Tapping into Consumer Anxiety

Perry Marshall likes to say that the object of marketing is to enter the conversation that the prospect is already having in his or her head. A great example of this is featured in the New York Times this weekend.

The item in question is called LENA (for “language environment analysis”). If you’re the parent of a young child and are wondering if your child’s language skills are progressing at an appropriate rate, this $400 device promises to answer the question.

The Times describes the inspiration for the device this way:

The man behind the vision, Infoture’s founder, Terrance Paul, has made a fortune selling software to assess children’s reading skills. His current venture was inspired by a well-known 1995 study that found that professional parents uttered more than three times as many words to their children as did parents who were on welfare. The children in the less talkative homes turned out to be less verbal and to have smaller vocabularies. Other studies have suggested that these gaps affect later professional success.

One way to close the language gap, Paul reasoned, would be to make early assessments of a child’s language world. Parents, he figured, could use the feedback to intervene and enrich their kids’ verbal environment as needed.

There would appear to be two markets for this — parents with legitimate worries about their kids’ development, and competitive parents looking for any edge they can get to give their children a head start in life. Both sets are wondering the same thing — “What’s really going on in my child’s mind?”

Whether LENA turns out to be an effective early-warning tool or just a source of unnecessary stress (The article points out that “some linguists worry that the technology is more likely to raise false anxieties than to assuage genuine ones,”) it’s a terrific example of a marketer stepping into a conversation the consumer’s already having.


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