Michael Jackson and Billy Mays passed away in the same week. The passing of Billy Mays made the news but Michael Jackson dominated it. The underlying message sent from the media is that entertaining is good and somehow noble, but selling and marketing is bad. My question for you is the following: Do you allow this flawed thinking to keep you from being successful in your sales and marketing?


The news coverage of Michael Jackson life was largely reverential and fit for king, while the coverage of Billy May’s life always seemed to mention the loud pitchman with a carnival barker quality. Our society tends to revere athletes and entertainers, but scorns marketers and salespeople. This subliminal message bombards the brains of business people who being to believe it.


Too often, business owners and leaders let their egos and perceptions of image get in the way of successful marketing and sales. Movies, TV and news often shape our thoughts. The problem with allowing your actions to be guided by these mediums is they often create false assumptions.


The first sin of marketing is to be boring. In today’s marketplace it is harder to get noticed than ever before. You must stand out. In different fields and with different styles, both Michael Jackson and Billy Mays stood out. Both Michael Jackson and Billy Mays were shrewd marketers and salespeople. Both were personality driven, and neither Michael Jackson nor Billy Mays were boring.


Many businesses spend tons of money on boring marketing. Often the excuse given is “You have to have your name out there” or “I am building a brand.” Unless you are Pepsi or Anheiser Busch, you don’t have enough money to build a brand. Spending money to keep your name out there is an excuse to not have a plan.


People make fun of personality-driven or wacky themed advertising, but if you measure the results of these businesses, they are usually the best performers in their area. Personality-themed marketing and advertising utilizes the personality to drive home the message and the call to action. Those businesses don’t let false ego and image to get in the way of effective marketing.


You should care less about what you think customers will think and more about what they will actually do. The surest way to create a brand image is by selling tons of products through personality-driven marketing and sales that creates a quasi-celebrity out of you, your family, your staff, your pets, your characters and anything else you can use. The personality has a strong supporting role in the marketing and selling without becoming the focal point. In other words, don’t be wacky just to be wacky.


I believe most business owners are somewhat ashamed of marketing and selling. The marketing of these businesses tries to show they are anything but marketers and sellers. The problem is that this tactic doesn’t work. General Motors Saturn brand didn’t approve of using the word “sale” as if it were somehow dirty. Maybe that’s why Saturn didn’t sell much.


Michael Jackson and Billy Mays were both smart marketers. Michael Jackson was loved for it and Billy Mays was laughed at. My own theory is that Billy Mays didn’t care. His bank cashed his checks the same as Michael Jackson’s. Billy Mays rose from boardwalk vendor to being a rich and famous pitchman. Billy Mays laughed all the way to the bank using personality-driven marketing.


To receive a free special report, “The Ten Deadly Sins of Marketing and Sales” e-mail me at info@tewart.com.

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Comment by Mark Tewart on October 21, 2013 at 2:43pm

Thanks Candace. You are correct. Outrageous marketing can be very effective but often owners are not comfortable with stretching their comfort zones. As one of my marketing mentors said, you cannot just tip toe over the line you have go way over. So many ads both conventional and digital but yet so many boring, same old same old type ads. If you look at any marketplace the dealers who continually use outrageous marketing do extremely well even of others say they look stupid. They cash the checks.

Comment by CANDACE BENNETT MCRAE on October 17, 2013 at 12:20pm

Great article.   A few months ago, my 20Group had this same discussion.  One dealer feared "looking stupid" on TV but he desperately needed effective marketing. Unfortunately, his fear held him back from a marvelous marketing concept from other 20G members.  Sometimes a dealer dressing up as a pickle or in an bologna costume is just what is needed to distinquish your dealership from the other  boring car ads.   Don't we all want to "cash checks" like BillyMays?

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