The formula? Purchase a stake in a business with potential, then deploy your considerable content marketing skills.
If you know about Mint Mobile, it’s probably because of Ryan Reynolds. The upstart wireless brand, for whom Reynolds serves as the personality in the company’s TV and social media ads (and whose advertising agency, Maximum Effort, created those ads) was just sold to T-Mobile in a deal valued at up to $1.35 billion.
T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert touted the benefits of Mint’s “marketing formula,” saying, “Over the long-term, we’ll also benefit from applying the marketing formula Mint has become famous for across more parts of T-Mobile.”
If you’re keeping score, according to the Wall Street Journal Reynolds owns approximately 25 percent of Mint Mobile, which makes his share worth a cool $300 million.
That’s not the first time Reynolds has cashed in on his marketing skills. In 2018 he purchased a stake, and used a similar marketing strategy, to promote Aviation Gin; a company purchased in two years later by beverage giant Diageo for over $600 million.
While Reynolds’ share of Aviation Gin isn’t public knowledge, even if Reynolds “only” took a 10 percent stake, that’s $60 million for a couple year’s worth of developing and delivering extremely creative — and clearly effective — ad campaigns.
And then there’s Wrexham AFC. In late 2020, Reynolds and Rob McElhenney paid 2 million pounds to purchase a fifth-division Welsh soccer team that for 15 years had failed to earn promotion. Their marketing chops, best exemplified by the Hulu documentary Welcome to Wrexham, brought global attention, increased the club’s social presence by nearly 1,000 percent, boosted merchandise sales (a major percentage of which come from overseas), caused the team to average the highest home match attendance in its division…
Add it all up, and Reynolds isn’t just a gifted marketer. He’s clearly also a savvy investor.
Or maybe the two go hand-in-hand. As Dharmesh Shah, the co-founder of HubSpot, says:
Although it is still possible to blast the world with your message and offering, and try to interrupt your way into people’s lives with your marketing, that’s the most expensive way to do it. The cheaper and better way is to tell a story or share something helpful and useful: that’s the power of content marketing.
For Reynolds, that means replacing spectacle — big budgets, lots of special effects, etc. — with character. Small budgets, tight timelines, simple sets, timely premises.
Something like this:
Or like this(note Wrexham and Aviation Gin make brief appearances:
The marketing budget for the first Deadpool was relatively bare bones, so Reynolds focused on creating content that audiences would not only consume but would also be eager to share. Inside jokes, off-beat humor, clever trailers… the marketing for Deadpool substituted personality for spectacle, and creativity for massive spending.
Unsurprisingly, since HubSpot is now a $19 billion-plus company, Reynolds’ marketing approach dovetails nicely with Dharmesh’s perspective on inbound marketing.
And so should yours
1. You absolutely must market.
You may be tempted to ignore marketing, especially when you’re consumed with developing a product people will love. Still: without marketing, who will ever know your product exists? Great marketing helps you find people to love what you do.
If you don’t plan to invest in marketing, don’t invest in building a business.
2. Your marketing should service a need.
No one wakes up thinking, “Gee, I hope I get spammed today.” As Shah says, ninety-five percent of people don’t like being interrupted… and the other 5 percent hate being interrupted.
The best marketing is based on doing what you do best: help customers. The best marketing is based on creating content that is useful for potential customers. That’s the essence of inbound marketing: helpful, informative, etc. content that draws people to you.
Even if “helpful” just means “entertaining,” since we can all use a little more fun in our lives. (Think the people who share Aviation Gin or Mint Mobile ads do so because they think their connections are seeking a new gin brand or wireless provider? Yeah, no.)
3. But don’t try to spend your way to customer awareness.
You won’t win by shouting louder, placing bigger ads, or buying a bigger booth at the trade show. You can’t buy attention; you can only rent it. Advertising is always temporary — when you stop paying the “rent,” you stop getting any attention.
Besides, well-heeled competitors have more money and can spend money way more stupidly. So let them.
As a startup, your goal is to use marketing tools and strategies that create leverage. You need to receive disproportionate, long-term return on your marketing investments.
That’s the only way you will survive, and later thrive.
4. Don’t think of yourself as an owner, or a marketer. You’re both.
In the early years, everyone in the company should be selling. Everyone in the company should also be marketing.
No one cares more passionately about your brand. No one wants to help, and inform, and teach other people — while creating content that builds your brand and reach — more than you.
See that drive as your competitive advantage, both as an owner and a marketer.
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