5 Marketing Lessons From SNL's Betty White Show

Last Updated May 12, 2010 11:19 AM EDT

Saturday Night LiveAs soon as I heard that Betty White would be hosting SNL's Mother's Day show, I knew I had to tune in. Why, I'm not entirely sure, but I wasn't alone. Sure, capitalizing on the viral Facebook movement to get White to host the show was a smart move, but SNL delivered on White's "sizzle" and came away with their highest rated show in 18 months.

Here's what marketers can learn from Saturday Night Live's Betty White Mother's Day show:

  1. They leveraged the marketing value of social media. Social media's a tremendous source of free consumer data if you're paying attention. I mean, you don't think Ashton Kutcher's landing all those movie and promotional roles because he's a great actor, do you? Anyway, by leveraging the "Betty White to Host SNL (please?)!" Facebook page and its 500,000 fans, SNL got the attention of a huge grassroots audience to tune in.
  2. They leveraged the hell out of all those eyeballs, using Betty White in I think three different skits to promote the soon-to-be-released MacGruber movie produced by Lorne Michaels. It's often a good idea to use a successful product to help a new one get off the ground.
  3. They delivered the goods. While capitalizing on the viral movement was a brilliant move, failing to deliver on the promise by coughing up an average-content show would have been a huge let-down. That goes for any marketing campaign: you have to deliver on the sizzle.
  4. They brought back great alumni from previous seasons: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Molly Shannon, Rachel Dratch, and Ana Gasteyer. While this is an old strategy in entertainment, it's rarely used in the corporate world, and I don't know why. Bringing back previously successful campaigns, products, and brand images and using them in new ways can be big winners. Coca Cola has made liberal use of this technique by bringing back old slogans, ad campaigns, the bottle, and of course, Coke Classic.
  5. They cleverly revived a classic sketch without using its star! They conjured up our memory of the sketch with Ana Gasteyer and Molly Shannon as food program hosts but, instead of Alec Baldwin and his "Schweddy Balls," they had Betty White and her "Dusty Muffin." When something works, find clever ways to extend it, reuse it, whatever works. Sure, we sometimes accidentally hit upon a campaign or technique that appears to have legs, but we usually just pat ourselves on the back and do nothing while it runs its course and eventually dies. How often do marketers leverage these once-in-a-career opportunities by creatively extending their success? Not often enough.
When I ran marketing for a microprocessor company, we ran an ad campaign that sent potential customers to a website with a list of regional resellers. But the site hadn't been updated in ages and there was no program in place to motivate resellers to actually promote our products. When you called them, some of them no longer existed and others pushed our competitor's products. Hard to believe, but it's true.

The point is this. When you're working on a new product or campaign, remember to:

  • Think it all the way through, from the very beginning of product development, through promotion, and all the way until the product is out the door and actually purchased by someone.
  • Close all the "open loops" in the process.
  • Follow through and deliver on the promise of your promotion.
  • Leverage the hell out of your limited budget, including free-research courtesy of social media and creatively resusing previously successful talent and campaigns.
It's surprising how few marketers actually do all that. That's why so few are consistently successful.

Also check out: