This will be the second time this week that I blog about the passing of a celebrity.
This time, it lead me to action.
The world’s best pitchman, Billy Mays, died of heart disease in his sleep early Sunday morning. Mays was just 50 years old.
I had become of a rabid fan of Mays several years ago just by seeing his work. As I learned more about him and his career, I became more of a fan. Then, this year Mays and his partner Anthony “Sully” Sullivan became mainstream television celebrities when they launched their brilliant series “Pitchmen” on the Discovery Channel.
The tragedy, on the heels of the loss of Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Ed McMahon, seemed more personal to me. I had an amazing amount of respect for Mays and his ability to turn everything he touched – from OxiClean to Mighty Putty – into pure direct television marketing gold. The guy had talent like no one else and his position in the industry was undisputed.
As my good friend Jay Sapovits said when learning of his loss: “Billy Mays is was and always will be the Babe Ruth of infomercials. A legend lost. The sales and business world lost a legend. Sad.”
I couldn’t have agreed more.
What I came up with was to simply create a “hash tag” on Twitter called: #wearblue4billy.
The idea was to call on the Twitterverse to wear a bright blue shirt – the type Mays became famous for wearing in all his shows – on Monday to honor and show our respect for this cultural icon. Would it work? Could I start a movement to honor Mays and show respect to his family in their time of grief?
The answer blew me away.
After re-Tweeting the call to action several times, it started to gain some modest steam. But it completely blew up when Billy’s eldest child, Billy Mays III (@youngbillymays on Twitter) endorsed the campaign as a respectful way to honor the memory of his father.
I was proud that Billy’s son would think my small idea was a great way to honor his father. I felt good that I could bring some amount of comfort to him and his family at this difficult time.
The results on Twitter have been staggering. The outpouring of love and respect for Billy and his family has been amazing.The campaign gained steam every hour and was one of the hottest trends on Twitter over the past 24 hours. The chart below shows the campaign stacked up against another popular hash tag #iranelection which helped those trying to get news out of Iran keep track of the happenings there. I also tossed in Michael Jackson mentions to give you a comparison.
As you can see, stacked up against Michael Jackson, Iran and just Billy’s name, the campaign was on fire on Twitter. This made me feel very happy as my whole intention was to honor Billy and his family.
The power of a network like Twitter, for an individual like me, to connect and link people from all over the world in a common cause is staggering. I am completely humbled by the response and want to thank everyone for taking part. Here’s an interesting blog post talking about the unexpected success of the campaign today for Billy.
The campaign was picked up by online and mainstream media and for that I am grateful. They also helped spread the word and make the Wear Blue For Billy Day a great success and respectful tribute to the best pitchman the world has ever seen. Even YouTube is alive with tribute videos and a call to make every June 28th “WearBlue4Billy” Day.
Of course, this is more than just a case study in social media and the emerging power of Twitter. It has to do with a family who lost a son, husband and father. We may have lost the best pitchman to ever walk the earth, but they’ve lost more. To that, I offer my deepest sympathies. I’ve been touched by Billy Mays III and his public grieving on Twitter. He’s a strong young man and I wish him and his family the best.
I am proud I was able to help organize thousands and thousands of folks in honoring Billy Mays. I hope they find some comfort in it and know how much we’ll all miss Billy.
Links of Note:
Billy and Sully’s Guest Spot on Tonight Show Just Last Week…of course, on top of his game!
Billy’s “The Office” Spoof. Brilliant!
A CLASSIC: Billy Ordering at McDonalds.Bi