Marketing Lessons From Our Family Camping Weekend!

Each summer we go camping with a few families to a different state park within a 4-6 hour drive.  It has become one the summer highlights for all of the kids.  As parents, each year we’re surprised just how much fun everyone has, but it’s almost always not due to what we originally thought would be fun going into the weekend, but due to something simple and uniquely inherent to the particular camp site.  As a result, the parents have moved to continually simplify our camping weekends over time so we adults can also enjoy! (All of you seasoned campers can appreciate how much planning and organization is required to have a smooth camping experience)

This year we went to the Beaverkill region in New York, also known as the ‘home of fly fishing’, and a very beautiful area.  On the drive home, we stopped to catch a late lunch; walking by a store, I saw this “pillow” in the window:  “Save if for your blog”… So here goes, a few of the lessons that emerged from this year’s camping weekend: 

  • Leave the ‘fancy’ stuff home: Why bother with ‘fancy’ or elaborate breakfasts when kids enjoy eating out of the cereal boxes just as much or more! (And for my kids, the extra bonus–many of the little boxes that come in the variety pack are sugared cereals that they don’t get to eat at home!). This goes for all meal planning…

Think your kid needs a fancy new fishing pole? This year the kids actually made their own fishing poles and caught tons of fish-and had more fun proving that their homemade fishing poles worked great (at least for little fish). They also experimented with bait and found that mosquitoes worked as well as worms!!  They later moved on to the $5 bamboo poles as the fishing pole of choice…(The more expensive fishing poles stayed in the car)

  • A positive attitude does wonders: The first day we had a lot of rain to say the least…but it was probably the kids’ favorite day. They donned their $3 ponchos -which offered superior protection- and continued on their way, not missing a beat…After all, the boys happily, found that the fish still swim in the lake when it rains!Freedom to enjoy what you like is essential: One of the dads loves to plan the group event, usually a special hike on Saturday. We would never take that away from him; Me, the want-a-be photographer, is always after the ‘perfect’ picture of each person and to capture the visual story of our trip; My hubby,  ‘ol eagle scout, is the keeper of our fires…some of the kids enjoy fishing, some love exploring the streams and playing hide -n-seek…and different groups unfold over the course of each day.
  • When left to a natural environment, the boys and girls, and different ages, mix well and learn from each other: Have you ever experienced your child saying that he/she doesn’t want to go one of your friends house for dinner because they don’t have a child that perfectly matches their sex, age and interests? In a camping environment, this all goes away and they actually realize that they can have fun with different people in different ways. A great life lesson.
  • The lack of electronics brings out the best in all of us, and certainly more creativity and freedom to devise new games to play: How is it that they don’t miss the electronics or TV when their camping but as soon as they get home, they want them back again?
  • When kids (humans) are given a bit of trust and support, they flourish: The two 12 year olds loved taking the little ones to the stream to ‘explore’ and the little ones loved it even more and had fun…When there were too many prickles for some of the little ones to endure during our group hike, it was the 11 year old boy that took responsibility for one of the 7 year old girls to guide her back down through the prickly bushes and the slippery, muddy rocks…
  • Shared-experiences will always be the most powerful way of building friendship and trust: this just isn’t easily duplicated through other less personal or non-face-to-face means
  • Everyone can enjoy nature’s bounty: walking back from our morning bathroom run, my 11 year old son pointed to the beautiful rays of sun popping through the trees on the road ahead…camping allows everyone to soak up nature in these little ways that we often have no time for during our everyday lives.
  • It takes a community: Camping is a daily reminder of this…whether you’ve ‘forgotten’ something that is key for your next meal or to provide protection, often your fellow camper has remembered it. Or another adult, who enjoys the same fishing that your son likes too, can happily take you son with him. The camping community may come in all sizes and colors, but they’re joined by a common love of nature and the desire to enjoy the simple times with fellow campers.
  • A family that camps together stays together: To our kids, it’s not camping if we’re not all sleeping together in one tent. It’s also not a good camping trip, if our camp site isn’t in close proximity to their friends’ sites…

So what does this all mean?  Think it supports and reinforces many of the key trends that are influencing business and marketing today (See The Rigors of 2009: What Consumers Want Today), namely, a return to:

  • Simplicity; less is more, and ‘fancy’ doesn’t necessary insure ‘more enjoyment'; Also quality vs. quantity…
  • Back to nature; it really does have a wonderful way of grounding us, and helping us to remember its power over us…
  • Deeper Relationships are desired and built on shared experiences, and give and take. Nothing trumps live interactions surrounding adversity, fun…the idea of ‘quality’ relationships vs. ‘quantity’ (We’re also seeing this same question continually emerge with Twitter, namely quality vs quantity when thinking about how many followers are ideal…)
  • Communities are increasingly important; people want to know that there are people that they can depend on, learn from, add value to, etc. Now more than ever, it takes a community to help us not only survive, but excel.
  • Creativity and innovation spark excitementbut need freedom -of time and space- to emerge. Perhaps we need to be less afraid to let things unfold-and to not try to plan everything? Is it possible that less planning can actually be better sometimes? (Oh my, my hubby will be happy to read this) Or moving in a general strategic direction, but not committing to every detail and move until it unfolds and we have a chance to learn? Many of us grew up during a time when we left the house in the morning and didn’t come home until dinnertime-perhaps we all need a little bit more of that life?

Any thoughts or ideas you want to share? Add?

photo credits: me! ;-)

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