5 Ways Storytelling in Marketing Can Take Some Lessons From Seinfeld

5 Ways Storytelling in Marketing Can Take Some Lessons From Seinfeld

medium_6142506235The “Show About Nothing” Has Some Valuable Insight to Share

Your target audience is probably smarter than you may give them credit for. They are savvy and most likely spend way too much time on the internet, expecting to be entertained by marketers and advertisers. Over time, these expectations have caused the marketing and advertising worlds to step up their game and create engaging stories that promote a product through emotion or humor instead of a simple ad displaying the product and price.

 One of the best recent examples of brand and marketing storytelling is Skype’s commercial of two best friends who have never met in person:

For marketers that want to start using their platforms to create a story, but aren’t sure where to start, one of the best TV shows of all time,  Seinfeld, has a wealth of valuable lessons that can teach any traditional marketer to become a seasoned storyteller.

Don’t be a Soup Nazi

In the Soup Nazi episode, crowds line up outside the Soup Nazi’s restaurant just to get some of his delicious soup. The problem is, one wrong step in the order process can get your order taken away or even banned, as Elaine sadly found out.

Marketers can take a lesson from the Soup Nazi’s eventual downfall (via Elaine, his scorned customer) by realizing that it doesn’t help to be so polarizing. Marketing is no longer black and white (literally too, in the case of newspaper advertising), and customers expect marketers to push the boundaries while also consuming messages that translate well to any person in a company’s target audience.

This means that in order for your marketing story to be compelling, you need to appeal to the 60-year-old’s sense of family, while also making the 28-year-old laugh at a commercial that resonates with them.

Don’t Take Bread From Old Ladies

In the 121st episode of Seinfeld, ‘The Rye’, Jerry is desperate to get his hands on the last loaf of marbled rye, which was bought by an old woman. He grabs it out of her hands, shouts the legendary line, “Shut up, you old bag!” as he takes off down the street.

What can we take from a bread hijacking as marketers? That you shouldn’t be so desperate for a successful campaign that your own common sense (and decency) clouds your judgement. The best stories that go viral or make an impact on their target audience are those that start with a great idea and let it germinate, naturally.

Listen to Your Kramers

Speaking of creativity in brand storytelling, it is crucial to listen to your Kramers, the eccentric or overly-creative people that make up your marketing and advertising departments. Usually these are the young people who aren’t as jaded by the industry. But, no matter, where they are in their career, it’s a known fact that the crazy ones always have the best ideas.

So if a Kramer on your staff comes up with a unique idea that is out of the box, don’t dismiss it right away. Validate their thoughts and think about how it could tie into the story you are trying to tell. Kramers are also always passionate about their own ideas, so they are more likely to do good work on an idea they created or genuinely like.

Newman Will Always Be There to Probably Mess Something Up

Newman is Jerry Seinfeld’s hall neighbor and his nemesis. His adventures working for the U.S. Postal Service ranged from hoarding undelivered mail to driving his mail truck all over New York illegally.

While mail and email marketing is still a viable option for some industries, it doesn’t work for everyone and can be a costly disaster if not executed well. If you want to shift your marketing focus to storytelling, you need to work it into a visual story that will translate well via a postcard or piece of email. Mail, whether in paper or digital form, should always be quick and to the point, without sacrificing brand recognition or the chance to tell a short story with big impact.

For instance, take the Crazy Egg interview from Terry Dean, an entrepreneur who made almost $99k from ONE email. [1] His strategy, which is to relate his own experience in his business (and personal life) with how it translates into business, makes a big impact. Terry claims that “storytelling is a basic form of communication.” Successful stories through print or email need to visually based since you have limited space and time to get your message across.

For example, MarketingSherpa says that when Dell used GIFs in their email campaign, revenue increased 109%. While I don’t necessarily advocate GIFs in every email, Dell knew they were popular at the time and used them in a creative way to increase reader interest.

Don’t Be a Costanza: Don’t Pretend You Work When You Don’t

In episode 72 of Seinfeld, ‘The Barber’, George Costanza leaves a job interview not knowing whether he has the job or not. Instead of calling, he heads into work, pretending that he got the position while his potential boss is on vacation.

What can marketers take from this? The fact that “faking it until you make it” just doesn’t work when it comes to marketing and storytelling. Don’t force storytelling or else it isn’t natural.

One good example of this mentioned by BrandStories.net is a commercial about a middle age writer, who goes to McDonald’s nearly every day and has a crush on a teenage worker there. [2] Not only did the ad come across as creepy because of the age difference, it also didn’t cover a topic most viewers could identify with.

While you want to be a Kramer but not a Newman or Costanza (unless you are looking for a shortcut that might blow up in your face), marketing and brand storytelling shouldn’t be about the company or its products and services. As BrandStories quotes David Ogilvy, one of the greatest advertising minds of the 20th century:

“A good advertisement is one which sells the product without drawing attention to itself.”

Follow this advice and use your products as either background in the story or as a vessel for how the story comes together– much like the two best friends in the introduction example above, who use Skype to talk. The focus isn’t on Skype, but rather their friendship. Skype was just the vessel to make something truly great happen.

Brand Storytelling is vital to the success of your brand because of the connection-building power that it contains. Powerful connections = loyalty and trust, two things you cannot buy but have everything to do with the livelihood of your brand and your ROI. To learn more, click here.

Tweet this: For marketers that want to use their platforms to create a story, Seinfeld has a wealth of valuable lessons.

Tweet this: Stories that go viral or make an impact are those that start with a great idea and let it germinate, naturally.

Tweet this: Listen to your Kramers, the eccentric or overly-creative people in your marketing & advertising departments.



[1] http://blog.crazyegg.com/2014/03/14/storytelling-in-email/

[2] http://www.brandstories.net/2012/04/28/mcdonalds-writer-ad-storytelling-fail/

photo credit: Beaulawrence via photopin cc


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Kelsey Jones helps clients around the world grow their social media, content, and search marketing presence. She enjoys writing and consuming all kinds of content, both in digital and tattered paperback form.