Besides decorating a house like nobody’s business, it turns out Clark W. Griswold is quite the marketing genius. Well, “genius” might be an overstatement, but we’re going to go with it anyway. Here are five marketing lessons we can learn from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation… or five excuses to watch Christmas Vacation and call it work.

1. Differentiate Yourself

Clark: 250 strands of lights. 100 individual bulbs per strand for a grand total of 25,000 imported Italian twinkle lights.

Did Clark W. Griswold ever say, “I just want my Christmas decorations to match the neighbor’s”? No, he sure didn’t, and countless movie lovers are eternally grateful. While taking risks can be scary and drive your neighbors crazy, brands need to differentiate themselves and create a distinct brand experience in order to be remembered and make an impact.

2. Strategy is Everything

Clark: Russ, go get the hammer.

Ellen: Clark, what do you need a hammer for?

Clark: I’m gonna catch it in the coat … And smack it with the hammer.

Clark probably should have held a brainstorming sesh before deciding on this plan. Clearly, this strategy is reactive and not organized or well-thought out. By having a marketing strategy in place, companies can be proactive instead of reactive to the market and their customers. It’s all about knowing your customers, competition, and company goals.

3. Know Your Audience

Clark: Hey! If any of you are looking for any last-minute gift ideas for me, I have one. I’d like Frank Shirley, my boss, right here tonight. I want him brought from his happy holiday slumber over there on Melody Lane with all the other rich people, and I want him brought right here, with a big ribbon on his head, and I want to look him straight in the eye, and I want to tell him what a cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fat-ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sack of monkey shit he is! Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where’s the Tylenol?

Clark should have thought about who he was talking to before he made this request. Just like Clark didn’t actually want Cousin Eddie to kidnap his boss, there are cases when companies say or do things that create adverse reactions. Brands need to make sure they understand their audience and speak to them in the way they expect in order to get the outcome they want.

4. Be Consistent

Ellen: You set standards that no family activity can live up to.

Clark: When have I ever done that?

Ellen: Parties, weddings, anniversaries, funerals, holidays…

Clark: Goodnight Ellen.

Ellen: Vacations, graduations…

Brand consistency helps establish a company’s identity and makes their customers remember them. While Clark’s enthusiasm for family events can be overwhelming, at least his approach is consistent. Anyone who has ever watched a National Lampoon’s movie with Clark Griswold knows that he is going to have totally unrealistic expectations and end up disappointed at some point. That’s his brand, and that’s how we like him. While brands shouldn’t shoot for being consistently disappointed, they should try to be consistent in their marketing and branding efforts to create a memorable and dependable brand identity.

5. Be Deliberate

Clark: Oh, I was just smelling – smiling. I was just blouse – browsing. I, uh, heh heh. Well, I guess it just wouldn’t … Oh hee hee, it wouldn’t be the Christmas shopping season if the stores were any less hooter than they – HOTTER than they are. Whew. It is warm in here, isn’t it?

Mary: You have your coat on.

Clark: Yes, oh do I? Yeah, it is a bit nipply out. I mean nippy. What am I saying, nipple?

For some people, it’s tough not to say everything you’re thinking. Clark and lots of social media users have that in common. Social media users aren’t known for thinking before they post their deepest, darkest thoughts, but brands need to be the exception. Brands are expected to have a social media presence and many have made stupid mistakes in the name of retweets and shares. Brands need to be deliberate about what they say on social media and make sure it’s consistent with all their other marketing messages.

So when it comes down to it, Clark W. Griswold is both a great and terrible example of how brands should market. He definitely knows how to differentiate himself, but it’s usually for things most people wouldn’t want to be known for. So the next time you’re in a strategy session at work, think to yourself, “Would Clark Griswold like this idea?” If yes, you might want to keep that gem to yourself. Happy holidays!

Cari Thompson

Posted by Cari Thompson

Cari Thompson is a copywriter, online marketer, and blogger. She studied marketing and advertising and - drum roll, please - music at Brigham Young University. Cari started in traditional advertising as a media buyer then transitioned into the online world through buzz marketing, blogging, and copywriting. Her three greatest accomplishments include beating Super Mario 3 in one night without a whistle, drumming for tens of people, and licking an ice sculpture at the Versace Mansion.

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