Ron Lynch: Merchandising, Marketing and Making Money

Today I am joined by none other than the legendary advertising, copywriting, media buying, business strategist, Ron Lynch, and many other advertisements that you will have seen and heard of. You may not yet have heard this man’s name. I can however say that I know him very well, as this is the man that I went to when I wanted to learn all about advertising and filmmaking! 

Adam: All right. So something that I think is really key for everyone because the people here have their own small businesses and they want that home run, which is something you’re capable of delivering. I know the GoPro story is really fascinating because I think there are going to be a lot of people listening to this that are stuck at that six-figure mark and would love to turn their company into something worth a few billion.

Would you mind sharing the big thing that you brought to GoPro? Because it was if I remember correctly what changed everything.

Ron: Well, I met Nick at the Salt Lake city outdoorsman show. One of our new business development guys was this big avid mountain climber and outdoorsman. He was down there at that show and he called me and he said, “Hey, you gotta come down and see this thing.”

So I jumped on a plane from Seattle where I lived at the time and I flew there and met him and it became clear that this would be a great direct response product. But it’s a show-and-tell product that for sure requires television, like you’re not going to sell GoPros on the radio. 

So we brought him back, his dad came into the company at the time, his father who is his investor, his girlfriend who is now his wife, and Nick. He had a couple of college buddies that he was trying to prime to get into the company, which eventually he did.

We sat down and I wrote him a creative brief, which people were not doing at the time, and I wrote him a very long one, which is something that we hang our hat on now, inventing the long creative brief.

She and he literally sat in my bed and wrote a half-hour info on Michelle for him and fired it off to him. He called me back, which for him was very typical at 2:30 in the morning.

That was when he talked to Nick, he was like, “Hey man, we’re not going to do this.” I’m like what, you’re not going to do this?” He’s like, “I think we should do short forms.” And I said, “Well, okay, that’s easy. Take your 30-page infomercial script there and just take the staple out of it, pull it apart because you got 30 commercials there.”

That’s really how I built it, it was 30 in 30 different sports. So we ended up picking 12 pages, 12 different sports and we did short form campaigns. There were two really special things. I think that we kind of forced the hand early on and we wanted to make sure that the consumer experience that we promised on TV was what they would see.

There’s no audio other than music in those commercials. The first shot that they see is the consumer, well actually the first shot they see is a product and it goes from a three-second product shot to the consumer, usually with a helmet and glasses in the position that you see when you fire up a GoPro cam.

When you go back and check your footage on a GoPro, the first thing you see is your stupid face going, “Is this thing on?” So that image and then the sports footage, but the goal there was to encourage people to edit their own footage and get two cameras instead of one. So we showed two angles cause you really couldn’t do it as a filmmaker without buying two. So we wanted to subtly do that. 

Then at the end of every spot, we created a consumer contest mechanism and the mechanism said “Every day we’d give away a complete suite of our products, go online, get a GoPro” and folks would go to that site. And because we weren’t available at retail anymore yet, an interrupt would pop up and they’d put in their consumer data, their email address, and what have you.

Then we could remarket to them and that would go away. They’d go to the site and they’d realize, oh gosh, I’m never going to win one of these because everybody’s going to enter this contest. 

What we had done is we had taken surfing commercials and put them on networks that reflected surfing and auto racing on the speed in the Velocity network and baby things on Oprah and Lifetime network. So we tailored the ad for the right audience, and that’s one of the things that we learned how to do.

I still teach people today because of the internet and how well you can target, trying to do great grand advertisements about yourself and selling your product to everybody. To think everybody needs it is foolish, doing pointed ads about them and how your product fits into their life, to make them the star of your ads is absolutely the way to go because everybody will stop and look in a mirror.

Stop Trying to Do It Like a Branded Ad

Adam: Yeah. I love it, I absolutely love this. So that’s one of the first big takeaways here, it’s to stop trying to do it like a branded ad where you just talk about yourself in your journey. Instead, try to reflect the audience’s tailored message and how your product can help them specifically. Did I get that right?

Ron: Well, yeah and you know this from your history and all the businesses that you’ve done. Let’s say in the dating world, did you have canned things like this is what you say the first time you meet somebody?

No, you assess the situation, you see what’s going on and you evaluate. You tailor your conversation to the other person. The great news is when I started out, you couldn’t do that in advertising today.

What is Ron Lynch Working on These Days? 

Adam: I love that. Would you mind giving an example of something you’re doing nowadays that maybe reflects the GoPro cameras? Something that everyone is aware of, something you’re working on at the moment using similar kinds of techniques.

Ron: I’m doing a lot of strategic work with a lot of companies. I have to think about something that I can talk about because of course everybody makes me sign an NDA because we’re working on their next campaign.

But there are things that I own, for instance, we own a chair company and it’s called The Back Strong Chair. The company is called All33 and the product was designed by the guy who designed the seats inside BMWs and LA’s top chiropractor. I have met every movie star you could ever want to meet through this guy. He’s a really nice guy and people truly go into his practice and utilize him. So we have this chair and we got into the business because we had experience in chairs and back pain and pain products.

We went to the natural place where you’ve got back pain. We sold a lot of chairs and we launched this thing through Kickstarter and did almost a million bucks. Then we got it into Facebook advertising and hung our hat on back pain and about six months into designing the chair, Musk who’s one of his clients, Musk called us up and suggested some design changes. 

We said, yeah, we appreciate that. And he goes, “If you utilize the design changes, I’ll endorse the chair. But if you don’t, we won’t.” Which was kind of cool, Elon Musk. As that turns out, he’s not a tiny person and he had some good suggestions. We’d assumed that his name pulled a few triggers with some of the other celebrities that were like, “Oh wow, Elon helped you with this? We’ll let you know.” 

One of those people was Tony Robbins and Tony Robbins, as I think we all know, is not a small person either, he’s a tall dude. So if we could have this product fit him and then from that, we had Shaquille O’Neal step into the fray. We were getting people of all different sizes and then because of this connection in Los Angeles and our connection to Guthy-Renker, Cindy Crawford was interested.

Suddenly we had this bevy of stars that were interested. I was like, “I would love to hire all of these people for ads, but I’ll never be able to afford any of them!” Like, this is not going to be possible. So in a conversation with Tony Robbins, he asked, “Can I invest in this thing?” And we were like, you know what? We have an investment round coming up and we’re not even in stock, like we’re not in a round, we’re pre-round with this thing. And the business is going like gangbusters.

We could actually have another private round of investing, and we realized what if in our investment circle, instead of looking for these people to be in ads, we got them as investors?

So I sent out a letter to this whole cavalcade of A-listers and said, do you want to join an investment club? Tony’s going to join it, Elon’s going to join it, Matt Damon’s going to join it, and Cindy Crawford’s going to join it.

Suddenly people were like yeah we want to invest in this thing. Now I have access to these people through this. But none of these people are going to want to go on television and say I’ve got back pain. So I started to think about what the relief of this chair does and the relief of pain in your back does. It increases blood flow, makes you feel better, more energized, and makes you feel smarter. 

I went boom, smarter? Genius. This chair is ingenious and it’s built unlike any other chair. Let’s hang genius on this because you can be an investor or you can be an actor or you can be a musician. All of those people already have that fame and are not necessarily considered smart.

They all have everything else you can buy in the world except for the reputation of being a genius. We know artists after they’re dead are considered geniuses. I’m like, I can give you that inside of this lifetime. So we started with our first television ad with a friend of ours W Whitman, an architect here in Los Angeles. 

We built an ad around him that showed the craft of his work and him utilizing the chair. That he in fact is a genius, and that became our prototyping. We went out and tested that ad and it went bonkers. Now we can plug different celebrities into that same creative concept. Like with GoPro, it was “Be a Hero.” We sold bravery with this chair. It’s being ingenious. Selling the idea of genius? Who doesn’t want to be known as a genius? So now that becomes very attractive to that group of folks. I hope that’s relatable.

Focus on Vanity

Adam: No, totally. I’m going to jump in because I got the benefit of knowing you for a while. There are two hidden things inside your talk so far today that illustrate your genius and are things I think the audience needs to pull from you. They’re going to be super obvious but you may have missed them. 

The first is Ron Lynch has focused on vanity. He mentioned it at the very beginning about human beings of vein. That’s why we have mirrors in elevators which is something that Ron’s told me about before. But the key component here is both of these offers are things that the person would want to say, “I am that right. I am a genius. I am brave.” You’ve got a perfect example of celebrities who don’t want to say I have bad pain, but will happily say I am smart, right? 

Ron: Right, absolutely. You nailed it. This is the change in brand advertising. At Wharton, they used to say, you have to have five brand pillars. Well, that’s not how advertising works anymore because of the internet. People want character traits. People are codifying their own personalities and putting themselves on the internet. They’re like, “Hey, I’m a Prius driving, caribou coffee drinking, Lululemon wearing, Nike person.” They start to codify themselves with these brands. 

Now you’ll see this very much within our industry, there are the Lamborghini people and the Louis Vuitton people, they’re getting this association of luxury, wealth, and power through brands. But every single person on the planet does that.

For every Prius driver, there’s a Tesla driving, Starbucks drinking, Hansen wearing, Adidas person.” We codify ourselves with these simple brands, but that means the brand’s got to mean something. It’s got to mean a character trait now. 

We all feel like we’re superheroes or Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. We get these badges and we codify ourselves with these badges. So what does your brand mean from a character trait perspective? Are you brave? Are you elite? Are you smart? What’s the character trait that you hold up there.

Don’t Let Objections Land

Adam: I love it. When you’re advertising based around that, that’s when people are going to jump on board, which I love. The second point that you’ve illustrated, which again, could be easy to miss, is it’s very hard to give Ron an objection that ever lands. I want to show you guys an example of this.

When he mentioned GoPro contacting him at 2:30 in the morning and saying that they no longer want to go with a 30-page script, and instead wanted to go with a short form. I can imagine that many people’s first response to that would be like, ”Oh no, what’s wrong? How come?” As they think about their loss of work. I can also think of people who would say, “No, you are wrong. Let me tell you why this is what you want to do.”

I can think of others saying, “Oh, oh no. Have you found someone else to go with?” But your response was instantly, “Well, that’s easy. Just take out the staple.” It’s almost like the objection doesn’t exist. You’ve already made the movement to assume that you are working with them, and the work is already there. Each page could have been used exactly as it was, but I’m guessing there was a little bit of tweaking that had to be done or some line that was on a different page, but it didn’t matter. The essence was true. 

The essence was you’d divided the script up to be different niches if needed so it could function that way. Likewise, when it came to talking with the celebrities, obviously you want to use the celebrities with the chair because they clearly like it, but they didn’t want to admit their weakness.

You instantly found a way that can work with them and the thing that has always blown me away about you which I truly admire is it’s not just that you are good at overcoming objections, which is undoubtedly clear. It’s like they don’t exist when it comes to you!

The whole concept of the podcast is S.M.A.R.T Businesses Do This and I think you’re an exemplary example. One of the reasons I wanted you here as a smart person who does this and for you, objections just don’t exist.

Ron: Yeah, and I think it’s true because they don’t. To me, it’s someone telling me how it doesn’t fit for them. Then to me, it’s just like a restaurant choice, I just go to the next, “Oh okay, well that doesn’t fit? How does this fit?” And I think one of the ways I learned this was it’s probably been my nature for me to want to do that. I probably have a certain nature in that, but I don’t. 

I don’t take things terribly personally and I’m always focused on the objective goal. I understand that a goal is like a sunset. You can chase it and it’s always over the horizon. You’re never actually going to catch the sun and every piece of geography you meet between the sunset and you are going to need a different strategy.

So you might be chasing the sun across the water and then across land, then across a mountain range. As a young person, I was fortunate enough to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. One of the great things about Mount Kilimanjaro is there are six ways up it, you determine what half you’re going to take based on who you’re taking to the top. 

If you have a tremendously strong athlete, you can take the Coca-Cola route and run up Mount Kilimanjaro in a day, 29,000 feet. Most people do not do that. In fact, that same route is used as an evacuation route primarily. But there’s a five-day route and a four-day route and a seven-day route so you can get there.

I think business decisions are like that. If you see an objection in yourself, that’s probably you. It’s probably not the objection. There’s nothing wrong with pausing. What is dangerous is emotionally reacting out of fear. That’s what you’re talking about when a person says, “oh, but wait, I, why do you want to do that?”

I’m not after 300 campaigns in a zillion years on the planet. I’m not ever worried about being fired because I know that ultimately at the end of every account I’m fired. I get them very successful, they sell to a large corporation and then they go off to Wieden+Kennedy or like, McCann and Ericson or some global firm. But I got them there and I took my stock along the way. So I’m never operating from a position of pain, I’m always operating from a position of informed power. 

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About Adam Lyons

Beyond his own portfolio of growing companies, Lyons is an advisor for over 500 brands across the US and Canada. Lyons has been featured on the Today Show, The Steve Harvey Show, Forbes, Bloomberg Business and the NY Post. He has been awarded 3 different ‘Wicked Smaht’ Awards due to his innovative business strategies and multiple 2 comma club awards. Companies he has worked with include PepsiCo, Nike, Nescafé, Discovery Digital Networks and many smaller brands.

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