Seinfeld on Marketing: Festivus

A special treat this Holiday season. In this episode, Frank Costanza relates to Kramer why he first started Festivus, a holiday he invented because he “hated all the commercial and religious aspects of Christmas, so he made up his own holiday.” Enjoy:

FRANK: Kramer, I got your message. I haven’t celebrated Festivus in years! What is your interest?

KRAMER: Well, just tell me everything, huh?

FRANK: Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reach for the last one they had – but so did another man. As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way!

KRAMER: What happened to the doll?

FRANK: It was destroyed. But out of that, a new holiday was born. “A Festivus for the rest of us!”

“Prolific” Frank got upset and decided to hold a holiday tradition that was opposite of Christmas:

  • Instead of a tree there’s a pole. It requires not decoration as Frank finds tinsel “distracting”.
  • Instead of gathering the family around and sharing in the joy of season there is “The Airing of Grievances” where at the Festivus dinner, you gather your family around, and you tell them all the ways they have disappointed you over the past year.
  • Instead of ending Christmas with the opening of gifts, Festivus is ended with “The Feats of Strength” where you must pin Frank Costanza in a wrestling type contest.

The lesson? Festivus would not have been a hit had it only been a new Christmas with 13 days of Christmas and 4 Wiseman. To get noticed, it had to be different. In this same vein, you can’t beat Wal-Mart by having your items 3 cents cheaper and you can’t beat Dominos Pizza by having your pizza delivered in 28 minutes. You need to do something truly different to be noticed and to succeed.

Many people wrongly assume that the further you move away from what the market leader is doing the further you move away from the potential of being the market leader yourself and the closer you are to being the market loser. In other words:

Market Leader Assumption

This simply is not true. If you could tilt this line graph you would see that the market leader actually casts a long shadow. And if you get to close to the leader, you end up either being invisible and trying to be noticed in their shadow or you’ll be sued for being to similar. Neither option is what you want. Go for being the opposite. Thanks Frank!


This post is part of a weekly series, Seinfeld on Marketing.