What Can Marketers Learn From Jerry Seinfeld?

This is Part 3 of WiseStamp’s celebrity blog post series, where we cover someone famous and discuss what businesses can learn from them (don’t forget to check out Part 1: Rihanna, and Part 2: Taylor Swift).

After the critical and commercial success of his show Seinfeld, it would seem unlikely that the real life Jerry Seinfeld would have trouble getting a new idea off the ground. 

But that’s exactly what happened with Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, his hit web series where comedians like Amy Schumer, Alec Baldwin, Trevor Noah, Bill Maher, and Michael Richards ride around with Seinfeld in classic cars and then go drink coffee.

Seven Seasons and Going Strong

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee recently kicked off its seventh season with a big surprise – an interview with a relatively unknown comedian by the name of Barack Obama. The interview went viral.

But when Seinfeld first started pitching the idea to companies like Facebook and Yahoo, he was told that any streaming series longer than a few minutes would have little chance for success in the fickle, trend-obsessed world of online entertainment. 

He didn’t listen, and ultimately the car company, Acura, stepped in to provide full sponsorship and, better yet, complete creative freedom

From the first interview with Seinfeld co-creator Larry David, Jerry has done the show exactly his way, and his ever-growing audience – and Acura – couldn’t be happier.

In the ever changing world of digital entertainment and streaming content, Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee proves that there’s still a place for creative thinkers and in-depth conversation.

Here are just a few other lessons we’ve learned from Seinfeld’s foray into internet stardom.

1. Know your audience and give them what they love

The concept for Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee arose from a DVD extra for his 2002 comedy documentary, Comedian, as well as a filmed trip with a friend to purchase an old VW Beetle in New Mexico.

The idea is a perfect marriage of the things that Seinfeld finds interesting: cars, coffee, and conversation.

Although he may not have predicted the ultimate success of the series, Seinfeld knew that he had something on this hands that his audience would love.

He also knew that the concept of driving around in a classic automobile and sitting down for a cup of joe with another funny person would provide just enough action to make for 18 to 20 minutes of compelling viewing.

After 9 seasons of making a show about nothing, Seinfeld had undoubtedly developed an understanding of his audience. He knew they were smart and that they were willing to try something a little different.

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is ultimately a love letter to car culture, caffeine and comedy, but it’s also a thank you note to his audience for coming along for the ride.

2. Do your research

At face value, a show about two people having a cup of coffee wouldn’t seem to make for must-see viewing. The industry experts who Seinfeld initially pitched the idea to thought as much, which is why they suggested keeping the show below five minutes.

Who, after all, would watch a show about nothing? But Seinfeld did his research. He and his team knew that an eighteen to twenty minute short format would be ideal for audiences who just wanted something fun to watch as they enjoyed their morning cup of coffee or waited for their car to have an oil change.

He also knew that the classic car aspect of the show would entice a larger audience and provide a great opportunity for prospective advertisers.

Acura did their research too, and they knew that an audience existed for content that lived right in the sweet spot of car enthusiasts and comedy geeks.

It should come as no surprise that more and more entertainers like Alec Baldwin and Jimmy Fallon are finding ways to combine the interview format with advertising opportunities.

3. Don’t take rejection

Here’s the funny thing: Jerry Seinfeld didn’t NEED to make Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. By 2012, he’d already conquered the world of television and was still one of the most bankable stars in stand-up comedy.

When Facebook and Yahoo told him that the idea wasn’t going to work, he had every right to shrug his shoulders and move onto the next idea. That he didn’t do this suggests that Seinfeld truly believed in the idea, and that the only thing he really wasn’t interested in was taking “no” for an answer.

Sure, it’s easier for someone of Seinfeld’s influence to make an idea into a reality, but his story shows that everyone is susceptible to rejection. New ideas always involve some level of risk–even when a huge star is involved–and bringing them to life requires finding people who are equally as passionate.

You might hear a lot of “no’s” along the way–and maybe a few “huh?’s”–but they’re just small bumps in the road on the way to the only thing that matters: a single “yes”.

4. Don’t be afraid to do something different

At the end of the day, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee succeeds because it’s not like anything else. Even with its deceptively simple format, it’s impossible to think of another interview show that works quite as well as it does.

The act of riding in a cool car and sitting down in a crowded diner has a way of disarming Seinfeld’s guests. Amy Schumer seemed downright flustered when the 1970 Ferrari Daytona Jerry picked her up in began to sputter and smoke on the interstate.

It’s moments like this that make the show so fascinating. Seinfeld probably knew that an audience would tune in to see two famous comedians chatting, but he wasn’t interested in the couch-and-desk format of late night television.

He wanted something quirky that might allow for the occasional surprise. Now that tens of millions of viewers tune in for every episode, the only real surprise is why anyone would have ever bet against Jerry Seinfeld.

So, what other lessons do you think businesses could learn from Seinfeld?

And don’t forget to stay tuned for Part 4 of WiseStamp’s celebrity blog post series.

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