What SNL Can Teach Marketers


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Well friends, we’re coming up on Saturday Night Live’s 40th Anniversary this weekend, and ohhhhh myyyyyy goooood, I’m so freakin’ excited.

I have been a complete SNL nerd most of my life and tend to believe that most of life’s problems can be solved with a binge of favorite skits. So what can TV’s most beloved sketch comedy show teach us about marketing?

Have Character

SNL is filled with incredible characters. The sketches and the show itself have a very distinct personality ‘ intelligent, goofy, and of course, funny. That character comes to life in many ways, but it’s always present.

A challenge that all marketers face is holding onto a strong sense of who your brand is. Truly sticking to that brand identity and having it be present at every touchpoint is not an easy thing to do. But the brands that are doing well are ones that have decided to be who they are at every turn.

If you’re nerdy, be nerdy. If you’re quirky, be quirky. If you’re sappy, be sappy.

Just like people, there can and should be different facets to that identity, but it should maintain consistency while showing dimension.


A brand that has shown up in a big way recently with a strong sense of their voice is Newcastle Brown Ale ‘ they’re British, clever and irreverent to a tee. To contrast, Nationwide appeared in the Super Bowl with Mindy & Matt in one of the funniest spots of the night and then gave us all whiplash with the very dark dead kid spot.

Know When to Quit

In every episode of SNL, there are returning favorites and brand new sketches. When a sketch works and has legs, they bring those characters back in new settings to capture more of the love the audience already has for them. And sometimes a sketch just doesn’t connect ‘ the audience is quiet, and for a moment, things get a little uncomfortable. And a minute later, a new sketch begins, and we forget about the stinker.

My years in advertising have allowed me to work within many industries and with clients. I’ve had a client who was tired of the creative before it launched. I’ve had a client who wanted to stick with a concept years after it had begun, terrified to try anything new. Some ideas can and should have a long life ‘ the ones that work and have legs to continue. (Be honest, how many Celebrity Jeopardy skits could you watch?)

And some ideas just don’t work as well as we’d hoped, and when that happens, we need to let them go and move onto the next idea.

Go For It

If there’s one thing to be said for SNL (and we know there are many more), it’s that they commit. They push boundaries, they take risks, they take each sketch all the way. It can be risky, but it pays off. How wrong could the Beck Bennett-Kyle Mooney 90s sitcom sketches have gone, and how weirdly amazing did they end up?

After many iterations of a concept and endless rounds of review with dozens of clients, ideas can become watered down. That’s not to say feedback isn’t important ‘ it certainly is ‘ but with too many cooks in the kitchen and primary, secondary and tertiary objectives to accomplish, a once-great concept can become lost. Tempering an idea to be safer doesn’t just soften it, it often kills it.

When the work is at a strong point, we need to know when to stop fussing with it and let it go. That requires strong-willed folks to channel their inner Mary Katherine Gallagher and fight to keep the idea whole.

And live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!

(Just always wanted to do that.)

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