“We have a nice sign right here,” my 5-year-old sister said, pointing to the colorful piece of butcher paper glued to the used cardboard, taped to the front of our folding table. Glenda and Suzie had helped decorate the sign that I had lettered to announce our prices: Five cents for a small glass and ten cents for a large glass. Both stacks of plastic glasses were on the table, next to the pitchers of ice-cube laden Kool-Aid that were already forming those familiar little condensation rivulets. Sometimes Suzie’s mother was also interested in the venture and we would even have two flavors to offer our customers but, normally, it was just our mother who contributed the Kool-Aid packets and sugar. Often we had the stand set in front of Suzie’s house, though, so my mother probably thought it worth it to donate the materials if the other mother would donate the real estate to the business… that way the boisterous crowd of sticky fingers would end up near her house and not ours!
“I know and you did a great job coloring and decorating the sign but it is only one sign. We need more signs.” We had sold Kool-Aid a couple of times already this summer, but our only advertising was that sign. People would see the stand and come over to get some Kool-Aid. Then they would go to tell others about it, which was good as far as it went. Normally, our Kool-Aid had sold out by the end of the afternoon and we divided up the little piles of nickels and dimes. Though there was a certain sense of “success” at the end of the day, I just thought we could do so much more if the word could get out to a wider range of possible customers. Granted most of the “customers” could not have read a sign on their own anyway, but I reckoned if we had some advertisements out there, we would get more than the pre-reading crowd of patrons at the stand. In fact, I had served the driver of a couple of different cars when they back-tracked to come to our table. It should be noted that the adult variety of partakers would, often, drop more than a nickel in the pot for their glass of Kool-Aid so we could even make more money with the same amount of raw materials had we been able to attract an older set of customers.
“More signs? But, where would we put more signs? We have only one table.” Okay the junior partners were not catching the vision here. I tried to think where I had seen any kind of sign posted around the neighborhood and the lightning bolt finally found me! The telephone poles and street lights! There must have been one of them on about every corner in those days. Exactly! I ran the short distance home and grabbed up a stack of white paper and my crayons.
Leaving the junior partners to man the Kool-Aid stand, I scurried around affixing my quickly penned signs, complete with address and arrows indicating the direction to follow, should the street name be unfamiliar. I put up signs for as far as I had papers in both directions. No point to put up signs to the South as it was the highway through town just two blocks over and people would be traveling too fast to read any sign anyway. To the North was an empty field we used for play, which left only East and West to consider for our new ad campaign. Returning to join my partners, I eagerly anticipated the cars flocking to our Kool-Aid stand!
“Hey, I saw your signs,” Tommy said between sips of his drink.
“Great! Where exactly did you see them?”
“A few blocks down there when I went to tell my brother Mom wanted him.”
“Terrific! We have them up and down this whole street and it is one of the busiest streets on this side of town so we should have a lot of customers today.” I was as elated as any eight-year-old entrepreneur could have been. Already someone had noticed our signs!
“So, do you have a permit to put signs on the telephone poles?” Tommy was looking at me with that bullying sneer that was so often a part of this boy’s countenance. He could be fun sometimes but, all too often, this boy who was only a bit more than one year older than I could be a wet blanket on our fun.
“We are just kids; we don’t need permits for stuff,” I was so confident as I spat out the words but a tiny grain of concern began to enter the “question” field of my brain.
“Ha! You think that they don’t put kids in jail? I know that they do and I know that it is not legal to put signs up on the telephone poles without permission.”
“And just who told you that? There are signs on some of the poles right now, in fact. I had to put our sign in another place on those poles because there is a sign there already.” He was not going to bully us today. I would stand my ground.
“Uh huh, and what kind of sign was it?”
“I don’t know. One with a lot of writing on it like some kind of an official notice or something.”
“Exactly! It is a government notice and, of course, they can do whatever they want to because they always have permission. But, you, on the other hand have no permission to put any sign anywhere.” Again the sneer. Could he be right? Was I about to get us in big trouble?
****Marketing 101, Scene 2… Coming Tomorrow