Elmo Says… The Real Lesson Is…

To say I have been entertained this week is a massive understatement. In case you missed it, Elmo opened Pandora’s Box by asking the interwebs how everyone is doing… and apparently we all trauma dumped on a muppet. I truly feel for Elmo’s social media manager who honestly was staying true to the brand and modeling good behavior for friends checking up on their friends.


I’m not going to dissect the clear demonstration of a major mental health crisis in our society, but what I did notice for our business discussion was something pretty stinkin’ obvious. We all spend entirely too much time, effort, and money trying to figure this out in our own brands: Engagement.

Elmo demonstrated *perfect* engagement… maybe a little TOO well.

Whether you were responding directly to Elmo or you were like me, sharing memes with all of your friends and laughing (because it’s better than crying in solidarity), this is the type of content that we live and breathe for in our businesses.

Now, at this point, I know one of you is like, “But Mary, I don’t want to be Elmo.” No one is asking you to be a muppet. That would be weird. This is where we take a step back from Literal-ville and we look at what’s happening in the undercurrent around Elmo.

1. Elmo tapped into his audience’s pain point. A MASSIVE pain point. When we talk about pain points in our offers, this is the clearest demonstration you’re going to see.

2. Elmo also gave people space so they could express themselves, which gives Elmo so 👏 much 👏 data about his audience, not to mention exact words that they use.

3. Elmo also stuck to his brand flawlessly. He started by simply modeling classic Elmo behavior, which was to ask his friends how they are doing these days. And then he signed off in perfect Elmo behavior by acknowledging how people feel without trying to change them and saying he would be back to check on them again soon.

4. There is also chatter around Elmo because enough people are talking about his question and sharing it with others. This is definitely not the world’s best kept secret and what a shame if it had been!

5. There is a long life to this content, rather than be a quick flash-in-the-pan. Elmo has sparked a deeper look into why people responded the way they did. Now when Elmo asks his friends online how they’re doing, it is going to have a deeper response because he’s opened that doorway.

6. And finally, it got people to take action, whether it was sharing the content for entertainment purposes or to genuinely question their friends and do some mental health check-ins. Remember that just because you, personally, don’t see what other people are doing with your content doesn’t mean that they don’t find it useful.

As a content producer, I find the after effects of Elmo’s post to be the most intriguing. Why, you ask? Well, it’s because that one, simple question lit a fire in a lot of individuals and now it has people thinking. Instead of just watching a cute muppet move through the periphery of your world, he’s now featured prominently inside your attention span.

So how do YOU do this in your business? We don’t have Elmo’s social profile nor do we have Elmo’s budget which is backed by a lucrative Sesame Street. But you do have something entirely within your power which is… taking consistent actions.

If you look at Elmo’s engagement in the world, you’ll see Elmo show up consistently and simply, at that. He asks questions in Elmo’s voice. He observes the world in Elmo’s voice. It begs the question for you as a human-based brand: Do you sound consistently like yourself… and… do you consistently exercise your voice?

I love looking at personas and brands like Elmo because they are so stinkin’ easy to examine. They are frequently overlooked by more “serious” business analysis because of the children’s niche, unless it’s because Elmo dolls are suddenly flying off the shelves and producing massive amounts of revenue that can be counted.

But what about the voice and persona during times when revenue isn’t falling from the sky into your pockets? How about if you take a closer look at Elmo this week and find ways to show up more consistently for your people asking them questions and genuinely caring about their well being?

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