Last week, I started a NEW Series here on the Blog, #marketingmondays #mondaymusings, where I’m sharing #lessonslearned throughout our 11-day, 3100+ mile #roadtriptorally to attend the 2017 More Than Just Great Dancing Member Rally. It’s amazing what happens when you step away for the day to day of your business and your routine and head out to the open road (even when we don’t want to or feel like it’s the right thing to do).

More Than Just Great Dancing Member Rally 2017 - Yong Pratt

If you missed last week’s post, READ it first you get a sense of whys of this new series. You can also click on the image to the right to read the article, too 🙂  ——->


Marketing Lessons from a Visit to American Girl 


Today I want to share some tremendous marketing lessons learned at the American Girl Store at the Mall of America in Minnesota. I did a FB Live on the Road, in Dickinson, ND to be specific, where I talked a little about this experience. Catch it here.

Marketing at American Girl

First visit to American Girl

When I first spotted the American Girl Store, I felt a bit guilty. Why? I had never bought either of my girls a “real” American Girl Doll though the requests have been many over the years and many a sleepover has been attended where friends had multiple “real” AG dolls. As a mom, I’d have to say I’m a bit on the frugal side and often look for sales or lower cost alternatives for just about everything (which is why I LOVE amazon…but that’s a story for another time). Maybe you can relate?

I honestly didn’t want to go in for fear that my youngest (Daphne, 11) would ask for or want to spend the money she’d saved for the trip on a new doll or the many, many, many accessories. While she still had plenty of money left, I didn’t want her to get frustrated or angry with herself (or me) thinking she couldn’t “afford” to get something she wanted or experience any heartache by having to watch others buy dolls or accessories with faces full of smiles while leaving empty-handed.

As soon as we walked in, we came face to face with thousands of items to purchase and with some pretty hefty price tags.  Everywhere we looked, there were displays of the dolls in a different scenarios complete with attire and accessories (at the beach, in the garden, on the stage, etc.). 

For girls who love horses, there was a doll displayed in a horse stall, AG sized horses dolls could ride, saddles, cowgirl boots – just about any accessory you could think of plus more that I didn’t even know existed, were there and boldly on display. The same went for dance, music, karate, gymnastics, and the list of activities goes on from there.

Not only were the regular 18” dolls on display in all the different custom “looks” (hair, eye and skin color, freckles, no freckles and more), but there were mini dolls, pets, and even a hair salon where one could make an appointment for a custom “do” by the hair professional on duty…and this was just downstairs. We still had another full floor to explore.

As I imagined, this floor represented a lot of items Daphne desperately wanted to spend her money on, but was scared off by the price tag (and getting a bit grumpy about it).


Lesson #1: People afford what they want to afford.

The AG store opened my eyes to a product that seems like so many others, however, they managed to turn the buying  and caring of dolls into a boutique experience with a distinct culture.

Life Sized Displays at American Girl

Enjoying a Life Sized Display at American Girl

As a studio owner, I’ve been guilty of thinking that my prices are too high and that people just cannot “afford” what I what I was selling. By second-guessing my pricing and people’s ability to pay for my services (which I’ve offered now for 16 years in my community), I was basically coming from a mindset of LACK.

The reality is that if people don’t buy what I’m selling (raising smARTer kids through the arts), I’ve either:

  1. Not expressed what we do well enough, in a compelling enough manner or haven’t painted the vision of the benefit and outcomes or
  2. I’m pitching our services to the wrong audience.

In the last 6 months in particular, I’ve really come to understand that I need to work more on both of these issues.

Questions to Ponder:

  • Do you have a scarcity (lack) or growth mindset?
  • What can you do to make a shift to the latter?
  • Do you believe people can afford your services?


As we headed up the escalator, I was becoming more fascinated with the brand and started questioning how I could do this in my studio and in helping all of you with your Technology.

What we found upstairs really solidified the brand and the experiences I want to created in business — the American Girl Cafe.

The American Girl Cafe

Picking a doll to lunch at American Girl Cafe

When you walk up the cafe, there’s a lot to be seen. There are stools to belly up to an old-timey looking (pink) soda fountain/ice cream parlor and to the right, there number of dolls which I thought were for sale.

When we crossed the threshold into the cafe, were greeted by a lovely teenaged hostess (with a great smile and eye contact), who asked Daphne is she brought her doll for lunch. Responding in the negative (and a bit sad as we left her doll in the car), our hostess proceeded to inform Daphne that she was welcome to pick out any doll she wanted to dine with us and made sure that we grabbed a chair that we could attach to our table. WOW which leads to Lesson 2.


Lesson #2: Setting the stage for the experience and offering and unexpected surprise

When someone comes in for the first time, are you setting up the experience with your studio and offering an unexpected surprise?

I for one, and not so consistent in setting the stage and painting a picture of what my clients will be experiencing with me.  Sure we talk about specifics such as cost, time, classes, etc., but what I don’t often relate is the why the studio exists and how we can help them raise smarter kids through the arts. I often find myself addressing questions but not talking about the benefits of our classes for the child and for their family (which are the real reasons why they might want to come to us each week).

What about you?

Brand Consistency at American Girl

Decked out for lunch at AG – Check out the high chair – nice touch!

I wasn’t expecting Daphne could borrow a doll for lunch and she delighted to do so! Is there something you could offer someone when they come in to your studio that’s unexpected and has a bit of WOW (worthy of words) factor? I’ve been thinking about this very topic a ton lately and would love to know what you do to WOW your clients. Comment Below…

With doll and high chair in hand, we were seated at colorful table with a high backed chair. Daphne happily took a seat (and I got a great picture). Our hostess helped to secure the high chair to the table and we were handed menus. I thought we might just have a quick snack then go someone else in the Mall for a proper lunch.

I was happy to discover, however, that not only were the prices super reasonable (which came as a surprise), there were a number of healthier selections for both kids and adults.

Questions to ponder:

  • How can you set the tone for every interaction with clients (new and old)? 
  • Could you incorporate a little surprise in your first or 10th interaction? It doesn’t have to cost a ton..what do you already have that you can repurpose for a surprise?


Lesson #3: Brand consistency (AKA Attention to Detail)

When asked for our drink and meal orders, the waitress included the doll’s selections, too. A cup of tea, a meal, and dessert.

Lunch for 2 at American Girl

DIY cupcake decorating dessert for 2

Key point. AG knows its audience and the lunching experience wouldn’t be complete without including the doll. The doll gets treated like a human, not an inanimate object which is at the heart of the entire brand. A doll is family with interests as unique as its owners and it deserves to be treated as such.

Each touchpoint (the look and feel of the cafe, the interactive nature of the displays, the hair band wrapped around our silverwave as a gift to diners, the 2 ‘hangers’ to hang a doll in the bathroom stall) offered another reason to fall in love with the brand and spend more money doing so. The AG messaging is consistent throughout each of these touchpoints

Questions to Ponder:

  • Can you say the same about your studio brand?
  • How can you take this lesson and apply it into your studio?


Well there you have it. Three lessons learned by visiting the American Girl Store after leaving the 2017 More Than Just Great Dancing Member Rally. Two weeks later and I’m still pondering the experience and questioning how I can implement these lessons in my own businesses.

Was this blog helpful? Did it make you think of ways to make your business even better?

If so, let me know tomorrow. I’ll be going LIVE at the Tech Savvy Studio Owner at 10 AM Pacific Time for another #techtiptuesday and would love to give you a shout out and celebrate your ah-has!

P.S. The push to fall registration is happening now. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with your to-do list with the new season about to begin, find out more about onboarding a Virtual Assistant into your business today. Just click the button below to start your VA adventure!


Get More Stuff Done In Less Time – Hire a Virtual Assistant Today!