What “Commercial Kings” can teach you about wise – and fun – marketing

If you have not had the pleasure of catching “Commercial Kings” on IFC with Rhett and Link, you absolutely need to sit down and watch a few episodes. You know those cheesy local TV ads that stick in your brain like glue? Well, these former ad guys are on a mission to create memorable TV spots for local small businesses to help them succeed.

I’ve often said to clients and audiences that if you want to learn how to really create strong benefit-driven messaging, complete with use-case  scenarios, then study some infomercials. Breaking messaging down to it’s raw form, these cheesy ads will show you the nuts and bolts of what it means to talk about customer benefits, not just features.

Commercial Kings is sweet, fun, fast-paced – and full of valuable marketing and messaging nuggets you can apply to your own business. While it’s not this easy to create a strong brand/messaging this quickly for many companies, and you can argue that the brand aesthetics (the visual) still can come across cheap and cheesy, I would argue that in many cases, awareness and memorability are a bigger priority for these businesses serve. Which means they are right on target to the people they wish to target.

Here’s what you can glean from their technique:

  • Start with goals: Every episode starts with why the business needs the ad. What are they trying to acomplish? Do they need more customers? Do they need to change perceptions? The guys always start from here and ensure they have the end in mind. In one show, they had to help an african-american hair salon convince other ethnicities that it could work with all kinds of hair. So they found a group of different ethnic women and asked them to be “test models” for the commercial.
  • Ask for customer feedback: The guys will often poll people on the street or talk to the businesses customers about the current perception of the product or service. In one episode, they spoke to a taxidermist’s customer about why he keeps coming back. The customer stated that “his work is the most lifelike he’s ever seen.” They wove this differentiator of realism into the ad concept, showing people getting “stuffed” animals confused for the live animal in various comical situations. Take a look at the finished piece.
  • Make it memorable: At the end of the day, many of these businesses just need to get their name out there and make it stick. The guys will often place some sort of hook or “WTF?!” element into each episode. For Presidential Car Wash, they created an utterly silly commercial that you can’t forget. Take a look and tell me I’m wrong!
  • It’s about the customer. not the owner: The spots will always feature the smal biz owner to be authentic and real. But often the guys will make the owners step outside of their own personal comfort zone to ensure that the content appeals to the customer.

The guys often ask the key brand questions: what are the benefits to the customer, how is your business different, and what do customers keep coming back for (or in some cases, what keeps them away). This helps them craft a benefit-driven message that is more than just “Come visit us or give us a call” which is what many local commercials end up being. You have to give people a reason to buy and tell them what’s in it for them.

Photo credit: LA Times blog.

Have you seen Commercial Kings? If so, what is one of your favorite episodes? Please share in the Comments!

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