The Costanza Effect – New Thoughts On Old Marketing

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It has to be one of the best episodes of Seinfeld ever (granted, I’d probably say that about every episode), but there is the one where our friend, George Costanza, gives up on (pretty much) everything and decides to do the exact opposite of what he normally does. The punchline is that things start working out for Georgie Boy. In the recent past, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to diverse groups of people – from private to public sector and from small business to multi-nationals – and the talking points I’m hearing back are all the same. It happens when I speak, and I hear similar sentiments in client meetings, etc… Whether we’re talking Social Media and Web 2.0 or even in discussions around – what I call – traditional online marketing (Websites, landing pages, micro sites, display advertising, email, search, etc…). "We can’t get our heads around it," "what’s the ROI?", "are there case studies?"… mostly the conversation revolves are two salient points:

1. Does our company have the right culture to embrace this?

2. Is this guaranteed to work?

Digital Marketing, as it stands, will fail every time with these two barriers. Don’t get me wrong, once you embrace and put the time in, the results are there, but I’ve got some bad news: there are no guarantees, and having Twist Image (or anyone else) build you a website will never change your corporate culture.

There’s the old business maxim that, "change comes from within."

I’m constantly surprised by a lack of wanting to really push the boundaries when it comes to Marketing, Communications and these new Digital channels. Part of the sadness comes from the fact that it is pretty easy to dismiss. A simple "there’s no proof" or "so and so couldn’t make it work" and the ideas are shelved forever. This is not about promoting rugged individualism, but it is about going back to the core of Marketing: communicating a company vision to the masses.

So, when you’re sitting in those Marketing and Communications meeting, and someone suggests that the company start a Blog, instead of questioning the culture or looking for some form of guarantee on the ROI, stop yourself. Stop, and think about George Costanza. What if all the options were gone? What if every time you used the judgement you’ve exercised to date it did not work out? What if you pulled a Costanza and did the exact opposite? What would George Costanza do (hint: sleeping under your desk is not the right answer).

What do you have to loose? All too often, Marketers worry more about CLMs (Career Limiting Moves) over KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). The Digital Marketing landscape is not that well-manicured yet. The renegades and adventurers are having big wins and gaining uncontested marketshare. The more I see Marketers hesitate when it comes to trying out Marketing initiatives online, the more I want them to watch that specific episode of Seinfeld in hopes that it gets them thinking, and that it doesn’t come off as tragic comedy.


  1. Hey Mitch,
    In the past I have worked for large, sophisticated multi-national organizations.
    I remember one sales meeting where Mike Lipkin did an incredible presentation first thing in the morning. People were engaged. People were listening. People were paying attention.
    Every 7-10 minutes during his presentation, Mike would ask us to get up and briefly move around for a couple of seconds.
    He maintained this was necessary to help keep us engaged in his presentation and he was right.
    After his presentation, the company president got up and thanked Mike for a great talk. She also spoke about how “valuable” his advice was and what we could all learn from his experience.
    There were great “pearls” and “take aways” from his presentation according to the P.
    After the presentation we went to our “break out rooms” where the rest of the day was filled with back to back 90 minute meetings and a working lunch. We finished at 6 PM that night, just in time to race to the lobby of the hotel for a bus ride to a mandatory corporate dinner.
    We finished off the day by sharing a room with a roommate. This “rooming policy” did not apply to the corporate management team of course.
    Total “alone time” for that day? ZERO. Total time to recharge the batteries? ZERO.
    It was interesting to see a great speaker talk about the value of short key points and frequent breaks and at the same time, the company was doing the exact opposite.
    Our meetings were structured this way because “marketing” had a lot to tell us in a very short time and they had to ensure the ROI was there.
    After the sales meeting one VP took me aside and asked me why the sales reps did not seem pumped after an “incredibly exciting” meeting.
    I didn’t have the heart to tell him because I thought it would be a CLM!
    Many organizations would be much better served if they pulled a Costanza every now and then.
    Do the opposite and something non-traditional and see what happens.
    Start a blog and talk to your customers and you just might be surprised.

  2. Hi Mitch, I’m absolutely delighted by this post because of the mere fact that you referred to Seinfeld. Haha.
    That aside, I totally agree with what you’re saying. I talked about something similar in my post, Good Men, bring your ideas to life, but from a different angle. Too often, businesses dismisses ideas on the basis of them being too “something”. Too new, too risky, no certain pay-off etc etc.
    The problem is that with social media, it’s a risky ball game from the outset. Businesses can’t ask for the numbers the way they do in normal investments. Enlightenment has to come from within, with a different set of expectations. Ultimately, the game has changed, and businesses are still struggling to learn the rules.

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