Everything I needed to know about marketing I learned from Diane Keaton


Baby Boom Movie PosterIn a short five minute span of a classic 1987 comedy, we learn the principles of perceived value, customer engagement, and the importance of research in bringing a new product to market.


If you’ve never seen Baby Boom, stop reading and head to your favorite streaming movie rental website!


Let’s set the scene.


J.C. Wiatt (played by Diane Keaton) is a high-powered business-woman in New York City known as the “tiger-lady” who unexpectedly becomes the caretaker of a baby girl after a distant relative’s untimely death.


After toying with giving the baby up for adoption, she decides to take on the role of motherhood, quits her job in the city and moves to a home in Vermont, where she very quickly grows frustrated with country living.


J.C. has been filling her days with making homemade baby applesauce (thanks partly to the orchard on her new property), and distributes small batches for sale to a local general store.


While delivering a new batch to the store, J.C. overhears a group of New Yorkers who have happened upon the quaint shop.


We pick up here…

Baby Boom Movie Still, Customers in store– Gail, look at this! Gourmet baby food!

– I’ve never seen this before.

– Fabulous idea. How much are they?

J.C.:  Oh, $3.50 a jar.

– Cheap.

J.C.: Well, $4.50. I mean they’re $5.50 a jar.

– Great packaging concept.

– This is unique.

– That means the way it’s designed.

J.C.: Oh, really? You learn something new every day, don’t you?

– We’ll take a dozen. And how are you…you cute little country baby?

– We’ll take a dozen, too. I can’t believe nobody’s come up with this before. Gourmet baby food. Fabulous.

– Great Christmas gift.

J.C.:  (gasps) Great! God, it’s the greatest Christmas present. It is.

– Honey, maybe we ought to get more.

– We should.

– We, too.
(J.C. goes to the library)


J.C.: I’d like to see everything you have on new consumerism, baby food manufacturers. Also, recent issues of Progressive Grocer and American Demographics.

Let’s break down what just happened.


Perceived Value


J.C. didn’t know she had something hot on her hands.


So when prospective customers appear at the door, she turns them into a focus group of sorts.


The customer has already told her that this is a “fabulous idea” and that they’ve “never seen it before.”


J.C. uses that information on the spot and increases her prices.


Not that I would ever recommend changing the price of your product in front of a customer, but she is essentially testing the market.


$3.50 a jar.


(Customer says that’s “CHEAP” … Let’s try more.)


$4.50 a jar.


(I’m going to try again.)


$5.50 a jar.


She is also realizing there is a perceived value.


Note that the customer initially said the price was cheap. After the price increases, the customer refers to it as “Gourmet Baby Food.”


“Gourmet” establishes that there is a higher quality to this baby food.


There’s value here. It’s not your everyday baby food. It’s Gourmet. 


The customer who initially saw the price as cheap believes it’s worth more and is willing to pay more.


The customer sees the benefit and uniqueness of the product, and is willing to pay a higher price for it.


That’s perceived value.




The customers are not aware that J.C. is the one who made the product. And J.C. take some advantage of that.


She moves right into sales mode, without appearing like a salesperson.


She engages with the customer, and helps to boost the brand.


The simple conversation she has with them about the product, it’s short, she’s getting product feedback, and she’s making the customers feel welcome and part of the process.


She doesn’t sell them, she let’s the customer do the talking.


She listens. And she reacts.


Bringing a New Product to Market


Bennington College LibraryPerhaps the most important scene in the whole movie is this short 30 seconds of film.


The very next thing we see J.C. do, after having just conducted an impromptu focus group with the New Yorkers at the general store?


Do we see her all of a sudden making tons of baby food? Selling to stores and happy customers? Making millions?




The next thing she does?


She goes to the LIBRARY.


Diane Keaton at the LibraryThis is my favorite part.


It’s 1987. J.C. doesn’t even have the luxury of the internet.


She does the leg work.


She does market research.


She asks for everything they have on New Consumerism (she’s researching current trends), Baby Food Manufacturers, Progressive Grocer (she’s researching her competition and her industry), and American Demographics (she’s researching her target market).


That’s how it’s done.


That’s how you set yourself up for success in the marketplace.


She arms herself with knowledge.


What happens next? Country Baby gourmet baby food becomes a huge success of course.


Because J.C. did it right.

So there you have it. At the age of 10, I was already learning all I needed to know to become the marketer I am today from watching the movie Baby Boom.


What movies inspired you in your business or industry? We’d love to know!