Competition is present in every industry, and one must strive to be different to achieve success. Sometimes, you have to embrace even the craziest ideas to pique the interest of the people. Join Jesse Cole as he talks with author and singer Joe Vitale about the unique promotional strategy of P.T. Barnum and why standing out from everyone is not always bad as it seems. Joe’s life and career are significantly influenced by Barnum’s achievements, which led him to become the world’s first self-help singer-songwriter and, interestingly enough, perhaps the only man ever to hold a rock and roll concert for dogs just to sell his book.
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Joe Vitale: Strive To Be Different And Stand Out From The Crowd
Our guest is Joe Vitale. Joe has done it all, written 75 books, been in 15 movies, recorded 15 albums, and has traveled the world speaking. I know Joe simply as the man who introduced me to the promotional power of PT Barnum. His book, There’s a Customer Born Every Minute, changed the game for myself, our teams, and how we’ve created tension throughout the years. I’m excited to talk PT Barnum with Joe Vitale. Joe, it’s great to connect and have you on the show.
You got my attention when you sent me a pair of underwear. Nobody’s ever sent me underwear, especially such a unique Barnum-esque. PT Barnum would love it. PT Barnum would love you. You are doing it. All businesses show business and you’re showing it and getting attention. Thank you for my underwear.
You said in your book, “You don’t need to be in the entertainment business to make your business more entertaining.” That’s what we thought. Every team sells T-shirts and hats. We started selling Dolce & Banana Underwear and we send it out to people and it’s become a big hit. I don’t know if you’ve tried it on yet, Joe, but it is a little ridiculous.
I didn’t know if I should put it over my head or if I’m supposed to put it over my legs so I didn’t try it on. I have looked at it and I have admired it. You saw I posted on Instagram or somewhere that you would send it to me. Well done and congratulations to you.
Thank you. We both have a huge love and almost, I would say, obsession with PT Barnum. What you’ve done in your career, you’ve used a lot of the techniques. I’m curious, where did it come from? Nobody was talking about, until The Greatest Showman came out, this man in the 1800s.
What they need to realize is that he’s been dead since 1891 and virtually, everybody still knows his name and they know what he stood for. You have to ask yourself, “Why do we know it?” We know it because PT Barnum barnumized himself. He did big things in a big way to the extent that we’re still talking about him today. As for me, I was intrigued by Harry Houdini when I was a kid. I didn’t know at the time that Harry Houdini was a disciple of PT Barnum. He collected PT Barnum and he had a vast fortune of PT Barnum-related outrageous marketing stuff. If you know anything about Houdini, he was a Barnum.
Houdini is probably the most well-known, greatest legend in terms of magic, but he wasn’t that great of a magician. He was better as a marketer. He said he was the handcuff king, which was labeling himself in an outrageous way. He said, “Lock me up in anything and I’ll get out of it,” which is a PT Barnum-like thing to do. It’s a challenge. I was intrigued by those antics when I was a kid but it wasn’t until I read PT Barnum’s autobiography that I went, “Who was this guy?” He was an author, speaker, philanthropist, politician, marketer, entrepreneur, and publicist. It goes on.
You read all that and you’re like, “What can we learn from him?” You’re like, “There are some great lessons here.” Is that what got you into this deep dive into his life?
Absolutely because when I was discovering him, it was in the mid-1990s. At that point, I was becoming known as a marketer. I was a copywriter and I was doing a lot of marketing. I saw, “Everybody’s doing copywriting, marketing, and business. How do you stand out from the crowd?” I discovered PT Barnum and all of his outrageous methods, which were humorous, entertaining, and educational. There were positive benefits to what he was doing, so I started taking that in and applying it to my own life. I invented hypnotic writing and wrote a book called Hypnotic Writing as a PT Barnum-like way to separate myself from all the other freaking writers and copywriters out there. I was like, “How am I different?” Hypnotic writing, which was my spin, which was PT Barnum-inspired.
My first book was in 1984. It came and went because nobody did any marketing and I didn’t know anything about marketing. That’s when I discovered, “If I want to be known as an author and I want to sell my books, I’ve got to do something to stand out in the crowd. I got to put on my yellow hat, so to speak. I got to do something to make myself different from everybody else. Not necessarily better, but different. I have to get attention.” That’s what I was learning from Houdini and PT Barnum. That’s what I was applying to myself and that’s what I started applying to my clients. I can talk about Barnum all day and I can critique the movies that are out there about him. There have been numerous movies besides the one that came out with Hugh Jackman.
You shared what every business can do with the Ten Rings of Power. Personally, we had to catapult ourselves to get attention, or we were nothing. Several years ago, we sold two tickets in our first three months. We were down to our last dollar sleeping on the air bed and we thought, “What would Barnum do?” As I’ve read all his books and yours, every page is almost bookmarked in this thing. I said, “How do we go dramatically different?” We not only named the team after a fruit that became the Savannah Bananas, but we said, “Can we have a senior citizen dance team called the Bananas Nanas? Can we have a male cheerleading team called the Man-Nanas that’s a dad bod cheerleading squad? With your attention-getting depth techniques, how can we hire other entertainers? Could we have a breakdancing first-base coach or dancing players? Can we bring in animals?”
We brought this little cute bat dog. We follow all these techniques and all of a sudden, we offered President Obama an internship when his term was over as a president. We started looking, “What would Barnum do in the situation?” All of a sudden, everybody started talking. It came number one trending on Twitter and it’s sold out. It was all these techniques. Joe, here’s my challenge here. There are thousands of books on marketing, but how many books on attention? That is what PT Barnum generated. I want to go into this because you said the number one rule that they have to do is you got to create attention first. Maybe go back a little bit and help me with this principle. How did PT Barnum start doing this? How did he learn and how did you start doing it?
There’s a principle in advertising that goes all the way back to the 1800s, and it’s the AIDA formula. A lot of copywriters still use it. The A stands for Attention, so nothing happens. No sale and no anything unless you get attention. Whether you’re writing an ad or a sales letter or putting up a website these days, unless you get attention, who cares about anything else? The I is for Interest. You have to generate their interest. The D is for Desire and the A is for Action. Out of all of those, the thing that I drum, stand on a soapbox is about, and want people to get is unless you get people’s attention, there is no sale, conversation, follow up, or sequel. There is nothing. It’s all about attention.
PT Barnum learned this as a kid. He inherited a store that had nothing but glass bottles in it. One of the first things he did was hold a lottery. Lotteries were illegal and popular then. What people wanted was more glass bottles but it was his way of getting glass bottles out. By having a lottery, he learned early on that attention was what made the difference no matter what the business was. In his autobiography, he said things like he wanted to shoot fireworks into the air in order to bring attention to what he was doing.
When he got his American Museum in the 1800s, which ended up being like the Disney World of that time in New York City, he hung flags on the outside. He put spotlights on the outside. He had a band on the outside that was horrible and he wanted it to be horrible to drive people inside. All of this crazy stuff and many other things he did, another story that comes to mind is somebody who came to him and asked for work. PT Barnum looked at him and said, “I will pay you $1 for the day. What I want you to do is go outside and take these ten bricks. I want you to lay them right down in front of the building one beside each other leading across the street. When you get across the street, pick up the bricks, and lay them back across the street to the museum.”
When I read this, I went, “What crazy nonsense is this? He’s paying a guy to lay bricks and then picking them up?” It got attention. People walking around in Downtown New York City are looking like, “What’s the guy doing with the bricks?” It’s similar to when you stand in the street and you look in the sky. Other people around you start looking in the sky. There are these simple things. Of course, Barnum ended up doing giant things like buying Jumbo the Elephant from England. Why did he bring him over here? To get attention. At one point, PT Barnum had elephants plowing his own property as if they were farm animals.
Why was he doing it? It’s because his house was by the railroad tracks that took people into New York City, which is where his museum was. He knew people would look out the window and grab their attention. They see an elephant plowing the land and they go, “What is that?” The conversation will be, “That’s Barnum.” “Who’s Barnum?” “He’s the guy with the museum in New York City.” “Let’s go on over there.” I can go on. It’s the whole idea that Barnum learned early and did it throughout his life that nothing happens without attention. This serves for you and serves for me.Do something to make yourself different from everybody else. Not necessarily better, but different. Click To Tweet
I heard the story about Jenny Lind and how he hired numerous reporters to write stories about her without ever hearing her sing to create the publicity, so when she showed up, 40,000 people would be waiting for it. It’s a brilliant launch campaign that no one was doing in the 1900s, let alone in the 1800s.
I’m often asked about marketing and I will tell people the number one underused technique for all businesses is something I learned from Barnum. This is for everybody that’s reading, wherever they’re at right now, or whatever their business is. When PT Barnum was on his deathbed, five days before he died, he said he owed his fortune to the newspapers of the United States, and what he was referring to was publicity. Now we have more than newspapers. In fact, it’s overwhelming how many opportunities, avenues, media, and social media that we have, but most people don’t think that that media is starving for a good story. They want a good story.
This is what PT Barnum was saying. He would feed them stories, whether it was Jenny Lind or the little boy. One of my favorite stories is the little boy who would not grow in Connecticut. Everybody knew about the sad story about the little boy who wouldn’t grow. PT Barnum meets little Charlie Stratton and Charlie Stratton is young at that point. He’s a kid and he’s only three feet tall but everybody said, “He’s not going to get any taller. He’s a dwarf. That’s it.” PT Barnum looks at him and sees a superstar. He creates a celebrity out of a little kid and names him General Tom Thumb, and then, of course, feeds the newspapers of the day these stories.
Of course, starts training General Tom Thumb how to sing and dance. General Tom Thumb became a multimillionaire. Of course, we still know who he is today. We know the name if we don’t know the whole story. Barnum knew all of this about getting attention and telling people his story. We all have stories. Everybody has a story in business. It doesn’t have to be a zany, elaborate, colorful, and outrageous story, but there’s always a story. Sometimes, it’s simply why you got in business, what was the turning point, or sometimes, it’s about your employees.
You mentioned a few things which you talk about your Ten Rings of Power. Feed the monster, which we can get into a little bit as far as the media. General Tom Thumb wasn’t anything. He was just a young boy that wasn’t growing. He repositioned it and turned it into attention. Joe, when we started, we had a product that we knew would be attractive. We made every single ticket in our stadium all-inclusive.
Every ticket, you get all of your food and everything. We already have our whole entertainment plan, but as we were shouting that, we didn’t have a name yet and people didn’t know who we were. It wasn’t positioned in a way to then get the attention. This launch campaign, “When to use these attention techniques to launch?” That’s what PT Barnum did well. Maybe if we share not only the PT but also some other companies that have said, “We’re going to use this attention technique.” Everyone knows they get attention, but no one knows what that means and how do you do it?
Let me give you a personal example. I don’t know if your audience knows me beyond my PT Barnum book. I’ve written 75-some books so they’re in a wide variety of areas. I was in the movie The Secret in 2006, so there is a whole self-help community and Law of Attraction community, so I have a foot in both worlds. Some people know me as the marketer, PT Barnum scholar, and some people know me as The Secret, Law of Attraction, self-help teacher. Several years ago, I decided that I wanted to be a musician and I have fifteen albums out. I started with nothing.
At the age of 60, it was on my bucket list to be a musician, so I jumped in and said, “I’m going to record music.” I started as a good marketer to look around and see what my competition was. I’m chuckling because the freaking competition is crushing. There are 3,000 new CDs or at least new albums every week and here I am, a guy with no musical experience, training, background, and notoriety going, “I’m making music. Why don’t you go buy my album?” I have to think like PT Barnum. I’m thinking, “How do I do this?” The average musician is like the average author. They come and go. Nobody ever noticed they existed. Maybe their immediate family bought the book or the music, but that was it.
I had to look at my background, and then I thought, “I’m known as a self-help guy and the songs I’m writing are in the self-help area. Why don’t I just call myself a self-help singer-songwriter?” I went and searched to see if there were any out there and I didn’t see anybody calling themselves a self-help singer-songwriter. I thought, “I’m going to own it.” I’m saying this as a teaching story for everybody reading because I looked at myself and I took a close look in the mirror to go, “Who am I? What am I known for? What am I trying to do to get attention? How can I make a link that makes sense and logical?”
If somebody looks at it, they go, “He is the self-help guy. He was in the movie, The Secret. Now he’s a musician applying the same principles to songs.” I listen to myself as the world’s first self-help singer-songwriter. I did the technique I was telling you. I issued news releases and I went online, on social media, and everywhere else. I told my list I had an ad in Rolling Stone magazine in 2012, “World’s First on One Level.”
It was one of the most ballsy things to do because strictly speaking, you can say there’s a lot of self-help singer-songwriters out there. They write music that inspires you but none of them said it. That is one of the keys to owning your marketplace no matter who you are. If you look at your story and what you’re doing, and nobody else is saying it but you’re doing it, you can own it. You can put up your billboard, your business card, or whatever it happens to be.
The question we always say is, how can you be the only? Everyone talks about being a little better and a little bit different. We have an acronym we use here but as soon as you were talking about world, I got this from your book and PT Barnum. Whatever you could put, “World’s Only.” “World Record Holder.” Anytime you put world in front of it. I’ll share with you what we did and this is inspired by you. When I released my book, I did a world tour but I did it in Epcot. I went from each country to each country until I got kicked out in Morocco. It got pictures and it created attention because it was a World Book Tour at Epcot.
Now we’re becoming the only team to take the show on the road. Whatever team is not playing their pennant, we’re taking the show on the road. People compare it to the Globetrotters but there are no baseball teams. Instead, what we’re trying to do, Joe, and we announced it, is it’s the One City World Tour. We made it into a big competition and you go the opposite to try to create that buzz. The lesson is how do you put world into it? How do you put own? How do you put the only? It sounds like you’ve been doing that a lot with records and with saying you’re the first. Is that the key here?
It is the key here. What I’m admiring that you’re doing, and I want to point it out so that everybody reads it and gets it as a lesson, is that there is a sense of fun that is off the charts. This is the secret to making PT Barnum marketing work for any business. You have to take your creativity lid off. You have to pretend you’re five years old and that anything is possible. You have to pretend that there are no rules and boundaries. A few years ago, I also got into strongman training. Strongman training is when you take a horseshoe or a steel bar and you bend it or you take a nail and you slam it through a board.
I did all this because I was fascinated as a kid by superhumans feats of strength. As time went on, I met some of these guys like Dennis Rogers and Iron Tamer Dave Whitley. They personally taught me how to do these things, and then I thought, “I need to apply these to my work.” What it is am I can go on stage and open and even pass out the horseshoe because the horseshoe is built for a horse. It’s built to hold a 2,000-pound animal and once somebody has held it, and I say with mind power, muscle, and technique, I’m going to freaking open it.
I have something that separates me from all the other speakers out there. I’m an author, I wrote a book called Anything Is Possible. The seven lessons I learned from bending horseshoes, nails, and screws and on and on. It’s thinking out of the box. I don’t drink anymore but I got to tell you when I was, some of the best ideas came with you are silly and you don’t have to drink to be silly. You just have to have fun. You have to be with somebody that is willing to go there with you. What I mean by that is to not judge ideas. Maybe that’s a big takeaway.
There were a couple of people, friends of mine in Australia, and they were having wine one night. They were talking about palm reading. One of them saw a cat walk by and they said, “We need a palm reading book for cats.” They ended up writing a book called Pawmistry. It’s about reading cat’s paw and it became a bestseller. The whole reason that brings this up is this is the thinking we want to bring to our business. We want to have this fun and we want to have a non-judgmental room for letting ideas go. I don’t care how crazy they are.We all have stories. It doesn't have to be a zany, elaborate, colorful, outrageous story, but there's always a story. Click To Tweet
I’ve been able to meet several billionaires at this point. I remember one billionaire saying, “If you walk into a party and you tell somebody what your idea is and they don’t think you’re crazy, you haven’t thought big enough.” All of this is in the direction of stretching the mind. One of the things I see you doing and admire about you is that you’re having fun, and that fun is translating into money in the marketplace. That’s the takeaway for everybody.
Thank you. We’re talking about two areas that don’t have hundreds of business books on, attention and fun because they’re like, “How do you teach it?” I love the quote from PT Barnum, “People will spend their last nickel to have fun.” He also said, “I’d rather be laughed at than not noticed at all,” which you shared in your book. It’s important to think about, how can you have fun and make that a business strategy?
That’s where some brainstorming comes in but it has to be that playful brainstorming. You almost have to go somewhere, read comic books, or hang around with kids, 3-year-old or 5-year-olds that are playing with nothing. You don’t need to have the technology. You can throw a piece of string on the floor and turn it into something and they’re going to have fun with it. You are correct, PT Barnum didn’t say the phrase, “There’s a customer born every minute.” That was said by a competitor, but because he knew it was getting attention and people gave it to him and credit it to him if you want to use that word, he didn’t defend himself and he didn’t change it.
In his opinion, and Houdini thought a lot of this, too, is that all the publicity was good. It was all getting his name out there. As long as his name was out there, it was good. There was some movie I saw where it was about Edison. The guy was a PT Barnum. If you think about all the ways he put his name on everything, even things like the light bulb. He invented an element that allowed it to burn longer, but he didn’t invent the light bulb. He was glad to take credit for it and he was glad to have our error and attribution go to him. Whether it’s Edison, Barnum, Evel Knievel, Houdini, or you, these people know that they have to do something and, in many ways, be something that is attention-getting.
Before we go too far, I need to point this out because I don’t know the nature of your audience. I’ve been talking about Barnum. My book came out in ‘98 and it was reissued in 2006 so I’ve been doing this for a long time, but there’s a lot of people who consider themselves to be introverts. They don’t want to wear a yellow tuxedo and they don’t even want to put on the underwear because they’ll know they’ve got the underwear on. We have to look at that. When I talk about being outrageous and I talk about being attention-getting, it doesn’t have to be lighting yourself on fire and it can be simple. With my notoriety and being in the self-help world because of the movie, The Secret, I wore beads. I don’t even remember why I was wearing beads the day I was filmed.
I become the bead guy. I have to wear beads. It’s part of my branding. When I went on Larry King the first time, I didn’t have my beads on and people said, “Where are your beads?” In many ways, I’m an introvert and I’m an ambivert. I go both ways. I don’t want to be on stage all the time. I’d rather be with my books. I’m an author. I want to write. I want to live with my friends, all these dead people, and I can enjoy being with them. I want to make sure that your audience who might be on the introverted side and feeling bashful about trying to put on yellow suits can do other things, or of course, they can hire somebody to do it for them. There are ways around this.
I get asked that question a lot. What if you’re an introvert? I get asked that constantly, and we have introverts as a part of our team but we understand as a business, we need to stay relevant by being remarkable and by creating unforgettable experiences. If we’re not doing that, our business cannot be an introvert. There’s a completely different mindset. “Our business is an introvert.” Good luck. I’m sure there’s plenty of successful companies that are introverts for business sense. We have to clearly get out there and ask that question, why should people care?
You may have shared this in your book. Think like a reporter. I’m always thinking that way. When you talk about feeding the monster and creating attention, you’ve got to give something that’s noteworthy, newsworthy, and people want to talk about. When you’re working with businesses and companies, and I know you’ve done a lot of speaking, how have companies able to build this mindset? Not only for everyone to think, is this remarkable? How to make something remarkable? Maybe some examples of companies that started implementing these outrageous ideas.
What helps all the companies is the same thing that helped me, and it was reading stories of people who have already done it because the stories inspire you and the stories instruct you. I still remember way back in the 1990s when I was learning about marketing, getting publicity, and getting attention that I would hear from speakers like Jay Abraham. He’s a well-known marketing consultant. He’s still around and he’s a brilliant man. He would talk about going into a gym and he’d look around and he’d see 30 different ways that could promote the business.
I’d sit there going, “How do you think like that? How are you getting these ideas?” I would walk into a gym and just go, “I’ve got to work out.” I didn’t see anything. I listened to stories like that, my brain was trained to start to think that way. One of the first things I say, and it sounds self-serving, “Go get my book. There’s a Customer Born Every Minute is full of stories. They’re not just PT Barnum stories. There are Houdini stories in there. There are stories about different companies, small companies, big companies, including some of myself.” I’m proud of the book, but it’s because of all the stories in the book. It’s not because of me.
Reading these stories, listening to these stories, looking at the films that you have, your documentary, and things like that about what you’ve done, they teach people how to think differently. That is the big takeaway. You have to stretch your mind to begin and to think. It’s almost like learning a new language. You have to start thinking in that new language and you have to start thinking in terms of what are the ways I can be silly. What are the ways I can have fun? Maybe they’re just a secret to yourself. You don’t have to tell anybody right now. Since you’re having fun with it and you’re being silly and ridiculous, you start to conjure up ideas. There are some tried and true ones. PT Barnum did a baby contest way back in the 1800s. Contests are still big nowadays in every way, shape, or form.
What was the baby contest?
I’m sure it was for the most adorable baby.
I’ve got the opposite. I say the ugly baby contest.
That’s another example. You take what’s already been done before and then you reverse it like you did. You can do the same thing with a dog contest. “Let me see who is the prettiest dog?” You’re going to do the same thing. “Who is the homeliest looking dog, cat, or parakeet?” You can have contests in every way, shape, or form. In the book, I talk about people like Bill Phillips who did the Body for Life challenge way back at the turn of the century, 2000 and 2001. It seemed like he was everywhere. His book and his magazine were everywhere.
Of course, he was challenging people to change their bodies in twelve weeks using his methodology. Whoever changed the most dramatically was going to win. At the time, it was a Ferrari and there was an expensive sports car. The only stipulation was you had to use his product. Otherwise, everything was a free game. This is the thing we want to think about in terms of what could be a challenge. What could be a contest? What could be a survey? Surveys are simple things to do. I got to tell you a quick story. This is cool. You and I never talked before. I didn’t know the nature of where we would go with this conversation and I’m having a blast because it’s an adrenaline fun ride to think out of the box and have fun.
When my Barnum book came out, I wanted to do something Barnum-like to promote it. Yet, I’m introverted like, “I don’t want to put on a yellow suit and a yellow hat and all that. Maybe the underwear is okay.” I talked to one of the hoaxsters who’s now dead, and he’s mentioned in the book, Alan Abel. Alan Abel suggested that I have a Canine Concert. The Canine Concert is a dog concert. It’s a dog singing. It’s already nuts. The first thing I had to do is find out, “What music do the canines like?” I sent a survey out to my list, which I also sent to the media at the time. This is in the early internet days. I said, “I’m trying to find out what music your dog likes, rock and roll, opera, classical, folk.” Anyway, that came back rock and roll.No matter who you are, look at your story, look at what you're doing, and own it. Click To Tweet
I then sent out a news release saying, “Overwhelming in the Austin, Texas area, all the animals want rock and roll music, so I’m going to have a rock and roll canine concert.” I selected a date and then I looked for a band. There was a band called Porter Davis who was smart enough to know they’re not getting any money, but they’ve got to get publicity, which will lead to money so they volunteered to perform. I said, “It’s easy. You play one real song live for all the people who are bringing their dogs, and then all the other songs you pretend to play because we’ll say it’s going through our sound systems at a level only dogs can hear. It’s like the dog whistle thing. Only the dog can hear the dog whistle. We’re going to play rock and roll music for the animals at a sound level only they can hear.”
I sent out a news release to the media. We had four news crews show up. We had a bunch of people at a dog park with all their dogs there and the emcee was the guy who played PT Barnum in the theater, and he wanted to do it. He had read my book and he knew about it so he volunteered to do it. I had a magician who was also a friend of mine, who said, “I have a giant book and that is where you can produce something. It’s a life-size book and you can put somebody in it.” I said, “Can we find somebody to be a mermaid?” PT Barnum showed a mermaid at his event. I got a magician to get his book trick and we put my book cover on the front of the book.
No matter what news crew is filming, no matter what person is looking at the stage, no matter who’s doing what. When I came up there to make a little short announcement, I’m standing right in front of my PT Barnum book, There’s a Customer Born Every Minute. When we produce the mermaid, it’s this gorgeous redhead, we open up my book and she steps out. It was all for fun. At first, when the media was there, they interviewed everybody as if it was dead serious. It’s like, “You’re playing this with dogs?” I’m like, “Yup. This is only for the dog.” By the end of it, I knew that it was all a joke. One of them came up and said, “Why did you do this?” I said, “I was trying to sell my book.”
It became a great story and the book sold.
We still have footage of it on YouTube. Plus, I got a DVD out of it that I sold for a while. I was going to put it on Amazon.
Did you sell the DVD of the concert?
Yes. There are many wins. Everybody still talks about the event. Porter Davis, which was the band who played, became best friends of mine. In fact, their lead singer was the guy who ended up producing my singer-songwriter albums. The magician is still my best friend. We’ve done several things together. This is another reason I’m pointing out the stories. This is about not only getting business for yourself and not only entertaining the public in the way that you’re doing this, but there are win-wins, which is my favorite thing to look for in business. The people are happy and entertained. You’re happy, got educated, got some publicity, and hopefully, you got sales and increase in business, or you got something like a story that you get mileage from. That all happened a long time ago and I’m still talking about it many years later.
That’s the key. It’s to have the courage to do something that you don’t know how it’s going to happen and how it’s going to work. The worst-case scenario is you’ll get a great story. I’ve told the story about our grandma’s beauty pageant that went crazy. I’ve told the stories about our salute to underwear nights and our flatulence fun nights. We’re having generic Christmas parties, Joe, at the ballpark in ugly Christmas sweaters. I said, “This is too normal. Let’s do something different.” In 2019, we did a secret game called our Fansgiving Game and we did it with fans. We had fans dress up in pilgrim costumes. We had to throw out the first rock. It was Plymouth Rock and we said, “We take it to another level.”
In 2020, what we did is we said, “Let’s pay tribute to Thanksgiving and what it’s about.” There were 66 pilgrims that made the journey to our country. “Let’s starve our fans for the first 66 minutes in our ballpark. Let them in and they’re only going to get rations. We’re going to throw out bread rations, corn rations, and then have a joyous feast at the 66 minutes. We’re going to bury a turkey in the infield dirt and let fans win a whole turkey dinner and take it to a whole another level.” That’s how you build on something. You test it and you experiment.
You’re like, “Canine concert. Now we could do this.” It becomes a story and a success, and it’s getting people to have the courage. PT Barnum had the courage to do something. We had no idea what he was going to do. At one point, I want to jump on. When he started the circus, all the people that worked with him said, “This isn’t going to work. It’s going to be too expensive.” He’s like, “We’re going to do it.” Can you share that story? We’re getting ready to do that and no one thinks it’s going to work, and I’m fascinated by it.
I have to think back to the story. I remember I wrote the book in ‘98, and I still love it. I’ve reread it a couple of times going, “There’s some great stuff in here. A reminder to me.” The circus back then we’re going town-to-town and taking their wagon train, so to speak, to do it. It’s a long, hard road to do it that way but the railroads were coming into being and the railroads were joining the country. They were joining cities. PT Barnum said, “I’m going to put it on the railroad.” People said, “You can’t do that. You can’t transport the animals, all the equipment, people, tents you need, and all that stuff.”
Barnum was like, “We’re doing it.” There’s a line in his autobiography that I never forgot because he entertained the idea of building a railroad to the moon. He would often say in terms of it’s impossible, but it was also his unlimited thinking in terms of how can we make it possible? How can we build a railroad to the moon? This is a guy in the 1800s saying this. Not a guy now. Putting it on the train, he thought, “We’re going to make it happen,” and of course, he did.
What happened was interesting. It might have been an extra biography about him, but the first time they went on the road in the trains, it took almost 3 to 4 times longer because they had to figure out how to get everything in the trains and everything out. The next time, they got better, and then the next time, it became exponentially faster. It makes me think about the first time we tried to serve our entire stadium all-you-can-eat food. It was a disaster.
The first day, we had no idea how to feed 10,000 pieces of meat in an hour and people were waiting forever, but then each night got better. Many people are afraid to get past that first challenge. PT Barnum’s employees could have said, “See? It didn’t work.” He said, “It is a better experience if we push through.” That’s what you’ve done and what PT Barnum has done. It’s a lesson that we all need to think about.
You’re bringing up a good point. One of the lessons, and I had to learn this with songwriting, too, is to be willing to suck and be willing to fail because that failure is feedback. I say there’s no such thing as failure. All it is feedback. You tried to go in one direction and you got something that happened, which gave you information, which you take that information and maybe you refine what you’re going for and refine your direction. There’s a whole new product or new service that comes because of the feedback you got. There isn’t any failure. It’s all feedback.
If you have the mindset that anything goes, we’re going to try it all. It’s okay for you to fail because as you say, there’s a story there, or as I say, there’s learning there that can lead to the next thing. As you keep growing and as you keep refining like Barnum with the railroad there, you keep tweaking everything. You find shortcuts and somebody there working for will find a hack. Bill Gates said, “I give the hardest jobs to the laziest person in the room because I know they’re going to find the shortcut. They’re going to find the easy way to get it done.” We want to think like that but being willing to fail and being willing to suck are important ingredients.
It’s innovation first, then that gets to iteration, and then failure equals discovery, failure equals feedback. Don’t be in a world of just slightly iteration. Be in a world of innovation that leads to iteration. I got to make this a little different show, too. We’re going to have a game, Joe. We’re not just going to keep it normal. That wouldn’t be PT Barnum-esque.It's okay if you fail because there's always a story there. There's learning there that could lead to the next thing. Click To Tweet
Let’s go for it.
We’re going to do a game here. It’s truth and dare. Which one would you like first?
What is something that maybe you and PT Barnum share that has potentially held you both back, back when he was living, from success? It sounds like PT did everything right and you built success. What is something that’s helped either you or him back that you may have that ties each other together?
The question is seeking a negative answer, which I don’t normally allow my brain to go to. I’m going to run with it though because I said truth. This is an interesting answer to an interesting question. I would say our love for magic. I am a lifetime member of the Society of American Magicians. I talked about Houdini, and I wanted to be Harry Accelo. I had my own name. I let my brothers tie me up when I was a kid, and then I’d wrestled myself out of it.
I was going to be tied up and thrown off a bridge at one point when I was a teenager. I looked at the bridge and looked at the water and I thought about it. That wasn’t my life path. PT Barnum was a magician, too. He was into magic and hypnotism. As far as I know, on some of his cruise ships, he did a little bit of sleight of hand magic, but I don’t know that he spent a lot of time with it that I can think of. That’s my answer.
I’ve asked that question a lot because it gets people to look that way, but you’re right. I don’t like negativity in my life at all. That can be perceived as negative. At the end of each night, my wife and I do Rose, Rose, Bud. A rose is something great from the day and a bud is something we’re looking forward to. We got it from Neil Pasricha, but he does Rose, Rose, Thorn, Bud. A thorn is something negative from the day. We won’t touch that. We don’t even want to go there because we keep a positive mindset.
You’re not getting away from the dare. This is a game we do with our ballpark. We got 2,000 fans in one grandstand versus 2,000 fans in another grandstand. It is called the Sing-Off. What happens is a song plays and when the song stops, they’ve got to finish that song lyric. You are the only contestant in the sing-off. You do have your fifteen albums, so we’re going to play a song. When the song stops, you need to finish that song lyric. “So tell me do you want to go? Where it’s covered in all the colored lights? Where the runaways are running the night? Impossible comes true, it’s taking over you. Oh, this is…”
“This is the night. This is the day. This is your moment. This is forever right now, right here, right this minute. Now or never.”
This is The Greatest Show. I like it. Did you make it your own lyrics?
Yeah, I just made up my own lyrics there.
Joe, that is amazing. Most just finish the song lyrics. You turned it into your own. You knew this is The Greatest Show?
I did once we got into it.
You have won all of the dares on over 100 guests.
I already got my underwear. What else is there? A hat?
Well done. We talked about attention, fun, and taking chances. I want to go to the ninth inning here with a little bit of rapid-fire. Standing out in sports. I don’t ever put this perspective. For instance, baseball, long, slow, boring, challenge, attendance declining dramatically. We’re trying to make it all about the show. If you were in my shoes owning a crazy team like Savannah Bananas, what are some things you or PT Barnum you think would think about doing?
When we were talking about music, I would have a song. There needs to be some catchy, lyrical, upbeat, and maybe inspiring song that people can sing and they would want to sing. They would want to go to the ballpark to hear that song and sing that song. If your team can be choreographed to do some dance routine as they sing the song, you would end up with a video of course of some sort. That’s one of the things. The takeaway is having music. Music is memorable and emotional. If you do the right song, lyrics, and message, they will remember you forever because of that. I would say that is one of the first things to do right there.Be willing to suck and be willing to fail because that failure is feedback. Click To Tweet
We’ve done music videos like Old Town Road and Can’t Stop the Peeling, which got millions of views. Could a sports team have a song that’s a top 40 hit? Why not? You’ve got to be thinking about, “How am I going to bring it?” We have a Bananas pep band but we need some real singers. They got me thinking. I love that. I’ve been grilling you for a little bit. This is flipped the script. Now you’re going to be the host. You could ask me one question.
You’ve read my book on Barnum and you’ve been interviewing me. I told you I’m the world’s first self-help singer-songwriter. What do you think I could do to get my music in me noted in an even bigger planetary way?
You’re an older person who’s generated a lot of success, but where could someone like you be in a different realm? I could see you on TikTok doing fun, upbeat, showing your stuff because not many people like you are doing that on TikTok. How would you get the music? This guy is fun, different, and not like everyone else. Instead of going the way that everyone else is going, I would go to that young audience. TikTok has taken off for us because baseball we’re showing the fun. That would be my idea.
That is a great idea. I would be like PT Barnum. If you told PT Barnum that, he and I would say the same thing. We go, “What’s TikTok?”
Are you asking?
Yes, I can look it up.
TikTok is the newest social media platform. It’s getting as big as Instagram and Facebook, and it’s taking off millions but it starts off young, 14 to 20 to 25, and then it ages up. It’s all about dances and singing. That’s where I put you. If you want better answers in business, you could ask better questions. I know PT Barnum asked a lot of questions. He was constantly curious, the same thing as you. What are some of the best questions you’re asking?
I have a couple of bottom-line beliefs that lead to good questions. One of them is Anything is Possible. That’s the title of one of my books, but there’s a bottom-line belief that anything is possible. I was homeless once. I was in poverty for a long time. During those stretches, I didn’t believe anything was possible. It takes a whole different mindset. When you think anything is possible, questions come up like, “What do you want in your life, business, relationships, finances, or anything like that?” Take the lid off and ask, “What would you like?” The question that I like to follow up from that is, “What would be better than that?”
If we come back and say, “Anything is possible. I would like to increase my business by 30% in six months.” What would be better than that? Increasing it by 50% in three months. Asking questions leads to the tearing down of limits is the direction to go in. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I wrote another book called Zero Limits, and it’s the mindset I always remind myself of. If I thought in terms of zero limits, what would I do right now? I would invite people to consider that. If you thought there are no limits, there are no boundaries, and anything is possible, what would you go for? That’s a juicy thing to end on right there. No Limits, no boundaries, and nothing stopping you, what would you go for? I’m tickled to think about that.
We’re going to get an encore. That’s going to be a great ending. I love that because I’m picturing putting anything is possible on our whiteboard to say, “Let’s start writing things. Let’s start thinking.” Few more quick ones. It’s showtime. If someone leaves this show, what’s something they could do to channel the inner Joe Vitale and the inner PT Barnum? What can they do with their team and their business?
I would invite everybody to come up with some fun games, songs, strategies, contests, surveys, or anything along those lines to engage the public. What can we do that’s fun to engage the public relevant to what we do in business?
You had ten ways to grab attention. Hold a contest, hire a band, use costume characters, hold psychic readings, bring in animals, offer collectibles, art shows, sponsor an event, hire an entertainer, break a record. There’s many out there, just start doing it. Final two here. It’s going to be a crazy question that has never been asked before. What does going bananas mean to you?
Going bananas is being a silly three-year-old who has been let loose in a room after having a lot of sugar.
I’m going to challenge business owners to get in that mindset once in a while because you never know what’s going to happen there. Final one, what do you think makes someone unforgettable?
Benjamin Franklin said, “Do things worth writing or write things worth reading.” You’ll be unforgettable like him.
I love this one quote that Barnum shared with Mark Twain that you share in your book. “It is conceded that I generally do big things as a manager, I’m audacious in my outlays and risk, give much for little money, and make my shows worthy support of the moral and refined classes.” From the 1800 terms, that says it all, and you have done that. You give more than what you’re asked for. You take big risks, you challenge yourself, and you’re constantly thinking about how you get the most for your customer? You’ve given much, Joe. You’ve given much over the past several years and you don’t even know it. I’m grateful for having you with us, and I’m considering you a friend.
Thank you, Jesse. I applaud what you’re doing. It’s gratifying to me as an author to see somebody take what I’ve written about and run with it. You’ve done that in a way that the ghost of PT Barnum is smiling on you. Well done.
Thank you, Joe. I appreciate you.
- There’s a Customer Born Every Minute
- Hypnotic Writing
- One City World Tour
- Anything Is Possible
- Canine Concert
- Rose, Rose, Thorn, Bud
- Zero Limits
- Instagram – Joe Vitale
- Ten Rings of Power – Youtube
- Jay Abraham
- Bill Phillips
- Porter Davis
- YouTube – Canine Concert
- Fansgiving Game
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