Seinfeld on Marketing: Speed Dial

I’m back from the Holidays and it’s time for more Seinfeld on Marketing. In this episode, Jerry is talking with George about his relationship with the latest girl he is dating:

JERRY: I had like a so-so date with Valerie, now I’m number nine on the speed dial.

GEORGE: So?

JERRY: So? I used to be seven. I dropped two spots.

GEORGE: What, she’s ranking you?

JERRY: Yeah, this speed dial is like a relationship barometer.

I hate to break it to you if you were comfortably living in denial, but those we date do keep a mental speed dial of sorts (Jeff was caring and passionate about life – he made the speed dial. Harry danced the Funky Chicken and smelled like rubber cement – he’s nowhere near the speed dial). But those we date are not the only ones that rank us. Consumers also have a speed dial of sorts in their head. We use this speed dial because we can’t possible remember every company so we organized them into categories and store them on speed dial for easy retrieval.

Or more accurately, we have multiple speed dials – one speed dial for each category. I may have a speed dial for “Grocery Stores with the Best Customer Service”, one for “The Best Tasting Sports Drinks” and one for “Quality Outsourcing Companies”. So let’s say that I wanted to dial up the “Greatest TV Sitcoms”, I’d have Seinfeld in my number one spot on my speed dial (this should not surprise you) followed by The Office at number two. Everyone’s speed dial categories and who’s on these speed dial lists may be different.

Since there are many, many speed dials we marketers tend to want to be on the top of the most lists as possible. We reason that if our brand can be retrieved from the “Best Luxury Automobile” speed dial that if I make a lower cost car I should reasonably be ranked on the “Best Low Cost Automobile” speed dial as well. We get this thinking from the advertising glory days – back when you could make a lot of money by simply being everywhere.

But unfortunately, our minds don’t accept duplicity very well. Typically a brand may be on 1-3 similar lists but usually never on two lists with opposing or conflicting meanings. For example, Apple fits quite well in the “Cell Phone”, “Laptop Computer” and “MP3 Player” speed dial lists. But if Apple were to try to get on the “SUV”, the mind’s speed dial would not understand and would reject it on the “SUV” list and may even downgrade or eventually eliminate Apple from the other lists.

We’ll chat later about how to get on and stay on the speed dial list.

This post is part of a weekly series, Seinfeld on Marketing.
[Bonus: You can now check my speed dial list of “Best Seinfeld Episodes” and rank them yourself at my Squidoo page.]

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