Bill Gammell - Seinfeld on Marketing

1963 reads

Bill Gammell talks about Marketing Lesson # 6 ( Loyalty Programs)and # 7  (Competition Myopia Seinfeld Episode) from  the Cast of the Show About 'Nothing'.

7 Marketing Lessons from the Cast of the Show About 'Nothing'

jerry-sienfeldBill Gammell

The interesting lessons from Sienfeld continue

Marketing Lesson # 6: Loyalty Programs

Seinfeld Episode:

Elaine is trying to earn a free submarine sandwich at Atomic Sub by using her "Buy 23 Subs, Get 1 Free" card:

ELAINE: Oh, I can't believe it! I've lost my "Atomic Sub" card!


ELAINE: I've eaten 23 bad subs, I just need 1 more! It's like a long, bad movie, but you want to see the end of it!

JERRY: No, you walk out.

ELAINE: Alright, then, it's like a boring book, but you gotta finish it.

JERRY: No, you wait for the movie!
ELAINE: (Irritated, and through clinched teeth) I want that free sub!

The Marketing Lesson: Let's face it; your loyalty program may not be fostering loyalty. In fact, if done incorrectly, your punch card or exclusive discounts and offers may be actually hurting you. Loyalty can only be earned over time by consistently providing your customers with memorable customer experiences. If your customer experience is faulty (for example, "bad subs"), then the increase in negative word-of-mouth from your loyalty program can actually propel your business into inexistence faster.

Remember this formula:

Bad customer experience + loyalty program = accelerated extinction

Before you start any loyalty program, make sure your customer experience is rock solid (and that loyalty is more than just a "program" in your company).

Marketing Lesson #7: Competition Myopia Seinfeld Episode:

A beautiful woman, Danielle, mistakes George for her boyfriend Neil-a guy who she claims looks just like plain, old George. This intrigues George; he wants to meet Neil. George is oblivious to Danielle's advances and can only focus on finding out how Neil could ever become the boyfriend of this beautiful woman. In this scene, George talks to Jerry about his obsession:

GEORGE: I have got to find out how he could get a girl like Danielle.

JERRY: (pointing out the obvious) George, you've got Danielle. Forget about Neil. You've out-Neiled him.

GEORGE: (surprised) So, I'm Neil? How did I do that?

JERRY: I don't know, but you better keep it up.

Focusing on your competition to the point of looking beyond your customers is suicide.


The Marketing Lesson:

Sadly, George does not keep it up. His obsessive fixation on Neil (instead of focusing on Danielle) led him to lose Danielle to Neil. This reminds me of a marketing professor that I had that would always encourage his students to play the game of Risk. Don't get me wrong; Risk can be a very fun game. However, I wonder if the tactics learned in playing Risk can actually hurt you as a marketer. The goal of Risk is conquest... worldwide domination. In order to win, you need to learn strategy and make intelligent tactical decisions. These strategic concepts can be very valuable.

However, an unhealthy balance of attention and time is given to the enemy because, once you have dominated your opponent, the country naturally falls into your hands. There is no questioning from the inhabitants as to why you are there.

The real marketing world is not like this. Just because you are better than your competition does not necessarily mean that you can take over the marketplace. In the real marketplace, the inhabitants do not take kindly to dictators. The marketplace can only be "won" over if they want to be and if they believe that you provide something of value in return.

Knowing the whereabouts of your competition is good business practice. However, focusing on your competition to the point of looking beyond your customers is suicide. Customer centricity will always win over competitor centricity. 

Bill Gammel works in Orem, Utah in the marketing department of a market research company. Article chosen from

Issue BG90 Sept 08