-GAINS & GLEANINGS-
By J. Hogan
Many of you, if you’re in your twenties or older, remember Billy Mays. Billy, for those who don’t know, was a local-boy-who-made-it story for McKees Rocks. He left the area to sell products on the Atlantic coast from a tent that Faithbridge uses now for our summer cookouts, and was so energetic and filled with charisma that he caught the attention of TV commercial producers.
He initially was asked to do long-form infomercials for a cleaning product, OxiClean, but Billy was both a huckster in the best sort of way, and smart, so Billy, although he’s associated with OxiClean in people’s minds to this day, didn’t make OxiClean his main brand.
His main brand was Billy Mays.
Sure, others – I’m thinking of Joe Dimaggio with Mr. Coffee coffeemakers and Robert Conrad with EverReady batteries – would tell us their name at the beginning of a commercial, but they were known people, long in the tooth and reminding folks who they were so folks would associate them with the younger, more famous versions of themselves.
Billy, however, wasn’t a known name.
He started the trend that continues to this day of unknown commercial actors telling you their name at the beginning of an ad, and he was the king of it, mastering his delivery and drawing the viewer into the advert with his “Billy Mays here!” introduction. His self-branding made him a household name before his death 13 years ago, and he sold millions of units of hundreds of different products using his trusted brand name.
When he died young, at 50, of a heart attack, he was set to begin filming the second season of his Pitchman reality show, and a very wealthy man.
Billy made his name his calling card. While we don’t all need our moniker to be our brand, we all can learn from that.
What is important to you? What is your brand?
How do you get that out to folks? Another friend of mine, Chuck Gerbe, was one of the owners of Total Equipment Company in Coraopolis. He was known as being Johnny-on-the-spot when it came to pump maintenance and repairs, although he didn’t repair pumps.
When he was hired as a salesman in the 1980s, he quickly realized that cold-calling existing customers at factories and power stations often resulted in conversations about pumps needing adjustments, maintenance and repairs, and that some customers were outsourcing the work to TEC's competitors. So Chuck bought a pickup truck. If a company brought up a problem or need with a pump, he’d say “shut it down, let’s pull it and put it in my truck, and I’ll get it fixed and right back to you.”
His ingenuity brought in more sales, more loyalty, made for happier customers, and ultimately made Chuck indispensable to TEC, and he was asked to join the ownership team.
My calling card is Jesus. Sure, I carry a business card with my name and number, Faithbridge’s address and service times, but that’s only to help me continue conversations with people about the transforming power of Jesus. My name is not so significant. When I was about me, I made a mess out of me, but Jesus, the Redeemer, pulled me from my addiction and flipped the script of my life.
He is my brand, the focus of my purpose, the amazing sustainer and power of our ministry in this tough place, so I try to focus folks on Him, hungry to see who and what they become when they start to walk with Him.
What’s your brand? What do you want to leave with folks and be associated with in their mind, and how do you do that?
Billy made a great example of knowing these answers and putting a strategy in motion… we should all think about what’s important to us and how to put that at the tip of our handshake.
Rev. James Hogan is a native of Stowe Township and serves as pastor of Faithbridge Community Church.