I miss Jerry Lewis. Labor Day isn’t the same without him not only because he’s an incredible comic but also because he was the original social media marketer. His 44 year run left us with four enduring lessons.
Create Own-able, Original Content. The schmaltz, the cheesiness, the kids in wheel chairs, 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 led 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 was only one Jerry and his kids.
Make it Personal. We all genuinely knew Jerry. He’d been a part of our lives since the 1950s. There was a great national catharsis each year as the telethon kicks off that focuses on Jerry. It was partly a morbid health-watch to see which diseases and which side effects of treatments Jerry himself will display each year.
But even before he created a Facebook page or a Twitter account 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 the same position and for 44 years they delivered on it and raised more than $1.4 billion to fight muscular diseases. MDA owned Labor Day. There was nothing better and nothing more reliable and more comforting than watching Jerry, on The Love Network. The predictable and familiar parade of firefighters, convenience store owners, letter carriers, realtors, oil companies, Harley Davidson executives and other random sponsors presenting those over-sized checks at random moments during the Labor Day weekend were signature moments. Jerry knew that you position yourself, plant your flag and stick to it. 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 deliver 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.