Living in New York City in the early 80s, I was often jolted out of my mindless evening TV watching by an outrageous and wildly gesticulating electronics pitchman screaming “Shop around. Get the best prices you can find. Then go to Crazy Eddie and he’ll beat it! Crazy Eddie’s prices are Insaaaaaaane!!!” Who knew that all these years later, those commercials would still be talked about and universally considered advertising classics. Among New York metropolitan area consumers, Crazy Eddie at one point had better name recognition than Coca-Cola.
The lesson is simple—you don’t need huge budgets, à la Coke, to stand out in the marketplace. Instead a brand needs a creative, memorable, and distinctive voice, which can be created on a shoestring budget by a small team—as long as the players are smart, strategic, and highly talented. At its height, Crazy Eddie had 43 stores in the chain and earned more than $300 million in sales.
Years later, Eddie Antar, the founder of Crazy Eddie, got into trouble for understating income to avoid taxes and then committed securities fraud once he decided to go public (gotta love the stock symbol: CRZY). Antar served more than six years in prison and by 1989 the company declared bankruptcy and was liquidated.
Crazy Eddie passed away earlier this month in New Jersey at the age of 68.