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Marketing Lessons From a Show About Nothing

Seinfeld is nothing short of a cultural phenomenon. Even though this “show about nothing” went off the air a whopping 17 years ago, it is still referenced in a variety of areas from writing and production to acting accolades and marketing.

Wait… marketing???

That’s right — Seinfeld can teach us everything we’ll ever need to know about marketing. Well, not everything, but almost. With the recent addition of the entire series to Hulu’s roster, it’s time to check out a few Seinfeld-inspired tips from both the screen and behind the scenes:

Don’t Let a Slow Start Get You Down

Just in case you’re not up on your Seinfeld history, let’s start with the fact that the first season only lasted for nine episodes. Yes, NBC only ordered a small number of episodes to begin with, but what some people don’t know is that it was on the verge of cancellation after that first set of episodes. Some of the elements just weren’t clicking with audiences for whatever reason, but the producers kept pushing for a second chance, and boy, did they get one.

Lesson to be learned: If you go out with a marketing campaign and you’re not immediately successful, keep your chin up and don’t let it get you down too much. Push ahead and you can turn things around.

Embrace Change and Evolve When Necessary

Have you ever compared the first season of Seinfeld with the last? Or even with, say, the fifth? After Seinfeld’s near-cancellation, the two biggest changes were the appearance of Jerry’s apartment and the overall character of Kramer, who was first introduced as a hermit who hadn’t left his apartment in ten years. You’ll also notice throughout the seasons that George’s brother is mentioned then forgotten, Kramer stops saying “giddy-up” and sliding into rooms, and Seinfeld’s comedy acts became a smaller part of the show. Only Elaine seemed to be exempt from those minor tweaks.

Lesson to be learned: Somewhere along the line, you may need to enact change in order to build your business. If you have a rough start or see your industry changing, embrace those facts and give it everything you can.

A Good Branding Can Go a Long Way

If we were to list all the branding elements in the form of character types, catchphrases, and labels that were birthed from Seinfeld, we’d be here all day. Throughout the years, we were introduced to low talkers, high talkers, close talkers, third-person talkers, braless wonders, man hands, the Maestro, and many others. For catchphrases, we had “No soup for you,” “Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” “Yada, yada, yada,” “Schmoopie,” “These pretzels are making me thirsty,” “Serenity Now!,” and countless more. And when it came to creating labels, no show could beat Seinfeld with such things as the urban sombrero, double-dipping the chip, puffy shirt, shrinkage, and Master of My Domain. Many of these elements have become a part of our culture that millions of people recognize.

Lesson to be learned: Think of the catchphrases in Seinfeld as its own form of branding. Whether this represents an actual “tagline” that you create for a product or maybe a feature of a product or service, building your brand by capturing the public’s attention is your key to success. Give them something to tell their friends around the virtual water cooler and they’ll love you for it.

Know When It’s Time to Call It Quits

The problem with many shows is that they just don’t know when enough is enough. Every year, producers Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David would get together and decide if they were prepared to do another year (“Can we still be funny?”) with the characters and situations that they had created. Seinfeld was even offered $5 million per episode, which is insane right now but even more so nearly 20 years ago, but he stuck to his guns and ended the show when he thought the time was right. Although the series finale was seen by many to be lackluster, the final season was filled with solid episodes and, for the most part, the show went out on a high note.

Lesson to be learned: The last thing you want to do is run a marketing campaign into the ground. If you have a strong enough mascot — say, Jack in the Jack and the Box commercials and not this newfangled Colonel Sanders for KFC — that can see you through, or a motto, product, or specialized service that grabs the public’s attention, then keep it going for as long as you can. But also stay in tune with your customers to know when it’s time to throw in the towel and move on to a new campaign.


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