Seinfeld on Marketing: People and Branding

It feels like a Friday! This Seinfeld on Marketing is a little different. Instead of the usual interaction between characters, this is from the standup that Jerry does at the beginning and end of each episode of Seinfeld. Enjoy!

Loyalty to any one sports team is pretty hard to justify. Because the players are always changing, the team can move to another city, you’re actually rooting for the clothes when you get right down to it. You know what I mean, you are standing and cheering and yelling for your clothes to beat the clothes from another city. Fans will be so in love with a player but if he goes to another team, they boo him. This is the same human being in a different shirt, they *hate* him now. Boo! Different shirt!! Boo.

In sports, we most often hold up the team (and their clothes) in higher regard than the individual players. We could cheer for our favorite player on our team, maybe even buy a jersey with his number on it. But if he leave the team, we still root for the clothes and the jersey gets a first class ticket to the back of the closet (or downgraded to “chore-doing-clothes”).

The interesting thing is, this is the exact opposite when we talk about brands. Through the good and bad experiences, we associate our relationship with the people inside the company as the brand, usually more so than even the products themselves.

Take my father-in-law and Sears, for example. More than two decades ago he had a bad experience with someone in one of the Sears stores and he has never gone back since. I’m sure that the employees involved in this “situation” have long since left Sears, yet the memory (and the consequences) still live on. Contrast this to the fact that he has been a fan of a certain collegiate team for more than four decades (and there have been many, many changes in players throughout the years).

Why are brands so different than sports teams? I think it is because employees of a company are the brand, or at least a very big part of it. While the clothes of a sports team often transcend the players, the people inside a company are the living soul of the brand. So who you have representing your brand matters.

Have Friday!

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

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6 Responses

  1. Hey Bill,

    In true Seinfeld fashion you have transformed the mundane into a thought provoking message and it has planted a thought process in me that has left me questioning this.

    Is it the company’s fault for the employee’s bad actions that occurred in a moment of time for the employee that may not be the true snapshot of that person but rather a weak moment due to exterior circumstances going on in their life. No! Yet we are so quick to judge the company based upon this snapshot in time. Why is this? Is it David’s untrusting nature of Goliath the Giant?

    Yet, when it comes to a more positive nurturing relationship between the fan and their favorite sports team or player the solidarity that the fan feels towards the team/player is steadfast and unwaivering.

    Why is this?

    Cheers!

  2. Brad and Kelly,

    Great question. I believe that it involves a sense of meaning. A fan feels a unique and deep connection with their team – they wear their clothes and talk about them in terms of “we” (“We really stomped the Patriots last night”). Fans have this connection of meaning that mere spectatctors will never have.

    Once you are a fan, you are more likely to take the bad with the good because your sense of connection is much deeper than any one play or even a season. When you are a spectator, a mere bad pass can have you scurrying to your car mid fourth quarter to beat the traffic (or one bad experience with a company can send you scurrying for the closest exit). The connection of a spectactor is superficial or at least too young to withstand much pushback. On the other hand, a fan has a profound sense of the meaning of “team” and can withstand some lapses in service.

  3. Great post I really like the Sienfield usage.

  4. Does the over zealous fandom come from geographical allegiances?

    People from a city with a team overwhelming root for the home team. People root for whichever team is in their state or television market if that team isn’t in their city.

    I’m not from Indianapolis, but the Colts are now on my short list of teams I root for.

    In most cases where people don’t root for the home team, they root for a team someone else likes, e.g. there are a lot of people in Florida that root for the Yankees. Some root for the Yankees because they’re transplants from NY and others because their parents or all their friends like the Yankees. Maybe that’s because their dad is from NY and maybe it’s because NY was the team that got the most national TV coverage when the dad was growing up.

    I have actually switched my favorite team based on a trade, but I haven’t had to deal with a team leaving the host city.

    Great post though. I love thought provoking posts.

  5. @Wanda – Thanks. I appreciate it. Hopefully you’re a fan of the gang as well.

    @Michael – Excellent thoughts. I think that geography plays a part. But it is a small part of one of the much bigger reasons why we are fans. I believe is to have a sense of “community.” Since it is easier to build this connection with those that we are around the most, geography is often a default thread of commonality. But as you mention, it does not have to be geography.

  6. You are so right about our attitudes when we have a bad experience. Never really listened before but the Sienfield comment is so true

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