Business & Branding Lessons From The Show “American Pickers”

Posted: September 2, 2011 in 9 Challenges Every Successful Business Overcomes, Business Tips, Little-Known Revelations On Branding

One of my new favorite shows is a show on “History Channel” called, “American Pickers

I know this is a NOT a new show, but it’s new to ME!

I hadn’t seen it till I “discovered” it this year on Netflix.

Today I want to share with you some insights that I’ve gained from watching the show.

Some of the insights on branding here add to the ideas in my series of blog posts called, “Little-Known Revelations On Branding” and some emphasize concepts from my “9 Challenges Every Successful Business Overcomes“.

Are you ready?  Ok.  Here we go…

First of all, if I told you 5 years ago that a show about two guys driving around the country buying “junk” from people, would be a smash hit, would you have believed me?

No!  You wouldn’t.  Come on.  Let’s be honest.  That doesn’t sound like the formula for a hit show!

But it IS a smash hit for the history channel!  It debuted with 3.1 million viewers and had 5 million viewers for a current episode.

So how did they do it and what can it teach you about business & branding?

Here is how I believe they did it and how you can use the same methods…

Story

The first reason this show is a hit is because it’s not just a show about two guys buying junk from people.  It’s a continuing story of two “treasure hunters.”  And it’s not just the story of inanimate treasures.  It’s the story of Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz discovering these amazing people who have lived interesting lives.

But there’s still more to the story than just discovering treasures.  This show also contains the element of suspense and surprise.  You never know where Mike & Frank will end up, who they’ll meet (or if those people will reject them or not), and what they will discover.

There is also an element I’d call “tension and battle.”  Part of the excitement of watching the show is the back and forth negotiating between Mike & Frank and the person they are buying from.

You want to see if Mike & Frank will get a good deal.  You want to see if the person selling it will get a decent price too.  (There’s also this element in the relationships between Mike, Frank, & Danielle).

Look at the list of those elements again.  Do they look familiar?  They should!  They’re the common elements of a good story!

That’s what gives the brand “American Pickers” the ability to draw such a large audience.  People might not care about “picking” or “antiquing” but they can’t resist the power stories!

All powerful brands and businesses have a compelling story.  Think of Apple as an example.

They have two stories: 1) a corporate story and also 2) a human story.  The corporate story that they’ve told is about themselves as an “us against the establishment” company (think of they’re classic “1984” commercial as an example).  Their human story is the story of Steve Jobs (and to some degree the other founders: Steve Wozniak, & Ronald Wayne).

Think about this.  The story of Apple is so closely tied to Steve Jobs (and vice versa) that the recent announcement of his resignation caused people to wonder and question the ability of Apple to continue!

Every powerful brand and business has a compelling story.  Their story is one of the things that causes people to buy from a businesses so they can align themselves with that business, identify themselves with that business, and in a sense “root” for that business.

What’s the story of your business and brand?  You have one whether you realize it or not.   But the question is: have you told it?  Learn from “American Pickers” and tell a compelling story.

But there’s one more lesson you can learn from them.  It’s a lesson that will make your story and your business stand out and become even more compelling. 

Personality

The second reason I believe this show is a success is because they didn’t just put some generic, boring people on the show.  They have people who are interesting and unique and not afraid to be themselves!  

I’m learning more and more that personality is one of the keys to success in life and business.  Think about it.

The people who succeed and standout all have personalities that stand out!  Want examples?  Ok.  Here are just a few off of the top of my head:

  • Rush Limbaugh
  • Jon Stewart
  • Martha Stewart
  • Donald Trump

You might NOT like all of their personalities, but they standout and are successful, because they have unique personalities and let them show!

It’s not just true of people.  It’s true of businesses and brands too.  Some examples:

  • Starbucks
  • In-N-Out
  • McDonalds
  • Chuck E. Cheese

Each of these places stands out in their category because they each have a different personality or feel.  Each of these places have powerful and meaningful brands, because the “personality” that each business embodies is unique and clearly presented!

In fact, I believe that it’s impossible to have a strong brand  if a business doesn’t have a “personality.”   A business without a unique “personality” probably doesn’t even have a brand at all.  They just have, at the most, a logo.

Awnry, Unusual, Or Different

This lesson was reinforced and redefined for me while I was watching one of the “American Pickers” episodes.  Mike & Frank were looking through the collection of a 72 year old picker named “Jerry” and they asked him what his criteria was for the eclectic collection of items he possessed.  

His response grabbed my attention.

I don’t remember his exact words, but he said something to the effect, “Awnryunusual, or different.  If an item is awnryunusual, or different then I pick it.  If it’s not, I don’t.”  

That is what I’ve been trying to say here.

The success of this show (and your business) is based on it being awnry (see definition #1, description 1 0r 2)unusual, or different.

On “American Pickers”, Mike Wolfe, Frank Fritz, and Danielle Colby-Cushman are completely unique from they way they look, talk, dress, and even carry themselves.  They’re awnry, unusual, or different!  And many of the people they meet and display on their show can be described the same way.

The combination of powerful stories and unique personalities is what gives “American Pickers” so much success.  It’s one of the keys to success in your business too.

Practicing What I Preach

I am going to show you how to do this by applying these things in my own business.  That’s what you’ll be seeing next in my upcoming posts.

You’ll SEE me do what you need to do.  How will I do this?

I’m going to begin to tell you the REAL story of who I am. You’ll see how I became an “out of the cube” business strategist and business recession solution expert.

I’m going to tell my story – with no hype but with all the crazy, true details that will include:

  • A childhood kidnapping
  • An alcoholic father
  • A martial artist
  • A wanna-be cartoonist
  • How my biggest fear became my biggest strength
  • A rapper
  • A pastor

I know it sounds like a list of random things, but you’ll see how this all goes together and makes sense when you read my story in my upcoming posts.

P.S.  My next post will be “Business & Life Lessons From The Day I Was Kidnapped (A True Story).”  Stay tuned.

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  1. […] Business & Branding Lessons From The Show “American Pickers” […]

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