It’s the end of an era…or is it?
With the passing of Cal Worthington on September 8th, 2013, I must mournfully declare that the world has lost an extremely unique individual. I can’t let his passing go by without showing my respect. His humor and infectious likability made him a household name. Even though he’s gone now, his presence will never really vanish from our lives.
I was born in Inglewood, California and I’ve lived and worked in So Cal my entire life. As long as I can remember, I wanted to be around cars. I couldn’t have been more than 4 or 5 years old watching Cal on the local Los Angeles station. They never seemed like commercials because you wanted to watch them. Cal Worthington was truly the world’s best car man. I never worked for him (how fun that would’ve been!) but his presence is always with me. Car people have a bond that’s unexplainable.
I’ve met (and hired) literally thousands of car salespeople over my career. Dealers, GMs, Sales Managers and more – most all of us started out selling cars. To me, Cal was a genius. There was something truly engaging about Cal’s personality and his wit and we can all take a page or two from his playbook.
Cal Worthington: The OG Social Marketer.
Cal’s content lives on forever. He provided a dose of entertainment and comedy before the sales pitch. To him, it seemed natural. To us, it’s a study on how to please your audience while still reminding them (with finesse) that you’re the best place to buy. I often wonder how Cal would’ve handled social marketing. I had plans to interview him through his grandson, Nick (who’s now in charge of Worthington Ford), but sadly, we never could get our schedules in sync.
For now, I’ll have to make do with a few of his many awesome quotes and taglines. Check out these Worthington-isms that illustrate how Cal’s tactics make just as much sense today as they did in the 60s and 70s.
- “I try to make my commercials a little less obnoxious than the other guy,” Cal told The Los Angeles Times in 2003. “They’re obnoxious, but I try to make them a little less obnoxious.” Cal’s idea was to make content fun and memorable. Today, consumers’ tolerance level for commercials is less than zero. Do you still use old school tactics to try to capture attention? You’ll get much further with fun and memorable.
- “Here’s where your friends are, here’s where the bargains are!” In those days, you trusted everything that was on TV. Today consumers trust their network. Who doesn’t want to buy from a place where your friends are that has the best price? Coming from a Facebook marketing mindset, growing your fan base is like making friends. Try to create a community on Facebook to mirror the community of “friends” you have in real life.
- “I’ve been here 30 years so come by for service or another car, I ain’t goin no place!” This is “90s Cal” telling you straight. He’s been toe-to-toe with recessions, riots, floods, fires, earthquakes and anything else that came along. When a business has stood the test of time and still continues to delight its customers, that’s a place you want to do business with. If you too have stood the test of time, use your blog to tell that story now.
- “I got a whole bunch of goodies for ya.” A locking gas cap to keep vandals from stealing your gas. An umbrella hat to keep the sun off your head. Today we call that inbound marketing: the offer of helpful, useful things that your competitor can’t match. Follow Cal’s lead: attract and engage.
- “Don’t drive around burnin’ your gas, burn mine! I’ll give you 10 gallons just for droppin by to say hello.” This would be today’s Optin. Stop by and say hello (give me your contact info for later marketing) and I’ll give you something for your time (and maybe sell you something).
- “You don’t have to buy the car from me…just see me first!” In those days, this was how you built trust. No pressure, just come see me first so I can give you the inside scoop on your next purchase. What content have you been sharing that causes buyers to see you first? Build trust with your content. Give people a compelling reason to choose you before the competitor.
- “I know I’ve got the car you’re lookin for, I think I can save you a gang of money!” Who doesn’t want to save money? Cal talked to his audience like they were friends and that made it not about the price. You felt like he was someone just like you. That mindset is how to approach social marketing. Whether you’re using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or your blog, the price is important but people want to buy things from people “just like them.”
Rest in peace, dear Cal. The world is a less-interesting place without you. However, if Heaven exists, there’s a car lot in the sky full of people just waiting for you to deliver their next ride.