Along with the French, I love Jerry Lewis. And I miss him. And I’m still curious about his sudden, abrupt split from MDA. But aside from the gossip stuff, Jerry was the original social media marketer whose 44-year run has a lot to teach us.
Consider these four lessons.
Create Ownable, Original Content. The schmaltz, the cheesiness, the kids in wheelchairs, the has-been performers singing long-forgotten big-band songs, the B-rolls of guys in white coats holding test tubes, the drum rolls and the tote boards that conjure up the ghost of Ed McMahon, the lame local anchors, and the tear-wrenching appeals all signal Labor Day and MDA. Jerry consistently used original content to claim significant year-round mind space and to drive a singular and differentiated brand message. There are thousands of charities and thousands of celebrity do-gooders, but there’s only one Jerry Lewis and his kids.
Make a Personal Connection. We all genuinely knew Jerry. He was a part of our lives since the 1950s. There was a great national catharsis each year as the telethon kicked off that focused on Jerry. It was partly a morbid health-watch to see which diseases and which side effects of treatments Jerry himself would display each year.
But even before Facebook or Twitter, Jerry was engaging us by leveraging his comedy antics and by singing those signature songs – “Smile,” “What the World Needs Now,” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” Jerry understood, maybe better than anyone, that people buy people. He used emotion — humor, shtick, flattery, and frank talk — to connect with different audience segments.
Persistent Positioning. Jerry and MDA staked out a position and for 44 years delivered on it and raised more than $1.4 billion to fight muscular diseases. MDA owns Labor Day. There was nothing better and nothing more reliable and nothing more comforting than watching Jerry on the 190 stations of the Love Network, and the predictable and familiar parade of firefighters, convenience store owners, letter carriers, realtors, oil companies, Harley Davidson executives, and other random sponsors presenting those oversized checks at random moments during the Labor Day weekend. Jerry positioned himself, planted his flag, and stuck to it. Marketing fads come and go, but audiences crave the familiar.
Network Your Networks. Jerry and MDA put together an incredibly potent series of partnerships and alliances that consistently delivered results. The lesson is — connect the dots. Use your networks to extend your reach, frequency, and engagement with your customer base. Don’t be bashful about mashing things together or cross-pollinating ideas among your allies.
Happy Labor Day.
Danny Flamberg, EVP Managing Director of Digital Strategy and CRM at Publicis based in New York, has been building brands and building businesses for more than 30 years.Prior to joining Publicis, he led a successful global consulting group called Booster Rocket, as Managing Partner. Before becoming a consultant, he was Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, SVP and Managing Director at Digitas in New York and Europe and President of Relationship Marketing at Amiratti Puris Lintas and Lowe Worldwide.
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