“If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who ya gonna call?”
This was the question asked by singer-songwriter Ray Parker, Jr. in 1984, when his memorable theme song to a blockbuster film introduced millions of moviegoers to the slimy, supernatural, proton-fueled business of ghost-busting. Sure, it’s an entirely fictional business, popularized in a fiction-film and television series, but that doesn’t change the reality of its impact. Nearly three decades after its induction into pop culture, Ghostbusters is still a household term. Everyone knows it, even if they’ve never seen the films (or the Saturday morning cartoon spinoff).
In the original film, the heroes became well known for the high-profile service they performed for the public. They faced danger, they fought evil, and they saved humanity from its imminent destruction—several times over. They were superheroes sans the superpowers. Their weapon of choice: science!
We can easily attribute their popularity to the exciting nature of their job, but we tend to forget that at the beginning of the franchise, there was a distinct rags-to-riches element to the story. Little attention is ever really paid to the fact that even though the original crew members began as college dropouts, they were able to turn what was a high-risk startup company (with little or no potential for ROI) into a full-fledged, entrepreneurial success story. Objectively speaking, that’s quite a feat, especially given the fiercely competitive business atmosphere of Manhattan, New York, where they set up shop.
So, how did they do it? Simply put, they built their own brand, and they did it by employing a few solid, forward-thinking tactics:
First off, it tends to help when you provide a service that you know people will need. Let’s face it, an epidemic of ghost sightings in a given area can be problematic. “If there’s something weird, and it don’t look good,” human beings are naturally going react with apprehension, paranoia, and panic. Factor in the high population density of the Big Apple and that can be a recipe for disaster. That’s why the boys in grey set about marketing themselves as the premiere authority in professional paranormal investigations and eliminations, a field of study that they knew could be built singlehandedly from the ground up—providing them the kind of operational freedom that handling unlicensed nuclear accelerators on a daily basis would require. It’s kind of a no-brainer: when you’re one of the few companies or agencies offering a much-needed service (or the only one, for that matter), there’s less need to worry about the marketing.
Of course, achieving commercial success in any area of expertise is no easy task. It takes discipline, it takes tact, and it takes high customer service standards. Most importantly, it means that you have to make sure the business is running smoothly at all times. The Ghostbusters crew always tried to remain mindful of this and to act accordingly. Sure, shenanigans were an inevitable part of their day-to-day ventures, but for the most part, crew members were competent in using their individual strengths constructively. Each of the four members was absolutely integral to the team: there was the classy spokesperson, who brought personality and likability to the business; there was the motivator of the group, who brought identity and “heart”; there was the intellectual, who handled equipment and technical operations; and there was the so-called “token black guy,” who was the PR-savvy voice of reason. As a cohesive unit, the group functioned well—well enough to establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with when it comes to pesky poltergeists, that’s for sure.
Naturally, for a business to reach a recognizable and appreciable level of success, branding is a necessity. Though it comes secondary to establishing credibility and maintaining an effective business model, designing an outstanding logo can actually be the cherry on top of an entrepreneurial cake. If you know it’s time to expand your brand, then maybe it’s time to start conceptualizing it visually and figuring out how to translate it to the public. One effective way to do that is by creating a memorable logo, and the Ghostbusters pulled this off in spades. They arguably created one of the most recognizable brand insignias of all time, bar none. Even to this day, their logo retains the same iconic stature it held over 25 years ago. Who could possibly look at it and not know that it’s theirs? No one, that’s who!
If there was ever a business more distinguishable for its promotional success, it’s the business of ghost-busting. There have always been small businesses and startup companies that have failed to connect with the public, and there always will be. Sometimes, modern promotional endeavors gain about as much traction as a river of slime, but solid practices can prevent that. Individuals seeking lessons in effective entrepreneurship and business management need look no further than what the Ghostbusters managed to achieve.
What else can you learn from the Ghostbusters? How will you eradicate your fears and turn your business idea into a success?