Seinfeld on Startups: Go Guerrilla!

Seinfeld on Startups: Go Guerrilla!

Its been a quarter of a century since Jerry, George, Elaine, and Cosmo dropped into our living rooms.  I say ‘our’ because I can’t imagine a person on the planet who didn’t tune in every Thursday night, right?

What a journey it’s been.  And, thanks to Ted Turner’s networks, the journey lives on.

So kids, that brings us to today’s lesson.  Jay Conrad Levinson has been credited with coining the term “Guerrilla marketing” and bringing it’s concept to prominence over the last 30 years.

One takeaway I have from it is the power of being creative, unique, and viral in your approach to generating awareness.

We’ve all seen examples of this stuff and how it creates awesome buzz.  And if you can’t recall one, Google it up and you’ll see countless photos of how big companies have turned unique ideas into big awareness engines. Which brings us to Jerry, and a puffy shirt, and the Today Show.

The Puffy Shirt” was the second episode of season 5 – debuting in 1993 – but living on for eternity as one of the greatest examples of guerrilla marketing ever.  Or at least it could have been.

We all recall Jerry’s disdain for this otherwise wonderful, Pirate-esque puffy shirt and Bryant Gumbel’s reaction.  Throw in a low talker, some hand modeling, and George moving back in with the parents and you have a true classic.

That said, what could have been.  If only the shirt wasn’t so, well, “puffy” – it could have really gone- you guessed it – viral.  Instead, homeless people all over NYC had Jerry to thank for new clothes.

Time for the lesson, so I hope you stayed with me this far because it’s a good one.

When it comes to advertising, it doesn’t have to cost a ton.  We are inundated with an insane amount of product messaging every day.  We tune out almost all of it.  But Puffy Shirts on the Today Show?  Those are remembered, baby!

Instead of thinking about your next TV commercial, news ad, or brochure  – I encourage you to think “Puffy”.

Be creative, be unique and just try it.  Put on your “thinking cap” and get crazy and you’ll be surprised at what you can come up with that the rest of us find interesting and memorable.

Of course, whatever you’re marketing has to be legit.  As we recall Jerry’s famous line – “But I don’t want to be a pirate!”  

Dan Beenken is Director of the UNI Small Business Development Center

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