Archive for April 18th, 2012

Marketing lessons from the cast of “Saturday Night Live”

A couple days ago I did a post about guerrilla marketing. I ended the post by encouraging you: “Guerrilla/mischief marketing is just a piece of the puzzle, but an important piece, so please don’t neglect it out of fear of looking a little foolish. Just relax and have fun with it.”

The “fear of looking foolish” part got me to thinking about people who look foolish for a living, and the lessons we can learn from them. From the title of the post, perhaps you think I’m talking about Jimmy Fallon, who’s now pitching for Capital One, but that’s not really who I have in mind. I’m thinking more along the lines of the current cast – people who get paid to stand up in front of a live audience every week on a show that’s broadcast to millions around the world and sometimes make utter fools of themselves.

If you saw the movie Bridesmaids, you saw the softer, subtler side of Kristen Wiig – but if you watch Saturday Night Live with any regularity, you get to see her wacky and sometimes just plain bizarre performances as a whole host of zany characters. Here’s the thing: I’m sure at some point in her career (or life), Kristen Wiig – as well as Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Seth Meyers, Bobby Moynihan, Andy Samberg, Jason Sudeikis, Kenan Thompson, and the others – must have thought, “This is soooo embarrassing.” But she pushed herself beyond the fear and developed an amazing talent.

Now I’m not suggesting you abandon writing to become an improv or sketch comic – unless it’s what you really want to do. But I am suggesting that getting over ourselves and our fear of embarrassment are really good ideas if we ever want to grow beyond our comfort zones and achieve any real measure of success. As you well know, the best product doesn’t always dominate – it’s the product with the best marketing. This is also true of books. As an author-marketer, how willing are you to go all out to sell your books? Would you don a penguin costume? Would you walk up to someone famous you met by chance and pitch them? Would you make a hilarious video? Or are you too worried about what people might think?

Seriously – can you ever imagine an SNL production meeting when they’re assigning new skits and hearing Kristin Wiig say, “No – I’m not doing that because it will make me look stupid”? If you’ve never seen her, make it a point to do so. Whether you don’t like SNL, you watch something else in that time slot, or you’ve just got a way more active social calendar than I do, go find an episode that features Kristin Wiig and study it! There are always reruns, Hulu, YouTube – really, you have no excuse.

And then if you’re inspired, go join a Toastmasters club, take an improv class, buddy up with a stand-up comic, or just practice talking to strangers in line at the grocery store. Chances are you will uncover something fantastic if you just give yourself permission to look a little foolish.

Happy comfort-zone busting!



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