James Dean isn’t a dead 60’s movie star or a country singin’ sausage maker. He’s a hippy children’s author whose following is growing like crazy right now.

He can’t make appearances or give talks at schools and conferences, like he normally does (which I’m sure is his main income). But he’s up from 103,000 instagram followers to 131,000 followers (as of me writing this) in two weeks. His sales on his website are way up. He’s poised to come out of the lockdown with possibly more business than he could handle. I see two, maybe three very specific ways that could help you and/or your business be very successful both right now and in the future…

Pete The Cat Speaks to His Audience’s Felt Need

My wife found the Pete the Cat Club on instagram. She was desperate to give Kaz, our 4-yr old, some good intellectual stimulation while his preschool is shutdown. We’d checked out a book or two of his from the library before, and it turns out that James Dean, the author, hosts a live video of his “Pete the Cat Club” at 11am central Monday through Friday. Perfect timing and perfect content.

James isn’t talking about the coronavirus. That would bore kids to tears and annoy their parents. He doesn’t just read his books on video. That would get old fast. He gives his viewers more than they expect. He reads his stories, plays with stuffed animals, reads letters from kids and shows their art, teaches them how to draw all his characters and has contests. My son is spellbound. He’s produced some of his best drawings, and he often watches each show multiple times, practicing more and more each time.

On top of that, James encourages kids to create, to obey their parents in the grocery store and not to complain. He doesn’t come across as some zany, over the top engaging personality. He’s really laid back, a little boring even, while exuding a ton of genuine care and concern. It makes parents and children trust him. And it’s exactly the normalcy and hope that parents are looking for. Here’s the mantra he says over and over…

The birds are singing. 🦜

The sky is bright. 🌈

The sun is shining. 🌞

I’m feeling ALRIGHT! 💙

My wife and I are telling all the parents we know about it. Sounds like the kind of word of mouth your business could use.

James’ Enduring Appeal

People will buy from you once, if they like what you do or sell. They will buy from you again and again if they like who you are. James’ actual personality has been working for him a lot longer than 2 weeks. I mean, it’s not like he started this crisis with 1 follower. He had 103,000. My wife says he’s a combination of Willie Nelson, Mr. Rogers and Bob Ross. That’s an astute observation, because it just about perfectly describes the character diamond that causes kids and parents to visit his instagram feed over and over.

  1. James Dean Character Diamond A Willie Nelson Hippie (the obvious) – Long, graying hair, extensive use of the word “groovy” and a southern accent are pretty much the first things you notice about James. He incorporates motorcycles, electric guitars and grumpy personalities. He doesn’t sugarcoat the problems of real life. Man, that would be no good for kids if he wasn’t…
  2. Mr. Rogers Great With Kids (surprise) – He listens to kids’ emotions. He celebrates their fun. He teaches them moral life lessons without being preachy. He comes up with lots of really fun activities. You’d expect someone like that to be more emotional, or engaging even, but just like Bob Ross, he…
  3. Has Limited Emotional Range (Vulnerability) – he doesn’t display any emotion in his face or voice. He’s for sure no actor and radio voice. But that makes him authentic. I’ve heard him talking about and showing on camera how he’s messed things up or gotten frustrated or didn’t like this drawing he did. Kids can relate to that. They bond to his authenticity. That only puts an even bigger spotlight on his
  4. Passion to Inspire Artists (Core Identity) – James quit the world of engineering to follow his dream of being a full-time artist. He regularly speaks in schools and challenges kids to follow their own dreams in a friendly, groovy sort of way. The more and more my wife and I listen to him, the more we like him. We root for him. And I find myself getting inspired in my own dreams.

If you knew how to find the character diamond of your business and understood how it appeals to your customers, you’d be set to grow your following like James is. Maybe that’s my next post…

The Big Takeaways

James Dean is providing a service that parents are desperate for exactly when they need it.

He’s not weighing them down with all the things he can’t do and the precautions he’s taking as a result of the coronavirus shutdown. Instead, he’s fun and encouraging. He’s creative, providing them a sense of normalcy and hope, exactly what communities need most in a crisis.

He’s authentic and doesn’t deviate from his core personality. If you can’t handle hippy words and good morals, he’s not accommodating you. He is who he is, no matter what. He’s not even afraid to sell merchandise, lots of merchandise, on his website. I’m happy to buy a plush toy if he focuses on the content during the show (which is what he does). He’s so focused on kids during the show, that all the merchandise on his site doesn’t detract from that.

James isn’t trying to say and do what everyone else does. He’s unafraid to be who he is openly, and you and your business shouldn’t be either.