Best Advertising Strategy: Once Upon a Child

Client Overview

Once Upon a Child of St. Cloud is the second entry into our Best Advertising Strategy blog series. They’re a retail shop for gently used kids clothing, toys, books, and other accessories. Not only do they sell, they also buy. In fact, buying is how they get most of their inventory. Located in Waite Park, they opened their doors in October of 1993.

Once Upon a Child LogoWhat makes this company unique is that they’re the only franchised store featured in this blog series. Franchisees don’t typically have the freedom to advertise the way they want to, but Once Upon a Child does, and it has earned them a spot on our list.

Brandable Chunks

They wanted to avoid the “garage sale” mentality that comes with selling used stuff. Since they also buy gently used kids’ things, they needed a way to deliver that message.

Running 30-second ads makes it challenging to deliver a single message, along with a strategy statement. So, we ended up creating “brandable chunks.” Brandable chunks are a concept created by Wizard of Ads partner Chris Maddock. Essentially, they’re short snippets of information to include in each message. Chris defines them as:

“Brandable chunks are impactful words, sticky phrases, catchy chunks of verbiage that, when used correctly over time, get across meaningful brand elements and continue to be interesting over time.”

With only 30 seconds to work with, brandable chunks turned out to be the perfect choice for Once Upon a Child. They’re inserted naturally throughout each ad. We found a way to sum up everything they do in just six words:

"Always buying, always selling, all seasons."

Plus their jingle:

"Kids’ stuff with previous experience, Once Upon a Child."

Those two brandable chunks can be heard in nearly all of their radio spots.

The Challenges of Competing on Price

When your unique selling proposition revolves around price, it can be challenging to differentiate. The other challenge Once Upon a Child faced was how to separate themselves from the mentality that used items = dirty, broken stuff.

To combat this, they ran ads talking about safety and cleanliness. Everything they buy is thoroughly inspected and cleaned before going onto the sales floor:

Plus, they don’t buy everything. Once Upon a Child has strict standards for what they will and will not buy. You could walk in there with two bags full of used stuff, and they may buy half of it because the rest didn’t meet their standards.

Bricks, Mortar, & Consistency

Brandable chunks made it easy to craft meaningful messages. With the use of their jingle, and a consistent, friendly female voiceover, their ads are memorable.

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From seasonal messages like back to school, summer fashion, and holidays, to Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and grandparent specials, they’re never at a loss for things to talk about or mention. Once Upon a Child runs regular sales and promotions with discounts of up to 70 percent off their already low prices.

People care about their stuff, especially if their child was fond of something in particular. Once Upon a Child knows this all too well. So, they use their radio ads to give life to “stuff.” They use terms like “gently used,” “recycled,” and “loved again” when talking about their products. Everything in their store has history behind it, and they wanted to show respect to that history. It’s not just junk. It’s a memory for some child out there, and it already has a story.

Why the Advertising Strategy Works

Once Upon a Child found a way to appeal to the kid in all of us with their advertising. It certainly doesn't hurt they pay cash for your gently used kids stuff. But their messages about moms and dads, back to school, Halloween costumes, and huge savings made their store in Waite Park a popular destination. Parents looking to bring some extra money home while knowing their kids’ items would be loved by a new family, found Once Upon a Child to be a valuable addition to our community.

Once Upon a Child was a pioneer of the buy and sell business model in St. Cloud. They may not have been the first, but they were the first to talk about it. And really, in advertising, that’s all that matters. If you’re the first one to talk about it, you’ll be the first one people think of when they need your product or service.

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