A Marketing Lesson: Why I Hate Steven Singer

  • The Internet is an open book that affords us the opportunity to examine other top-performing agencies and businesses in all categories – and how they reached the top. What methods did they use? Can they be transposed to the advertising agency business? Can they be transposed to your clients?
  • For the ones who’ve “made it, you’ll find their “secrets” aren’t any different than the strategies I’ve been touting over the past years to the number of agencies that I’ve worked with and are in my CEO Stars groups.
  • Whether it’s the agency business, the sports, retail or hospitality categories, the same marketing elements needed to build a successful business always pop-up over and over again. These elements are not a secret. They just rarely get done.
  • These are the elements necessary to make a name for yourself – whether it be across the country, in a major market – or a little 20-block neighborhood. These marketing principles are wrapped-up in “Why I Hate Steven Singer.”
  • Visiting a client in Philadelphia a few years ago, it was easy to spot the billboards. In fact, among all the billboards that dotted this congested area of I-95, running alongside Philly’s Historic District, it’s the only billboard you’ll ever really notice – and remember! “I Hate Steven Singer.” Turn on WIP Radio or the other stations. Steven was everywhere.steven singer
  • In his 20’s, Steven Singer’s first claim to fame was his “World’s Smallest Jewelry Store” – 8 feet long, 8 feet deep, located in the heart of Philly’s Jewelry row.
  • How could Steven ever compete against those white-glove stodgy arrogant jewelry stores who had been around for umpteen years accessorizing generations of Main Line Philadelphians?
  • Being small didn’t stop Steven. He had big ideas and a great way to sell diamonds.  Buying diamonds isn’t fun but Steven made it exciting! The store quickly gained a reputation as the place to go for “the most fun you’ll ever have … buying a diamond.” He said it was a place where “size does matter.” You can already visualize the innuendos of that campaign.
  • Steven decided to be the “anti-jeweler” and when everyone else was targeting women who pushed their men for the ring, Steven took the guy’s approach. Are you sure you want to get married? He even gave advice on how to “buy some time” before making the big decision and offered necklaces and earrings to “appease” her and buy you some time. Steven sided with the guys’ anxiety and fear of buying a diamond, even mocking marriage and making sure you were ready for what comes with it.
  • Here are the elements that Steven maintained through-out the years that have made him one of the successful retail stores in the country – and can be used by all ad agencies and their clients:
  1. Develop a position in your market that no one else has
  2. Develop a story that’s “head-turning”
  3. Be consistent with your message
  4. Be creative
  5. Have a signature annual event
  6. Be a real personality
  7. Be positively controversial and community-minded
  8. Advertise
  9. Never forget who your customers are
  • While the “I Hate Steven Singer” campaign is successfully disruptive and differentiating, you gotta love the guy for what he’s accomplished and how he got to the top. Great marketing lessons!
  • Which makes me wonder: Have we made advertising too complicated? Has the digital mumbo-jumbo, jump-on-the-bandwagon stuff forced us to take all the fun away from what we’re doing and from why we got into this business?


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