Along with the French, but unlike the current MDA Board, I love Jerry Lewis, not only because he’s an incredible comic but because he is the original social media marketer.
Consider these four important legacy lessons.
Create Own-able, Original Content. The schmaltz, the cheesiness, the kids in wheel chairs, the has-been performers singing long-forgotten big-band songs, the B rolls of guys in white coats holding test tubes, the drum rolls and the tote boards that conjure up the ghost of Ed McMahon, the lame local anchors and the tear-wrenching appeals all signal Labor Day and MDA. Jerry has consistently used original content to claim significant year-round mind space and to drive a singular and differentiated brand message. There are thousands of charities and thousands of celebrity do-gooders, but there’s only one Jerry Lewis and his kids.
Make a Personal Connection. We all genuinely know Jerry. He’s been a part of our lives since the 1950s. There was a great national catharsis each year as the telethon kicks off that focuses on Jerry. It’s about his humanity, his health and his connection to all of us. Jerry made person-to-person connections on one-to-one and one-to-many scales.
But even before he created a Facebook page or a Twitter account Jerry was engaging us by leveraging his comedy antics and by singing those signature songs – “Smile”, “What the World Needs Now” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” Jerry understands, maybe better than anyone that people buy people. Emotion, humor, shtick, flattery and frank talk were the tools of his trade; exactly the tools that resonate with social media audiences.
Persistent Positioning. Jerry and MDA staked out a position and delivered on it and raised more than two billion dollars to fight muscular diseases. MDA owns Labor Day. There was nothing better and nothing more reliable and nothing more comforting than watching Jerry, on the 190 stations of the Love Network. The predictable and familiar parade of firefighters, convenience store owners, letter carriers, realtors, oil companies, Harley Davidson executives and other random sponsors presenting those over-sized checks at random moments during the Labor Day weekend was a unique customer experience. Jerry understood that Brands must plant your flag and stick to it. Marketing fads come and go but audiences rally to the familiar.
Network Your Networks. Jerry and MDA put together an incredibly potent series of partnerships and alliances that consistently deliver results. The lesson is — connect the dots. Use your networks to extend your reach, frequency and engagement with your customer base. Don’t be bashful about mashing things together or cross-pollinating ideas among your allies.
So this Labor Day remember Jerry, whose 44 year run was cut short by some combination of illness and MDA regime change. I’ll be thinking of Jerry no matter what appears on the truncated telethon slated for September 4th.
Happy Labor Day.