Marketing Lessons from Home Improvement

December 2nd, 2010 No Comments

More Power! No, that’s not the lesson from the 1990s television show Home Improvement.  Home Improvement was a television show that focused on the Taylor family. The father, Tim Taylor, understood content marketing before the age of social media.

In the show, Tim Taylor, along with his burly assistant, Al Borland, hosted the home improvement show Tool Time. Tool Time was more than just a cable television show about how to fix a toilet or repair a fence, though. It was a marketing tool by its sponsor: Binford Tools. Viewers of the show may have noticed the prominent mentions of Binford tools and the Binford sponsorship. The point of Tool Time wasn’t just to plug a leak, but to use a Binford wrench while doing it.

Binford wasn’t going to sponsor Cooking with Irma, a cooking show on the same network, as the target audience for that show wasn’t the target customer for Binford tools. But neither were they going to try to just advertise and not provide authentic content. Well, they did try.

Towards the end of the show, Binford had a new VP who required that Tool Time push the Binford name in the audience’s face. Instead of authenticity, they were asked to fake it — blow up things intentionally instead of due to Tim’s natural clumsiness. Instead of providing value, they chose to be the world’s first spammers and turn off their audience and host.

The result: Tim Taylor and the Tool Time team rebelled and Tool Time (and Home Improvement) ended its decade-plus run … and Binford’s content was now not in front of their target audience. By trying to push the hard sell, they ended up with no sell.

I’ve seen that all too often with so-called “social media gurus.” Most brands are broadcasting instead of engaging. Advertising instead of helping. Too many brands are just tweeting “Buy me” or promoting their latest events, rather then providing content that is interesting and useful to their prospective customers.  That’s not the formula for success.

Instead, provide useful information to help your customers. If you are a tool company, provide videos on home improvement tips. An office building, how about small business networking. Gerber baby food talks about parenting tips on their blog. An Internet security company can talk about how to keep your server safe. A unit testing software company can blog about code errors and writing code for testing. An educational portal can teach their users. A strategic communications and marketing firm can share marketing tips (like this very site!).  The medium isn’t important, except that it should be clear and legible. Certainly, if your customers can’t find your site or your video, it’s not very help and they won’t benefit you. That’s where SEO and proper coding, tagging, and formatting matter. But providing useful, helpful, and informative content is just as – if not more important. That’s what Binford did on Tool Time and what you need to do to your customers.

It’s not about social media or “traditional media” (was the television tradition media before the 1950s and 1960s?). It’s about creating compelling content that is useful to your potential customers. The medium is NOT the message. Tim Taylor knew that on Tool Time. Are you as smart as the tool man?

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