Lexie offered a confession earlier this month. Well, I have one too—I’m addicted to obscure 80’s movies, and I’m not talking about Goonies or Blade Runner (although, I like those too). I’m talking about really obscure movies like The North Shore, Thrashin’, Vision Quest, etc. Last night, I was in heaven when, flipping through the channels unable to sleep, I stumbled upon what is arguably the most underrated 80’s movie of all time—Rad (it also happens to be a great sleep aid).
I hate wasting time, so I’ve manged to come up with three marketing lessons you can learn from a very cheesy 80’s movie. Enjoy!
For most of you reading this, the chances that you’ve seen the movie Rad are ZERO, so here’s the gist of it: Cru Jones (played by Bill Allen), is a small town kid with dreams of being a BMX star. And he’s in luck because Duke Best (sweet name), the owner of Mongoose Bicycles, is organizing a high-profile BMX race in Cru’s hometown. The race will be held on the mother-of-all-BMX tracks (Helltrack), which features a huge vertical wall racers must go down at the start of the race and during each lap.
The race is a publicity stunt for Duke to promote his company, Mongoose Bicycles. Obviously, Duke wants one of his sponsored riders to win the race. He puts up every obstacle he can to keep our talented hometown hero from even racing in the event. In the end, Cru defies his mother’s wishes and overcomes Duke’s numerous schemes. Not only does get into the race, but he does a backflip (now, that’s rad!) to take the lead and win the race.
It’s a pretty complicated story. I hope you followed all of that.
Rad Marketing Lesson #1: Sometimes You Have to Ignore Your Parents
The qualifying race is on the same day as the SATs. To have a shot as a BMX star, Cru must ignore his mother’s wishes and skip the SATs. Sometimes in business and in marketing you also have to ignore your parents.
While my parents were WAYYY more supportive than Cru’s, my dad initially exercised a fair amount of skepticism about Blue Corona’s potential viability. When he found out that we were using pay per click ads to market Blue Corona (and pitching PPC advertising services to clients), he laughed. “No one ever clicks those ads!” he exclaimed.
Okay, Dad. Have you ever sat in on one of Google’s earnings calls? Those ads that “no one clicks” are only responsible for umm about 90 percent of Google’s revenue. Later, once I’d successfully made sales, my father also questioned how we’d handle more sales at a time when I was already working around the clock seven days a week. My dad is a very bright guy—an engineer from Georgia Tech with a masters degree—and he always means well, but I ignored him.
Five years later, we’re still going growing strong and so is Google’s stock! Still think no one clicks those ads, Pop?
Rad Marketing Lesson #2: Sometimes It’s Okay to Go Ugly Early
In every market, there are companies that absolutely dominate. These are the companies you see advertising on TV and placing billboards along major highways. These are the companies still running double trucks in the print Yellow Pages—not because anyone still uses the Yellow Pages, but because they can. For example, in the home service industry in MD/DC/VA area , Micheal & Son comes to mind. In DE/PA (and soon Baltimore) I think of Horizon Services. In Columbus, Ohio, I think of Atlas Butler.
These are NOT our clients. At Blue Corona, we help small companies—the “challenger brands”—use better data and technology to create and execute smarter online marketing strategies that allow our clients to engage in a highly-effective form of guerrilla warfare with these behemoths. We compete and win market share with budgets that are a tiny fraction of theirs. We make our clients’ websites look amazing, but when the budgets are tight, we focus on results first, aesthetics second. Once we’ve got the results coming in, we also work to make them look like a million bucks.
Cru Jones takes a similar approach in the movie Rad. During his qualifying race, Cru looks like an absolute joke. He doesn’t even have a BMX helmet—let alone a fancy jersey covered with sponsor logos. But Cru doesn’t let that stop him. He knows that when it comes to racing, performance matters more than aesthetics. Once you’ve got the performance, it’s easy to get a fancy helmet and jersey. So, he throws on his trusty grey sweatshirt and hockey helmet and races his ass off.
Look at Len the Plumber’s website circa 2008:
Compare that to Len The Plumber’s website today:
Len The Plumber is about three times the size they were back then, but if you think that their incredible growth is the result of their aesthetic improvements, you’re dead wrong. Len The Plumber focused on improving the performance of their marketing (and their website) first. Only then did they work to make things look better.
In a way, it’s kinda like the question of whether you have to have great teeth in order to become a celebrity. The answer is: “no.” Tom Cruise’s teeth were totally jacked in the movie All The Right Moves. It was only after he became rich and famous that he paid to make them perfect.
We focus first on making our clients’ marketing effective. We make their stuff look great as a cherry on top!
Rad Marketing Lesson #3: Find or Create Your One Big Thing
A lot of small businesses make the mistake of trying to be all things to all people. Frequently, they divide an already small marketing budget across all their lines of business and every geographic market they serve. Operating this way is like trying to cut a big tree down by striking it over and over again, but in different spots vs. concentrating every axe swing on hitting the same spot over and over again.
When you’re a small company and you want to grow, you should work hard to define one thing that makes you stand out above everything else.
Once you have your one thing, make it as BIG as humanly possible. In the movie Rad, Helltrack was defined by an enormous vertical wall that the racers had to descend each lap. It was like no other BMX track on Earth. When you saw the preview, if you were paying even a lick of attention, this is what you remember:
To win as a small business, it helps to have one thing that really makes you stand out above your competition. At Blue Corona, our industry crawls come to mind (or our business before marketing approach or our ability to connect website activity to our clients’ bottom line).
The next time you’ve got insomnia and you’re flipping through the channels, don’t be too quick to turn off that cheesy 80’s movie—there just might be a marketing lesson sandwiched in there.
About The Author: Ben Landers is the President and CEO of Blue Corona, a data-driven, inbound internet marketing company. Submit an inquiry to book Ben to speak at your next conference or event.
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