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Hats off to the Tiger Mom and a masterful execution of cross media marketing

by Mark P. McDonald  |  February 2, 2011  |  4 Comments

Perhaps the best example of modern mixed media marketing in recent history is playing itself out in the media. Last month the Wall Street Journal publishes an article in it’s weekend edition about ‘Chinese Mothers’ and touting their superiority to their Western counterparts. The article written by Amy Chua represented an excerpt from her book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom.

I will not debate the merits of the book or it’s ideas but you cannot fault its marketing plan. The same day of the WSJ article, their website was filling with comments and reactions, proving audience interest in the subject. Within a short period, Ms. Chua, a Yale Law School professor was on all the news shows defending her position and showing her family as a model of Tiger Mothering.

The more she spoke the greater peoples reaction and the increased buzz it generated. This past weekend the Tiger Mom was the toast of the World Economic Forum in Davos where she debated Larry Summers, former Harvard President and Treasury Secretary.

With all the real problems we face it seems that the worlds super elite needed to debate how we go about raising or families. I think it’s the wrong accent, or worse a form of cultural elite entertainment, a version of my kid is better than yours or anyone’s for that matter. If that upsets you, hold off because that is just what they want you to do. You can read the review of the debate in last Saturday’s WSJ.

The buzz has been tremendous. The book is a this time #10 bestseller on Amazon.

The reasons behind the buzz are worth noting as it provides a clear example of a well orchestrated marketing program that exploits social media to create and control public opinion, something that the community is supposedly wise enough to avoid.

The modern marketing mix applied in this case and to great effect is surpassingly traditional. Elements of the recipe include:

  • Choose a personal issue or one that people can connect with their own personal experience.
  • Take an extreme position on the issue. Be sure to couch your position in a way that people will interpret and talk about as extreme. In the case of the Tiger Mom is was indirect statements that she was not saying that Western style parenting was wrong, it’s just …
  • Make a claim that you position either as ‘obvious to everyone’ or support it with an easy to remember but indirectly connected set of vacuoles. Avoid hard data that can be studied reviewed or refuted.
  • Collaborate with a traditional media outlet to get the message out through a ‘trusted’ source. That paints your position as credible; after all, if it was not then the media outlet would never published it right? Make the same assertions on the web all by yourself and you will either be ignored or dismissed by the crowd. Wrap yourself in traditional media and you are invited to Davos. Well media needs to generate revenue so they are inclined to drive a controversial message.

This is the playbook of people engaged in the culture wars advocating the material, moral and obvious superiority of their view over that of others. It’s a playbook that Malcolm Gladwell and others use uses to market themselves and their books.

It does not matter if the point is really related to the book, as I understand Ms. Chua’s book is more of a memoir of how she was raised and a tribute to her mother than a treatise on the merits of different parenting methods. Accuracy does not matter as much as the potential energy generated by the message you put out in the media.

The Tiger Mom demonstrates the elites can and will exploit social media in ways that maintain and extend their influence and by association criticize the rest of us. This is in direct opposition the idea of social media being a democratic forum supported by the wisdom of crowds.  In fact it excites the crowd to generate more revenue for them and isn’t that the goal of marketing – in any medium.

What do you think, not about the book or the idea that one way of parenting is better than the other? What do you think about this pattern of market manipulation? Do you see it for what it is or do you get caught up in the debate?

Category: book-review  marketing  personal-observation  

Tags: marketing  personal-observation  

Mark P. McDonald
8 years at Gartner
24 years IT industry

Mark McDonald, Ph.D., is a former group vice president and head of research in Gartner Executive Programs. He is the co-author of The Social Organization with Anthony Bradley. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Hats off to the Tiger Mom and a masterful execution of cross media marketing

  1. Interesting insights. Though some may question the intentionality of Chua’s “marketing plan,” the blueprint you suggest is undeniably effective. One of our columnists wrote a similar piece.

    Thanks for sharing.
    laura jenkins

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark P. McDonald, sankarshan, August Jackson, UK Technology News, Keith Ricketts and others. Keith Ricketts said: Hats off to the Tiger Mom and a masterful execution of cross media marketing: Perhaps the best example of modern… […]

  3. I have always thought that Amy Chua’s marketing tactic is perfect. She can now call herself not only a strict mother but also a rich mother. But what is sad is that promoting these methods as a general way of bringing up children in China she can really offend those Chinese parents who don’t subscribe to her theory.

  4. As a psychotherapist in private practice for 30 years and the author of a book on parenting, I”m not surprised that American parents are considering a memoir as a guide for child rearing. American children are more depressed, anxious, entitled and unmotivated than they have been in many years. Parents are over-indulging children in most areas – material goods, bad behavior, and praise for the most mundane of accomplishments. Being an authoritative, yet loving parent produces the most well-adjusted and happy children. It’s not that hard. American parents need to educate themselves.
    I have posted a video parody of tiger mom, for those who want a smile. Go to

    Sheri Noga – Author of “Have the Guts to Do it Right: Raising Grateful and Responsible Children in an Era of Indulgence”

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