Six Brand Lessons From the Pawn Stars

Andy Fritchley / January 10, 2014


Do you know what Abraham Lincoln had in his pocket when he was assassinated? A Confederate $5 bill. Amazing, right? I picked up this bit of American history from an episode of Pawn Stars horoscope zodiac signs on History channel. In this age of entertaining (albeit meaningless) reality television, it’s nice to get something useful from a TV show, even a small nugget of trivia about our sixteenth President.

If you’ve never watched the show, here’s a little background on Pawn Stars:

Rick Harrison and his father, Richard “Old Man” Harrison own and operate the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Rick’s son, Corey “Big Hoss” and Corey’s childhood friend, Austin “Chumlee” Russell, work in the shop.

By all accounts, it’s a standard pawn shop where people bring in items to sell or pawn. Most pawned items are jewelry, but the show typically chronicles vintage or antique items.

To keep the show true to the History brand, experts are brought into the shop to give background and historical significance on vintage items.

If you watch enough episodes of Pawn Stars, you’ll realize the show isn’t just about antique collectibles or their role in history. By carefully noting the exchange between buyer and seller, there are some excellent business and brand principles to be learned.

 

Six brand principles from the Pawn Stars

 

1.) Supply & Demand

Honus Wagner Card

In the collectibles market, this goes without saying. The more rare and collectible the item, the more the asking price. The T206 Honus Wagner baseball card is the most rare of all baseball cards with less than 60 cards in existence today. One auction fetched $3 Million for a single card.

When negotiating with sellers, Rick usually qualifies each item. Pieces are categorized as either “highly collectible” or “will sit in my shop for months waiting for the right buyer.” A not-so-subtle reminder for business – be rare and unique. Don’t wait for the right buyer, be highly desirable to “fly off the shelf.”

2.) Know Your Worth

Rick and company are shrewd negotiators. They are master of pricing tactics from the lowball offer to the price shift (I can’t do that number, the best I can do is X). The Pawn Stars know their limit and are prepared to walk away from the deal.

Like them, you should know what you’re willing to pay for a product or service. Nothing worse than chasing a bad deal with an arbitrary price target. Do your research and understand the market. Be firm and cordial, and stick to your guns. Also, know when to pipe down and let the negotiation work. Silence is golden.

3.) Bring in the Experts

You know what you know and nothing more. When needed, Rick brings in outside experts to help verify authenticity of items. Businesses have access to similar resources. Consultants in human resources, information technology, leadership and marketing help a business identify their strengths, and areas for improvement. Know your limits and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

4.) Be Clear on the Benefits of Your Brand

Rick does a stellar job conveying the benefits of using his pawn services. He explains to sellers that it’s a low risk transaction for them, they walk out with cash and don’t put any additional collateral towards the item.

A brand has similar benefits – remarkable service, proprietary processes, stellar leadership. Sell these benefits clearly to buyers.

5.) Setting Expectations

How important is to define the scope of your services? If a buyer expects one set of results and you deliver far less, how disastrous is that for the relationship?

The Pawn Stars set expectations and sellers understand perfectly what outcomes are expected.

6.) Fair to All Parties

After negotiations have run their course and the business transaction is complete, all parties should feel good about the deal. It’s not about squeezing every last drop from the other side of the table. Do this enough, and your business will be appropriately labeled as a bully and vendors / partners / experts will find other businesses to help (most likely your competitors).

 

Etcetera

Rick is known to check out the local flea markets and garage sales around Las Vegas. Oftentimes vendors chase him away, fearing his price negotiation tactics.

Rick and the Old Man featured in Windows commercial:

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Having tinkered with software and technology his entire life, it was only fitting for Andy Fritchley to wind up in a digital playground -- Kelsey -- a brand marketing and strategy firm. Through the Brand Establishment, Andy is one of a handful of Certified Brand Strategists in the nation, helping clients with brand development, interactive projects, social media strategies and killer creative work. You can find Andy on and Twitter.



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