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Want to Be a Kick-Ass Entrepreneur? Think Like the Ghostbusters!

“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!

The Ghostbusters turned a high-risk startup company into a full-fledged, entrepreneurial success story.

The Ghostbusters turned a high-risk startup company into a full-fledged, entrepreneurial success story.

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:

The Ghostbusters built their brand from the ground up—providing them the kind of operational freedom to handle unlicensed nuclear accelerators.

The Ghostbusters built their brand from the ground up—providing them the kind of operational freedom to handle unlicensed nuclear accelerators.

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.

The Ghostbusters created one of the most recognizable brand insignias of all time, bar none.

The Ghostbusters created one of the most recognizable brand insignias of all time, bar none.

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?



Joseph Giorgi

Joseph is the head of the Media Team at Quality Logo Products. He's a video specialist, blogger, perfectionist, and all-around likeable guy. When he's not busy focusing on the nitty-gritty details of his written and visual work, he's normally listening to bad 80s music and scouring the internet for useless information on useless subjects. You can also connect with Joe on Google+.

Comments

  1. Jill Tooley

    Joe, I stand by my previous statement that this is your masterpiece blog post. You’ve successfully taken the Ghostbusters franchise and 1) explained how and why their brand thrives and 2) turned it into a comprehensive “how-to” for aspiring business owners. I’m not just saying this because I’m a huge fan of the Ghostbusters, but this is an inspiring article!

    You’re correct about the quartet’s “rags to riches” element – and they wouldn’t have made a dime if they hadn’t taken a risk on their startup idea. They saw the opportunity to provide a unique service to the public and they took it by any means necessary…and that’s why they were so successful. Of course, that doesn’t mean that EVERY business idea is a good one, but it was a golden ticket in the Ghostbusters’ case. And you’re right about the GB logo, too. Even current-generation kids tend to recognize that red and white logo. Quite an accomplishment for 25 years later!

    Which promo items do you think that Peter, Ray, Egon, and Winston would have used to promote themselves in NYC? I think a Ghostbusters night light would be SUPER cute! Then, kids and adults would always be reminded of the valuable ghost-busting services provided to them by the infamous four.

    Anyway, wonderful work on this. You should be proud! :)

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Aww, thanks! :)

      I intended this post to be a quick 400 words or so, but it obviously ended up being a little more comprehensive and dual-purposed. In any case, I’m glad you like it.

      As far as Ghostbusting promo products? How about a Maraca (7″) with the logo on it? Yeah, it’s random, but I think it would be effective. Who doesn’t like Maracas?

      • JPorretto

        I don’t think Angela from The Office would like Maracas. But other than that…

  2. JPorretto

    I’ve long felt that a Ghostbusters post was inevitable around here. And I have to say, this is very well done.

    While not a fan myself, I do recognize the concepts you refer to, especially in regards to the logo. And there has seemed to be a resurgence of the Ghost Busters brand recently. I’m not sure why that is but it’s definitely palpable. There’s even Ghost Busters shirts at Target.

    • Joseph Giorgi

      I’m pretty sure the franchise’s return to popularity is due mostly to its recent video game adaptation, and also to reports that a third movie is now in the works—which, of course, is going to be beyond awesome!

  3. Juliette

    Ha! I just bought a Ghostbusters shirt this past week so this was awesome timing.

    Brilliant post. :) Made my morning reading this one. And I can’t wait to see what a third movie will bring!

    I was always impressed by their willingness to stick it out through the beginning of the second movie when they couldn’t actually practice “ghostbusting” but still kept up with their interest in both the science and promoting. True, performing at birthday parties wasn’t ideal but it kept Ecto 1 on the streets where people wouldn’t forget about them.

  4. Joseph Giorgi

    Thanks, Juliette. Always good to hear from a fellow Ghostbusters fan. Seems there aren’t too many of us these days, but I’m sure that we’re all awaiting the third installment with the same feverish anticipation.

    I agree with you. Any excuse to keep Ecto 1 (or Ecto 1a) in the public’s eye is a valid one if you ask me. After all, you never know when the city will be in trouble again, and the people need to know who to call!

  5. Kyle

    Wow this is such a well thought out post. I never thought to relate Ghostbusters to being a “kick-ass entrepreneur”, but this analogy illustrates the concept perfectly. Keep up the fresh and thought-provoking posts!

  6. Ghostbusters Fans

    How to learn from the Ghostbusters to create a successful business:… http://fb.me/G4cVyXoO

  7. Angela Meyer

    We can all learn something from them… RT @gbfans: How to learn from the Ghostbusters to create a successful business http://fb.me/G4cVyXoO

  8. Keyuri Joshi

    I like the analogy of the fictional Ghostbusters as it applies to our entrepreneurial reality. You’ve given us great food for thought on how to leverage our look. Curiously, I have recently been wondering whether to use my headshot or my logo as my Gravatar. Suggestions?

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Thanks, Keyuri.

      I would probably opt for a headshot as my Gravatar. Of course, that’s just my personal preference. I guess it depends on the kinds of sites you frequent most often and the number of forums you actively participate in. Basically, if you’re highly engaged in online discussions on a near-daily basis, then you might as well let others put a face to the name.

    • Jill Tooley

      Hi, Keyuri! It’s nice to see you here! :) I agree with Joe; I’d highly recommend having your headshot as your Gravatar instead of your logo. As important as logo recognition is, I think it’s even more important to put a face with your brand when you’re networking. It reminds people that a company/brand has a human presence!

      Thanks for your comment!

      • Keyuri Joshi

        Thanks to both Joseph and Jill. I’m off to change my gravatar now!

  9. Vernon

    One thing I have noticed is when you are the only game in town customer service tends to lack. This was proven by the Ghostbusters themselves. Peter sleeping w/customers, Ray smoking on the job w/a nuclear accelerator on his back. Just my cynical perception on Customer Service and Ghostbusters :-P

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Good point. Granted, smoking on the job while wearing unstable hardware is probably a bad idea. As far as sleeping with the customers, however—well, that’s a different definition of great customer “service!” ;)

  10. Rob Berman

    My 12 year old loves Ghostbusters. He has watched the movies for years. I did not realize there was a cartoon series. You did not mention the person who held the office together with that wild voice when answering the phone. Part of running a great business is to have the right staff and advisers.

    Rob

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Very true. The Ghostbusters’ secretary was a the kind of valuable staff member that they couldn’t have afforded to be without. She was the straight-laced counterpart to the group’s comedic persona—in the first movie anyway.

  11. Lou G

    I think the Ghostbusters movie is an example of every small business needing a little luck or catching a few breaks when they need them the most. After being thrown in jail, you have gods landing on apartment buildings, people being turned into dogs, and a 100 foot tall Stay Puft Marshmallow Man lumbering around the city. Sometimes it’s being in the right place at the right time.

  12. Jeannette Paladino

    Then there are the brands that spring up overnight with their built-in avatar — think Justin Bieber’s hairstyle. The question is: will his brand having staying power or will he fade like many child stars before him?

    • Joseph Giorgi

      In Justin Bieber’s case, I’m guessing the latter. Then again, the power of a mop-top is nothing to scoff at.

  13. Sherryl Perry

    I love this post! You have me humming their theme song and having mental images of the Puff Marshmallow Man.

    Let’s not forget their great tagline. :)

    • Joseph Giorgi

      Thanks, Sherryl.

      And welcome to my world! I have that theme song running through my head most days. :)

      I could never forget about their iconic slogan—when there’s something strange in my neighborhood, I always know who I’m gonna call!

  14. Bret Bonnet

    This post makes me think of marshmallows! :)

    In an era where remakes are the NORM; why not remake or create a new Ghostbusters movie while we are at it. Come on Hollywood! Bring back Slimer!

    • Joseph Giorgi

      The third GB movie is supposedly ready to start filming. Hopefully the studio can follow through. It would be cool to see a “new and improved” Slimer.

  15. Catarina Alexon

    We all love Ghostbusters!!

    There are “Ghostbusters” needed in many business areas today. Just make sure what you are offering is really in demand and doesn’t turn out to be a figment of your imagination.

    Like Sherryl I keep on humming the tune now…

  16. Dennis Salvatier

    What a great and fun post. I was a kid when I saw the movies and even enjoyed the cartoon series. I think I just gave up my age. Anyway, I loved the analogy used for the importance of branding in any entrepreneurial endeavor.

  17. Terje Sannarnes

    For an entrepreneur nothing can be worse than to be a kick ass entrepreneur :)

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