A Child’s Day Is Forever

One of the characteristics of Cult Brands is their unabashed ability to play, as written in the Golden Rule of Fun. Although we’re programmed to think that there’s nothing funny about being an adult, these brands fearlessly turn back the hands of time and enthusiastically celebrate the child within us.

Childlike, Not Childish

You play an innocent practical joke on your friend. And it’s a good one. But your friend doesn’t appreciate your feeble attempts at making her laugh. She scolds, “Don’t be such a child!

Now you can take this proclamation as either an insult or a compliment. According to Merriam-Webster, to be childish is to be characterized by immaturity, lacking in poise and complexity. To be childlike is to resemble a child, marked by innocence, trust, and ingenuousness.

Many times we confuse these two terms. We think that acting like a child is a bad thing, because we’re old, we should know better, we need to act our chronological age at all times. However, in Games People Play, psychiatrist Eric Berne theorized that we have three ego states—the Child, Adult, and Parent—all of which are important and acceptable within the right context. We’re comfortable playing the Adult and Parent, but now we know it’s really okay being the Child at times too.

MINI’s Way to Play

Certain Cult Brands, like MINI, the ‘jumbo shrimp’ of the car industry, have overturned such rigid definitions of adulthood by encouraging drivers to get out there and play.

On their website, they explain that too many hours clocked at the office can put you in a rut, and how it’s best to get out and motor. With step-by-step instructions, you can install a customizable MINI Desktop Decoy screen saver, and then duck out of the office. That way, it’ll look and sound as if you’re working hard, when you’re hardly working and taking your MINI out for an afternoon ride.

Other creative collectibles include a downloadable assemble-it-yourself Life Size MINI Robot that doubles as your motoring guardian. You just need to print out and tape together 289 sheets of paper, and there you have a gigantic transformer robot as your personal wingman. But of course, knowing MINIs awareness of environmental issues, please recycle. MINI also encourages its drivers to hand out Good Motoring Citations, which look and feel like real traffic violation tickets, only the citation is meant to reward good motoring. MINI explains, “Let’s take the law into our own hands. Let’s slap someone with a compliment. Let’s reward a really good parking job. Let’s write someone up for having a sweet set of wheels. Let’s be sure we make this month’s quota.” You’re instructed to fill it out, place it under the windshield wiper, and then run away.

The purpose? MINI says is to contribute to the “collective good” of “motoring karma.” Among the different citations, you might be the proud recipient of the “Wash me” citation and the note: “Congratulations. You car is absolutely filthy. This means you have really enjoyed motoring in the fullest sense of the word. Keep up the good work.” You might also be commended for having a great bumper sticker. MINI says, “Humor is important, especially when you’re stuck in traffic. Without it, we’d all just be getting from point A to point B. But you took the time to change that. And never once mentioned your honor student, thanks a lot for that.” As an owner of a convertible, you might be recognized for “going topless.” Your note reads: “You’re motoring in a convertible the way it was meant to be done: Open. And you trusted the world not to rob you blind. And that’s special.”

The beneficiary of the ‘Good Motoring Citation’ is then instructed to “mail this compliment home to your mother.” After all, we’re still little kids playing in a bigger sandbox.

Take this lesson from MINI, and don’t be afraid to show customers your playful, childlike spirit. We all know that the big kid getting down and dirty on the playground is more fun to be with than the stodgy, serious adult who’s afraid of rumpling his three-piece suit.

Embrace the Golden Rule of Fun and honor the childlike spirit within. Admit it. It’s more fun coloring outside the lines, isn’t it?

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