Who would’ve imagined that Mr. Rogers, the 1960s public TV star of the long-running and popular show, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, could become a relevant and beloved public figure again? The 2018 documentary about him and the upcoming feature film starring Tom Hanks have helped bring the former Presbyterian minister back into the spotlight — and, in doing so, given the marketing world an important set of lessons to learn from his approach, built upon compassion and goodwill. Consider these five marketing lessons you can learn from the memorable Mr. Rogers.

Marketing Lessons from Mr. Rogers

1. Work to form genuine relationships

Fred Rogers, in his kindly way, always stressed the importance of friendship to his viewers. These days consumers don’t accept one-way advertising because they want to be engaged, not “talked at.” Today’s customers see brand loyalty as a two-way street. If you want to catch the hearts of your customer base, you’ll have to invest the time to build and maintain sincere relationships with them. Here are a few ways:

  • Be active on social media. And be sure to have a dedicated person available to answer questions, concerns, or comments in a timely way.
  • Share helpful information and tips on your blog and invite readers to leave comments.
  • Always be genuine in every interaction. Today’s savvy consumers easily spot insincerity.

Remember, a cardinal rule of marketing is to connect with people in ways that are comfortable and accessible for them. Mr. Rogers talked directly to his audience in a way they understood. While newer tech means times have changed, you can still use his philosophy and be direct in reaching your audience. This can be a lot easier to accomplish when your message and info is organized and easy for your team to access, such as in cloud-based programs

2. Be a part of your community

This goes hand in hand with relationships but is applied on the local level. Let Mr. Rogers’ sentiment be your own: “Won’t you be my neighbor?” Remember how Mr. Rogers always took his television viewers to other parts of his community to touch base and have meaningful conversations with his friends? If you make an effort to get involved with the community, your business will market itself. According to statistics, 82% of consumers consider corporate social responsibility when they choose what businesses they’ll buy from.

Won't You Be My Neighbor

Think about it. As you get involved in your community, over time, people get to know you and your brand. They’ll be more likely to support your business because you’ll be a trusted community member and perceived as one of their own. If you aren’t firmly set in a community or you find your market is oversaturated, you might consider moving to a new location where your business can thrive. Cities like Raleigh-Durham, for instance, offer tons of opportunities while remaining affordable.

3. Only promise what you can deliver

Acknowledging your limits is another key lesson we can learn from Mr. Rogers. An article in Fast Company recalls a Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood episode where Fred looked into the camera and told his viewers as usual how much he enjoyed talking with them and hoped they learned something. He then reflected further, explaining to his young audience how he wished he could talk to them each in person — but then he explained the limits of television and the fact that it was the only method they had to be together.

This is a great marketing message because you never want to mislead or deceive your audience. If you can’t make good on something, don’t promise it to your customer base. Yes, social media, data mining, and artificial intelligence technologies can offer several degrees of personalization. That being said, though, it’s important to let your audience know any limitations you might encounter, either with communication or your products or services. Never promise to deliver anything you can’t actually do.

4. Be financially responsible

Taking responsibility is important with your customer base, but it’s also important in your backyard, too. Fred Rogers, who grew up during the Depression, well understood the importance of financial responsibility, once stating, “Most of us who grew up in the Depression are quite conscious of being careful with money and other things.” It’s a message you’ll want to take to heart — and the bank.

If you want your business to succeed, you’ll need to pay careful attention to your finances. If you keep your bills paid and your credit in good shape, it’ll help give you the peace of mind and stable base from which to do good — and help others to be inspired, as well. Plus, you’ll help build and contribute to your local economy in the process.

5. Be candid

Take a page from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood playbook and always be honest and open with your customer base. Fred openly discussed the tough subjects with his audience, covering difficult topics such as divorce and death of his goldfish with a sensitive and honest approach. He respected his audience and never tried to fool them.

Today’s consumers largely don’t fall for the smoke and mirror marketing and advertising tricks of yesterday. If your company makes a mistake, acts with poor judgment, or experiences some other marketing mishap, be candid and acknowledge it openly; you can’t hide in today’s market, anyway. Always approach your communications and/or marketing efforts with candor. If you do, you’ll find your customers will appreciate you all the more for it and be more inclined to stick with your brand (rather than roll their eyes and turn to a more sincere competitor).

Fred Rogers was perhaps a pioneer in the concept of brand image and personal marketing. He never wavered from his core values, always respected his audience, and knew how to accept responsibility and when to take a stand because it mattered. Take this example from when he took the stand in front of the Senate Subcommittee on Communications on the importance of quality educational content on TV. 

Marketing Lessons Final Thoughts

Any company would be well served to follow his examples because, despite the fact he would likely never meet them in person, he made each viewer feel the strength of a personal relationship — one built upon caring, appreciation, and trust.  

Article By Laura Gayle, Business Woman Guide

When not writing about marketing lessons from Mr. Rogers, Laura Gayle is a full-time blogger who is passionate about e-commerce and the ways technology is helping to rejuvenate the American dream. She’s written about everything from crowdfunding and inventory management to product launches, cybersecurity trends, web analytics, and innovations in digital marketing. Laura created her blog to be a trusted resource for women trying to start or grow businesses on their own terms. For many of us, entrepreneurship is the key to true work-life balance.