A marketing lesson from a master

Photo by azrainman

Truth be told, for years, dating back to waaaaay before he got much media attention, I couldn’t stand the late, great Billy Mays.  Yes, the ultimately likeable guy who was just in the midst of a surge in popularity due to his hit show, Pitchmen.  Yet, for the longest time, the sight and inescapable sound of him made me cringe.

At the core of my issue with Mr. Mays, I don’t like being shouted at, and here was this burly guy with his neatly trimmed beard bellowing about Oxyclean and Orange Glo like I cared.

Even his name, Billy Mays…was that a bait and switch play off of the great American baseball hero, Willie Mays, I’d think to myself.

Well, in the end, I was wrong about the man.  And, in retrospect I’ve learned much in the way of brand positioning and presentation — two areas I’d consider strengths of mine.

Billy obviously lived by the noble and logical theorem that if you had a legitimate product, good or service that could help others out in some way, then you’re actually do a complete dis-service by not stepping out in a big way.

No selling from the heels for Billy, he put it out there and MILLIONS of people became satisfied customers.  His products became iconic, as did he.  He achieved massive success, for a guy who started out as a street pitchman, hawking products to passersby on the Atlantic City Boardwalk.  Now, he’s left a legacy as a pop icon, a true salesman, and where it truly counts, a good guy and father.

I have nothing but love for Billy these days, and I actually have to credit another excellent salesman, businessman and all-around good guy, a friend of mine named Joe, for changing my mind on Billy.  Joe once said to me in response to a rant of mine on Facebook, “How can you dislike a guy who’s always smiling?”

I can’t…haven’t been able to since Joe said that to me.  Billy appeared to love what he did, loved the people he encountered, and loved life, living it voraciously.

And when I saw this YouTube video a few months back, I became a raving fan of the Pitchmen star.


In the end, I know Billy is smiling down on everyone who is bold enough to stand tall and provide value to those who need it.  Sales is at the heart of all business & commerce, and the negative connotation attached to it is unfair.  As the saying goes, everyone loves to buy, but no one likes to be sold.

Billy was so charismatic that you were entertained to the point of forgetting that he was even selling.  People do like to be sold when they don’t realize it (read: people like to buy from people who have a passion for what they do, belief in their brand, especially if they like and trust them.  They don’t like slimy salesman that aren’t there to service their clients first, but rather are just focused on making a few bucks for themselves.)

There are many lessons that I’ve touched on in this post, and many others not mentioned, but I guess I’m writing to pay my respects, and as a way to say “thanks” to the charismatic pitchman that made us all smile.  Make THAT your brand and you can’t help but succeed.