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A Simple Marketing Lesson From The "Lingo Kid"

Sometimes the best lessons about marketing come from the most unexpected places. For a Friday post, I thought I would share two of the most amazing videos I’ve seen in a while that have nothing to do with blending anything. In fact, they are not even meant to be marketing videos at all. The videos below are taken by a traveller to India who met a kid on the street selling a peacock feather fan. This kid – dubbed the "lingo kid" in a YouTube video shares his linguistic skills that he learned from tourists on the street to sell his wares. In the second video, the same traveller returns to interview the boy again (his name is Ravi) and learn more about him.  Both videos together offer one of the most simple marketing lessons that you can imagine … that sometimes it doesn’t matter what you’re selling, just that you speak the right language.

19 thoughts on “A Simple Marketing Lesson From The "Lingo Kid"”

  1. This is really great. I remember similar experiences while traveling in Egypt. The local street merchants in Cairo could speak Russian, Japanese, English, German, French and often several more languages. They would listen to our conversations (in English) and know whether we were going to buy. It could be frustrating because they always knew what we were talking about but we were pretty clueless in Arabic. My Son (age 10 at the time) liked to do the negotiating, but often would ask us whether it was a good price. We finally did figure out a way to discuss the price without the merchant understanding what we were saying: we spoke Thai. We had been in Thailand for six weeks prior to arriving in Egypt and my Son and I both spoke “taxi Thai” quite well. My Son loved the fact that we could have a code language that the street vendors could not understand and I could help with his negotiations.

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  4. Loved the videos. Until I started getting depressed that this kid never goes to school and has been giving the same exact sidewalk schpeil for 3+ years. The only thing new is he’s gone thru puberty.

  5. This is unbelievable!!!!! Imagine if this child was in school full time with a great education as opposed to selling such items on the street — you can imagine how far he’d go. What a brilliant young man! He does have marketing down in ways… it’s all about communication and conversation – if he can get to all these types of people by knowing their languages and what appeals to them… then voila! He’s reached a lot more folks than the average marketer could.

  6. Yes, what’s amazing is his grasp of all those languages at the age of the first video. But time hasn’t stood still. School is going to be required for him to have as brilliant a future as his past has provided. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Will be great to be able to sponsor this kid to go to school. Seems like the chances of that happening are pretty slim as there is no contact info..
    He will be in my prayers..

  8. wow…this is really amazing, agree with some of the other commenters here that its sad in some ways that a kid this obviously brilliant doesn’t have access to education and a path to a better life (though he seems quite happy, which is great to see).

    thanks for sharing rohit.

  9. Eh, the kid is good at giving a speech about peacock feather fans, but it’s the same as a parrot. If he knew all those languages (both oral and written) I would be *very* impressed. He also doesn’t go to school, so therefore he has all of his time devoted to learning how to sell fans to tourists. He might be a smart kid, but nobody will ever know what he’s able to actually do if he was plopped in a more modern school environment.

  10. Whatever you do, don’t send him to school. School tends to spoil this kind of creativeness. (“My dear, blue horses don’t exist; horses are black, brown, grey or white”.)There must be a different kind of education, the kind that widens horizons without cutting the sheer chuzpe and inventiveness.

    You see this genius in Morocco and Tunesia, too. When you are wandering through the souks thinking you are ‘safe’, they hang on in there and approach you in every language under the sun – languages you’ve thought of and many you haven’t.

    Global marketing without language is a no-no. And it’s not just about translations, it’s about “his body language” which, in the written word, is about writing in their culture, thinking with their history and making their jokes, getting under their skin.

  11. Stop!
    He might love the place he lives, the thing he does! And the fact that he is living there!
    Did you see he has a smile on his face?

    Figure out first if someone wants a change (like going to school) before putting the western standards on his shoulders.

    Did you know there are kids in the western world that don’t like to go to school? Actually they hate it, and perhaps they shouldn’t!

  12. I think it is a simple lesson not just for marketing but for life. Pit, in any situation, the multilingual Europeans against the largely monoglot folk from the UK and the US and it becomes plainly evident what soft power means in winning hearts, minds and wallets.

    Good post! There really is not just one way to think about things.

  13. Some of the best marketing lessons I have learnt over the course of my career have been watching street entrepreneurs and small business owners in Bombay (Mumbai), India…just as this brilliant kid demonstrates. They seem to hone in unerringly on the best set of customer needs to address in a way that is simple yet innovative. The young entrepreneur with glue and scissors at the local train stations, the small restauranteurs in downtown Mumbai and the quintessial Mumbai concept ‘time pass’ (have written about them in my blog). Only wish all MBA students had a course just observing them for a whole semester…they would learn more than most of us could teach!

  14. This is really amazing, though i have had similar experiences walking down the streets of CP (a famous shopping hub in delhi, india) where i found the street vendors talking to foreigners in french sometimes but i never gave a second thought bout it, thinking that might be trying but may not be making sense but this one has blown me off.

    i agree to the concern of other readers of this guy not being able to go to school but for your info whenever i have checked, i always found that these guys make a lot of maney than needed to just attend the school, the basic point is that they choose (or their parents choose) to remain in this position and see their children as money making machines. so dont worry folks anyway u wont be able to help the guy out if by any chance you track him down also.

    as far marketing is concerned- he really gives a real marketing lesson to the marketeers of the world that “no matter how good or bad or useful your product is , always remember to speak the language of your (prospective) customer.”

  15. Totally Awesome!

    I wonder if Indian Media has gotten around to catching up with this kid!

    Necessity makes you do things, but perhaps not many people go this far as this kid has already!


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#1 WSJ & USAToday Bestselling Author

Rohit is the author of 8 books on trends, the future of business, building a more human brand with storytelling and how to create a more diverse and inclusive world.

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