7 Marketing Lessons You Can Learn From The Simpsons

homer simpson

When was the last time you watched The Simpsons? Probably when you were a kid, right? I know what you’re thinking…it’s a show for children. Although you are right, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t watch it because I’ll bet it will teach you a lot about marketing.

Over the last fifteen or so years of my life, I’ve probably watched a few hundred episodes, and I’ve learned a ton. Here are seven marketing lessons that the Simpsons have taught me:

Lesson #1: Take risks

risk

Do you remember the episode where Bart tries to jump across a cliff with his skateboard? There was a good chance of him dying, but that didn’t stop him from wanting to jump the cliff.

In marketing, you have to learn to take risks. And yes, you’ll make big mistakes when taking these risks, but every once in a while, you’ll hit the jackpot.

For example, when High Rise decided to change the marketing messaging and design of its homepage, it was a bold move.

highrise

If you look at the image on the left, its original homepage made sense. They had video testimonials from customers, a detailed explanation of the products, and tons of images to go with it.

The new homepage didn’t explain the product as well, and it dropped most of the testimonials and screenshots, yet it converted 102.5% better than the original.

If you aren’t willing to take risks, especially when it doesn’t make sense to, you won’t ever get your business to its full potential. Don’t be afraid to try new things!

Lesson #2: Be aggressive

aggressive

Have you noticed that Bart rarely takes responsibility for his actions? If you don’t, this infamous quote that he always uses should help jog your memory:

I didn’t do it. Nobody saw me do it. You can’t prove anything!

I am personally known to take this approach with almost everything I do. I’m very aggressive with my marketing tactics. For example, one of my competitors has a really popular blog. I had someone introduce me to that person, and I offered to write a guest post on my competitor’s blog.

The person ended up rejecting my offer, but if the blogger accepted, I would have had a prime opportunity to pitch my product to my competitor’s customers. I know this may sound foolish to you, but what’s the worse that could happen if you approach your competitor with such an idea? You get a no.

Let’s take things a step further. When someone complains about my competition on Twitter, I send that person a direct message and try to get her to try my company out.

If you aren’t willing to do whatever it takes to succeed, assuming you aren’t breaking any laws, you aren’t cut out to be a marketer. You need to be aggressive, especially in competitive landscapes.

Another company that was very aggressive when it first started was Airbnb. It scraped Craigslist for all of its vacation rental listings so that it would have content to show its visitors. If you look at it now, it is getting millions of visitors each month.

Lesson #3: Be creative

creative

Do you remember the intro for The Simpsons? Well, who does? For every episode, there is a new, unique introduction.

As a kid, I tried to watch every Simpsons episode so that I could catch the intro. Heck, I actually cared more about the intro sometimes than I did about the actual episode.

Take a page out of The Simpsons by being creative with your marketing efforts. Creativity can get you far. If you don’t believe me, look at Mint.com.

Before Mint got acquired by Intuit for $170 million, it was able to grow its user base by leveraging infographics. At that time, very few companies, if any, were using infographics to market their products or services.

Every week, you would see at least one or two new infographics from Mint that broke down some aspect of finance. These infographics drove millions of people to its site, which resulted in thousands of new users.

Creativity can do wonders for your marketing campaigns as long as you are able to think ahead of the curve. So, don’t focus on copying your competitors, but instead think a few steps ahead of them.

Lesson #4: Never stop learning

learn

My favorite character on The Simpsons is Lisa. She always looks to learn something new and never accepts mediocre results. She always has to have the highest grades in her class and doesn’t care for anything but the first place.

You have to strive to be the best even if you aren’t naturally gifted like Lisa. Track every little thing you do with your company. That way you know where you currently are and how much you need to improve.

For example, my startup KISSmetrics is an analytics company, but that doesn’t mean we know everything about our customers. Just like every other company, we have to track our performance and look for ways to improve. We currently track our conversion rates, life-time-value of our customers and marketing attribution. We constantly analyze our cohort reports, and we are always running A/B tests on our landing pages.

By doing all of this on a weekly basis, we are constantly learning new things about our customers and what we need to do as a company to succeed.

Lesson #5: You don’t have to be that smart to succeed

dumb

It’s obvious that Homer isn’t smart. But that doesn’t stop him from succeeding. He has a decent job at a nuclear power plant, and he has a good family. Best of all, he doesn’t let his lack of knowledge stand in his way of accomplishing anything he wants to do.

I have a friend, Tim, who owns a stock site called Timothy Sykes. Although he isn’t dumb like Homer, he also isn’t an expert in everything. He knows finance like the back of his hand, but what he isn’t an expert in is marketing.

Instead of giving up, he paid someone a thousand bucks to pop up a blog. He then shared his stock picks on his blog. He took those blog posts and started to push them out to message boards on Yahoo. Once his traffic started to rise, he knew he was onto something, at which point he found a marketing firm to help him take things to the next level.

So, what can you learn from Tim’s story? You don’t have to be a jack of all trades to get traffic to your website. You just have to go out there and try. If you find something that is working, just keep on doing it. And once you know there is an ROI, you can hire a marketing expert to take things to the next level like Tim did.

If you fast-forward to today, Tim is currently pulling in $150,000 to $225,000 a month in revenue from his blog. Not bad for someone who doesn’t know much about marketing.

Lesson #6: Keep your mouth shut

keep your mouth shut

The richest guy on The Simpsons is Mr. Burns. Over the years, I’ve learned one thing from him: make money and keep your mouth shut. The moment you start telling others your secrets, you’re going to have competition.

I myself made this mistake years ago. I was the first Internet marketer to really leverage Digg. During my peak, I had a 75% success rate of getting stories on the homepage, and I was a top 10 Digg user. With this power, I was able to charge companies anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 to just submit a story to Digg.

But there was one big issue. It didn’t last very long as I had a big mouth. I was speaking at conferences and telling others what I was doing with Digg. And to make matters worse, I was even teaching other marketers how to do the same thing.

After six months of talking about Digg, I found that hundreds of other marketers started using Digg, and it became tough for any of us to reach the homepage. This meant that companies no longer wanted to pay me money to submit their story.

If you find a marketing tactic that works really well, keep your mouth shut. The moment you tell others about it is the day you lose.

Lesson #7: Always be afraid

afraid

Although Chief Wiggum is a tough cop, his son Ralph is a scaredy cat. Ralph is afraid of almost everything that he sees, but he is especially afraid of the unknown.

As a marketer, you don’t want to be afraid of the unknown, but you want to be afraid of being banned from a specific marketing channel. For example, JcPenney used spammy techniques to get to the top of Google in February, and it got caught. Google made an example of it, and JcPenney lost traffic, which affected its sales. Plus, it got a ton of bad press.

JcPenney is back on the top of Google these days, but it did get into trouble for a bit. Before you explore the dark side of marketing, make sure you fully understand the consequences. If you are okay with them, then feel free to roll the dice. If you aren’t, then you’d better stay away from them or hope that you don’t get caught.

I myself pushed Hacker News to the limit. Now, if you try to submit stories from Quick Sprout to Hacker News, you’ll notice that they disappear. This is an example of me pushing things to the limit. At the time, I was familiar with the consequences of my actions, and I was willing to accept them if I got caught.

I am not saying you should or shouldn’t do what I did or other big companies are doing. What I am saying is be familiar with the consequences of your actions.

Conclusion

So, what’s the moral of the story? You can learn new marketing concepts from almost any source, from flying on airplanes to analyzing celebrities to just watching The Simpsons.

Don’t shut people or ideas out just because you don’t see the value in them. You’ll be shocked to see what you can learn from just walking down the street or interacting with a 3 year-old if you pay attention.

What other marketing lessons can we learn from The Simpsons?

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Comments

  1. Love this post! Every point is excellent and I especially love point #2. I’ve been getting the feeling that I’ve been too soft with my marketing and it’s time to kick it up a notch.

    Also, the point about creativity is awesome as well. I’ve been thinking of ways to use infographics in my articles (and other things) to make the content more engaging and easily understandable. The recent post I DID use a nice infographic in is quickly becoming the most popular post on my site.

    Thanks for this Neil!

  2. Who’d a thunk the Simpsons could provide so much business wisdom? I have to remind myself on #5 often! Also, you mention “analyzing celebrities” for more business tips. Couldn’t agree more – I’m currently fascinated by some NBA players who are living at their parents’ homes during the current lockout. Sports figures and some celebs are great sources for “what NOT to do” with money. Thanks for another great post.

  3. This I didn’t expect. Lessons from the Simpsons :)
    It’s great that you can learn from everything.
    I think that the most valuable lesson is #1: Taking risks. I read the 37signals article too and I hope to learn something from it.
    Great stuff Neil!

    • Everything and everyone in life can teach you something. You have to take in all experiences and learn from them. As well, if you want to succeed you have to be willing to take risks. I hope you learn something from it too!

  4. Fantastic post. Great words, great ideas, great graphics and really cool to connect to real-world success stories.

  5. Well I never…the Simpsons and marketing lessons. Terrific post, Neil. This is one we can chew on for quite a while. I think taking risks and being more aggressive are two things many of us shy away from. But in today’s world these simply have to be in your toolbox if you want to succeed.

  6. Very interesteing way of sharing this advice… Lesson #1 has been the biggest hurdle for me, but I have gotten better. Thanks for the tips!

    BTW… You have a typo, in the sentence before the first image #1… See below. Still good stuff as always!

    Here are 7 marketing lessons that the have Simpsons taught me:

  7. An entertaining and insightful post, as always.

    I especially like the point about keeping your mouth shut. Sometimes it’s hard not to share our triumphs with others. A lot of time it’s better to keep your in-house secrets…in house.

  8. Very interesting and I like the connection you make to the Simpsons, somehow it makes learning fun :)

  9. Hi Neil,

    Its always good to look around for ideas on linking and learning in business. Being aggressive is something I am not and it shows in results..I need to work on it.

    Even though I haven’t watched it in a while I surely loved The Simpsons.

    Thanks
    David

    • I agree, you want to always continue to learn. The more you know the easier it will be to succeed. You have to really feel passionate about what you are doing in order to become aggressive in it. Once you find something you feel strongly about it will come naturally.

  10. Here’s another tip, have Bravado! Just like the be aggressive tip, Bart was also famous for having straight balls. He would do whatever he wanted, and if someone freaked out, he simply looked them straight in the face and said “don’t have a Cow Man”. This gave him such a “cool kid” rep, that he was even well respected by the biggest bully in town! So, even if you’re not the biggest kid on the block, act like you are. More people will see you as being the guy able to pull it off, then not… That’s something, that I’ve learned from the Simpsons…

  11. The Simpsons is NOT for kids! After my son mooned his teacher in gym and started choking his brother I was banned from watching it :(

    Great post. Especially love that I don’t have to be smart to be successful!

  12. After reading this post I can now see what you mean by the words “I’m Kind of a Big Deal” on your Twitter profile. You have charisma and a great way of expressing yourself. I have shared your post on my Facebook wall and it is an honour to be connected. Thank you.

  13. Just imagine what you are going to learn from Family Guy! Thanks!

  14. Neil, if you are keeping your mouth shut, then what is all this content about??

  15. Nice Info!!!!

    Nice seem all points are very nice i think if we have ability then definitely we can take advantage from this list.

    I impressed with the points #1 Take risks and #4 Never stop learning these two points we should not forget on any how if we want to gain some big then we should need to take risk for that and beside that we try to learn something always about successful people how they achieved success in their life.

    • Anyone can have the ability to do so as long as they are willing to put in the time and effort.

      You have got it. It is all about pushing boundaries and trying new things, as well as learning along the way. That is what will lead you to success.

  16. Hi Neil

    You can add up to the points that they were never shy doing things.

  17. Hi Neil,

    I have been following your various posts. It’s rally amazing how you can grasp ideas to share.

    I have learnt a lot. I’m expecting to start my small video and steel picture company. I will use your ideas to reach where I want to go.

    Cheerrrsssss

    Sam

  18. The ideas are awesome. But I am not sure if Choosing the simpsons genre was a way to attract people into reading your post. I personally feel that there wasn’t too much to relate. But still the article was very informational.

  19. Neil, As ever a great article. I love the comparisons to individual characters.

    I agree with all of the points you have made, however the one I feel strongest about is taking risks. You have hit the nail on the head here and your knowledge of the Simpsons suggests you have watched more than 100 episodes :)

    • Thank you, I choose characters that I feel personalities were great examples of how to act in business.

      Taking risks is big. Holding back will only keep you from achieving your goals. I have watched my far share of episodes lol.

  20. haha great idea for a post, try and write this one using South Park and you might have more trouble…

  21. Risk and aggression both are the main factors me, but taking risk more than requirement little bit useless, i think so.. Thanks for great post.

  22. I love the point #6 and #4 very much, when we have something very special, do not share with everyone try to mint. Point #4 forced me to read your article on regular basis so that i can learn something new and some thing very special as i do not have any formal training ” how to run business”.

    • It is always a good idea to keep anything important to yourself. I am glad you do, reading and studying especially other people in your line of work is a great way to gather helpful tips to help you in your business.

  23. I have to change my design… I think its not really converting and learn from it.

  24. Always be afraid is the best one. Overconfidence is the root of all downfalls.

    • You want to have confidence you just want to make sure that you are never to comfortable. You can never be sure of anything and must always be prepared for something to go wrong.

  25. Hi Neil, I especially like this keeping your mouth shut thing and you don’t need to be smart in order for you to succeed. This is a sound advice because it keeps us alerted about the amount of ideas we shared, and that competitors use it to their advantage. It’s practically happening in the business..

  26. That is so cool that you’ve watched that show, one of my favorites for many years. Lesson #1 is the scariest for me, mainly because risk sometimes involves change, and change usually involves the “unknown” (e.g. what would happen if I changed the layout of my website, changed my logo, etc.), and the “unknown” can be uncomfortable sometimes…

    • I can be scary but it may also be worth the risk. Think about it if you can only improve either way. If you do change your layout and people don’t like it, well then you change it and also know what doesn’t work. If they like it then you have found a way to make it better then before.

  27. p.s. Neil, this is one of my favorite all-time blog posts, because you’ve included some stories of the things you’ve done.

  28. If someone will take ahigh risk he will become aggressive automatically… Haha.. Yeah starting business without continuous research about products and new learning may result into start of failure..

    • True it could very well turn into failure. It is important to do background research for any business you are thinking about getting in to. However you can still fail regardless of how much you know.

  29. Hey Neil, I like the second point that it is necessary to be aggressive. I too believe that aggressiveness for marketing is necessary. If we have to remain in the competition, then it is highly necessary that marketing should be done in a best manner and laziness should be avoided while doing marketing.

  30. It’s time to get back to structure.

  31. AR @ make money online :

    “Keep your mouth shut” – this is so true, you just can’t share any secret to anyone, especially if its your vital trade secret. Sometimes it’s very to not to tell someone of your success and sometimes to boasts something about your achievement. But the truth is anything that can generate money is a hot item for any business individual, as for me the most important thing is to keep quiet and let the money flow to your wallet.

    • Definitely, you never want to over share in business. It can end up hurting you in the future. However that doesn’t mean never share anything. Feel open to still help others, just be careful about what it is you tell them.

  32. I´m with Lisa – keep learning. It shocks me when people start to make a success of their business and then …. they stagnate, stop learning and then they´re surprised when the business starts to flounder.
    Keep learning = keep growing.

  33. I was also amazed to read that you gave away your Digg secret. You´ve obviously learned a lot since then.

    • I have made many mistakes and will probably make more along the way. I am constantly learning and improving from them. You have to remember it is not about the mistakes you have made because there is nothing you can do about them anymore. It is about what you learn from them and how you better yourself after.

  34. “You don’t have to be that smart to succeed” – I like this very much, there are thousands of people out there who have millions and may not be the brightest…

  35. Thanks Neil, this is a very nice post.

    It does pep up my motives and try new things. Hoping to see some change in our site with some experiment without being scared.

  36. Hi Neil,
    I’m back and reading another one of your inspirational article. In the business industry, we must take risk. I am a type of person that that hate asking myself “what if?’ you would never know till you try it. This article reminded me of my uncle. He didn’t graduated from Harvard, he was passionate about what he was doing and he never stop learning either. Now he is in the millionaire category.

  37. What about No. 8 – Face it, no matter how could you are people will grow tired of you?

  38. Definitely agree with being aggressive, the key there is to not come off a spammy or arrogant while still taking charge.

  39. Yeah, this movie is the crazy one. The characters sometimes have no calculations at all…They just do it. By the way, … I really agree with you that we do not have to be that smart to succeed. Even the stubborn attitude and perseverance to do the simple things can lead to success

  40. Very nice post Neil, I have been watching Simpsons but never from this angle. Can you come up with something from the Family Guy? ;) Homer may not seem intelligent but the guy who writes his lines is hell of a genius because he can think like a dim wit all the time.

  41. Great post, but I am not sure if I agree with #6. Usually, it is this tactic that can take your business to the next level. Sharing knowledge even it is one of your secrets is at the same time a strategy for building reputation, trust, expert level in a niche or industy. And top internet marketers are doing this all the time.

    • You make a good point sharing information can sometimes lead you in the right direction. However sometimes sharing too much or the wrong thing might in the long run hurt you.

  42. If I start work with more involvement, I forget to learn something new. I mean apart from the experience. Neil do you have any idea to combine both this facts.

    • It may be tricky to find time for everything you want to do so it is important to prioritize and schedule. Think of what new things you want to learn and schedule into your calendar small amounts of time to study it. Also try to find new things to learn that are relevant to your work.

  43. Neil, Your post has made me realize how much I have to learn from what seem trivial. This is what we call “Life”!

  44. I appreciate the fact that you have learned so much positives from watching the Simpsons and putting across a beautiful article for your readers.

    • I think you can learn something from everything, whether it is good or bad. What we do, see, watch, feel, smell, etc. can teach a lot. Knowledge is power, you just have to soak it in.

  45. I agree with you Neil, if one steps out of the house with a mindset that he is willing to learn from others that day, you’ll be amazed at how many tips and lessons you’ll learn on a short trip to the mall.

    • Definitely, all it takes is being aware. Take the time to think about what you are experiencing and see what you can learn from it. You will be amazed at what you can learn from on a daily bases.

  46. Great connection between marketing and the simpsons. I smiled while reading. :)

  47. Your best bet is through attraction marketing. Build a relationship with your traffic (or website viewers) and than market to them. It’s a very simple concept, but so few utilize this.

  48. Great lessons i ever learn.

  49. great post. everyone loves the simpsons

  50. Good to know that you do not need to be smart to have success ;).

  51. Great post Neil. I also love Simpsons.

  52. hey neil,
    i am amazed that you have picked the topic from Simpsons. its a great thought. rare people can think like this. you have a creative mind i must say.

    Thanks.

    Matt

  53. Hello,
    I’ve been getting the feeling that I’ve been too soft with my marketing and it’s time to kick it up a notch.
    Thanks

  54. Hello!,,Nice seem all points are very nice i think if we have ability then definitely we can take advantage from this list.Thanks,,,,,,!

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