner at the Chinese restaurant.  Things will work out in a quirky way for the Griswolds, like always.

Charles taps the top of his laptop with his index finger, then reaches for the remote and turns off the TV.  The house is dead quiet.

He eyes an envelope sitting on the end table.  In that envelope is an invitation to a Christmas party his neighbor Dirk Crandel is hosting right now.

Charles doesn’t care much for Dirk.  He talks loud and his humor is crude.  Dirk usually calls Charles Chuck, and he hates being called Chuck.

Charles closes his eyes and rubs his brow.  When he got the invitation, he said to himself he’d never attend the party.  It will be a bunch of merry idiots drinking beer and doing white elephant gifts.  No way. 

Charles sets his laptop down, puts on his coat and grabs a small wrapped package.   Inside is his product prototype.

He gingerly walks across the icy street and knocks on Dirk’s door.  Music and laughter carry down through the crisp, winter air.  He shrugs his shoulders and prepares to paint a smile on his face.

Dirk opens the door and does a double-take.  Wow, Charles, you came.  Welcome, man!

Charles smiles with a natural ease he hasn’t felt in a long time.  He extends his hand to shake Dirk’s, but Dirk throws his arms out and gives him a hug.  You made it!

To Charles’ surprise, he hugs Dirk back.  They pull back smiling, and Dirk yells “Hey Everybody, Chuck’s here!”

“You’re just in time for white elephant, get in here!”

Chuck sits in a circle and puts his gift on the table.  People start opening their packages.  An Elvis coffee and plate set.  An “exploding kittens” card game.  So far, the keeper is a bottle of cheap Merlot.

Then a woman named Margaret, who is another neighbor, grabs Charles’ package.  She giggles and feigns excitement as she tears the wrapping.

She pulls a small item out of the box and raises it to eye level.  It shines with golden luminescence.   She stops giggling and stares at the product Charles is ready to launch.

“Is this what I think it?” she asks.

Charles grins and nods his head.

“F#^king cool!” Dirk yells as he stands, spilling his beer.  “Margaret, you don’t want to keep that!  Come on, take the Elvis plates!”

“No, you want the kitten cards – you’re kids will love them!”

“No way, Margaret, take this fine wine.  Merlot for God’s sake!”

“Not a chance,” says Margaret as she holds her precious gift close to her chest.  “No way I’m giving this up!”

Charles sits with his arms crossed, grinning.  He can’t help but think to himself It’s a major award! 

Everyone’s laughing and Margaret is beaming about her gift.

“Merry Christmas, Charlie,” Charles says to himself.  “I love these idiots.”

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