2 Days Of Anime On Television In The Early Nineties Yummy Yummy: Top 7 Business Lessons from the Wiggles

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Yummy Yummy: Top 7 Business Lessons from the Wiggles

At Macquarie University in the early 1990s, three Australian early childhood education majors, Murray Cook, Greg Page and Anthony Field, decided they had a penchant for dressing up in bright red, yellow and blue (respectively) that look like the uniforms in the original “Star Trek” series. It wasn’t long before they convinced Anthony Field’s bandmate in The Cockroaches, Jeff Fatt, to don a purple shirt and start having fun at birthday parties as they danced and sang about fruit salad and walls.

If you’re the parent of a young child, you probably know this Austrian quartet as The Wiggles, who are the Beatles, Monkees or ‘N Sync of children’s bands. They are the highest paid artists in Australia, ahead of Russell Crowe, Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman.

You know right away when you watch their DVDs and videos (which you will, at least 200 times each) and their four-times-a-day TV show at Playhouse Disney that these guys are definitely not an American creation. Mister Rogers, Mister Dressup and Bozo the Clown are gone, and no modern grown American male would dress up in funny costumes and entertain children with songs about “Fruit salad, yummy yummy!”

Their loss. The Wiggles, who make $14 million a year, are the latest kids’ sensation, and what they can teach us about success and finding your life’s passion will inspire corporate America to play guitar and dance with friends of Wiggles, Wags the Dog. Henry the Octopus, Dorothy the Friendly Dinosaur and Captain Feathersword the Friendly Pirate, who acts with gleeful bravado that would make Johnny Depp want to cut his own pirate throat.

1. Do what’s right for your audience without lecturing.

The Wiggles don’t use special messages after school. Do you want to know about the value of a healthy diet? Have some fruit salad! Exercise? Let’s get up and Romp Bomp a Stomp, or dance and dance, with Dorothy! Let’s do the pirate dance with Captain Feathersword and run after the Wiggles in their big red car. Songs do what songs, dance and theater were originally designed to do: convey knowledge. They do this in a fun, clever, colorful and engaging way. The three Wiggles (Murray, Jeff and Greg) who have ECE degrees and their own children know that children can figure out what’s good for them without being spoon-fed. And Jeff…well, sleepy Jeff shows everyone the value of a good nap.

2. Find a way to get everyone involved and you will reap the rewards.

Jeff, who does not have an ECE degree, was shy about getting involved with children, according to a Knight-Ridder article, “If You Have Young Children, Get Ready to Move” by Rod Harmon. Greg, Anthony, and Murray invented Jeff’s constant napping and the drive to ask children participating in the video and TV show to shout “Wake up, Jeff!” This has become so popular that there is actually a Wiggles video, “Wake Up, Jeff!” From the first Wiggles video to the current videos, you can see that Jeff is becoming more and more involved with the children, singing, dancing and playing, although he is quieter than the other three. Kids are always drawn to someone who’s a little different, and Jeff stands out even when he dances with a big green dinosaur reciting poetry and a purple dancing octopus. The other three Wiggles seem to encourage his uniqueness. From all the videos, CDs and Jeff dolls they are selling, the approach works! When the Wiggles double up on their American tour, Jeff will be mobbed by kids too young to be crazy about Justin Timberlake.

3) Keep it alive and stay in touch.

The Wiggles could get away with making DVDs, TV shows and albums for their adoring fans all their lives. But all of them are used to interacting. Murray, Greg and Anthony were expected to be teachers. Jeff and Anthony played to crowds as members of the Cockroaches. They include real-life children, including their family members (as you see in the titles of their videos and DVDs), in their videos and chat with them. In a scene from “Hoop Dee Doo! It’s a Wiggly Party”, some children wear emu skirts while one of the Wiggles talks to them. Admittedly, live Wiggles shows are no different, including versions in Asia that will feature local speakers as Wiggles clones (“The Wide World of Wiggles,” Feb. 6, Newsweek Web exclusive). Even Dorothy has her own dance party on tour. Whether you send a giant green dinosaur in a white hat or show up yourself, don’t underestimate the value of outreach and involvement. It’s fun to run and dance with the kids too (no wonder Anthony, who’s always eating, stays skinny!)

4) Don’t follow the crowd or the market.

Most non-Disney, non-Nick Jr, non-PBS American children’s shows seem designed as 22-minute commercials for action figures or dolls, and ways to keep kids entertained in passive way. The conventional wisdom has been: Kids will get bored if there’s no slam-bang action and no way to make money doing something that’s good for them. The Wiggles have proven this false. The kids dance and sing along with Jeff, Murray, Greg, Anthony and friends, instead of sitting around eating the sugary treat du jour and mindlessly watching a weird green monster get shot only to reappear in the episode other. With an epidemic of diabetes mellitus and obesity among American children, the approach of the Wiggles is not only positive, but continues to bring success to the colorful four.

The Wiggles themselves doubted there would be an audience for helping children learn through music and dance. A booking agent told them there would be no money in it, but they stuck to their guns and became hugely popular in Australia. The United States was next, and the Wiggles are now a smash hit at Playhouse Disney, with sold-out tours—they’ve even had to add second and third shows in many cities.

5) Becoming international or multicultural is not that difficult.

The Wiggles don’t need a multicultural sensitivity training class. After all, when your friends are a singing dog, a rose-eating dinosaur, and an octopus with an underwater gang, you don’t have a problem with diversity. They regularly incorporate Australian, Irish, Spanish and other songs into their act. The franchise is expanding in Asia. If you think this TV show doesn’t sound like a potential hit in Japan, you’ve never seen Pokemon or the anime, or the old classic Ultraman.

6) Stay true to your roots.

There’s no doubt that Murray, Jeff, Greg and Anthony are Australian (again, four American guys wouldn’t do what they do), although Dorothy sounds a bit more British. Songs like “Willaby Wallaby Woo” speak to their stodgy heritage, and you don’t see them suddenly moving into a Malibu mansion, pretending to be Hollywood rich, with no family or children.

7) Your family life only enhances your work and passion.

Three of the Wiggles are married, Jeff was apparently too sleepy to settle down, although before Anthony got married he was voted Australia’s most eligible bachelor. These spouses have built their careers around children, and as mentioned in point 3, regularly include their families in their videos. The family that eats fruit salad and romp-bomp-a-stomps together stays together. If you bring joy to millions of children, it can’t help but have a lasting positive effect on your family.

Does all this inspire you to move, get up and dance? You probably will if you have children. But let it inspire you to follow your passion in your work, family and life. Learn from those four career consultants, Greg, Murray, Jeff and Anthony. And hey, eat some fruit salad. You need your health, mate.

Let’s rock!

Visit The Wiggles online at http://www.thewiggles.com.

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