In this segment of the Rule Breaker Investing podcast, David Gardner recalls an interview he and his brother did years ago on The Motley Fool Radio Show with Max Baer Jr., who famously played Jethro on The Beverly Hillbillies. By that time, the show had long since been relegated to reruns, but it had certainly not been forgotten -- which leads David to the salient point.
A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on Aug. 16, 2017.
David Gardner: Quote No. 3. I'm going to turn what was really spoken by an entertainer -- maybe an actor. If you don't know his actual name, you'll remember, if you're an old-timer like me, his character. You'll probably have seen this. If you didn't see it live, maybe in reruns at some point.
I'm going to turn that quotation into a business quotation. I'm not sure he intended it that way, but that's one of the things we do here at The Motley Fool. So Max Baer Jr. Raise your hand right now, even if you're driving your car, but keep the other hand on the wheel. Raise your hand right now if you know who Max Baer Jr. is.
And I can say I'm raising my hand, not because I was a huge Beverly Hillbillies fan, because I wasn't, although I certainly did see some of the shows back in the day and maybe have seen them once or twice on reruns. But Max Baer Jr. played Jethro on The Beverly Hillbillies, so if you're raising your hand, you already knew that. If you didn't, you should know that The Beverly Hillbillies was one of the biggest-time ratings draws of its time, and in some ways that was true because when The Beverly Hillbillies ran on TV, there were only a few networks.
And so, as has been well documented since then, when we have 500 or 1,000 cable channels today, it's very hard to focus a huge amount of attention on any one channel or any one show. But in an earlier version of American or even global history, there were far fewer choices for TV watchers, and therefore Max Baer Jr. was very well known.
And one of the things my brother Tom and I used to do when we had a radio show is we would interview people like Max and just have fun talking about what they learned over the course of their lives, ask them if they're a stock market investor or not, and then get a few lines of perspective or wisdom from them.
So here's what Max Baer Jr. said once to my brother Tom and me on The Motley Fool Radio Show. He said, and I quote, "I've been a has-been, a once-was, a used-to-be, but Jethro will always be an is." I've been a has-been, a once-was, a used-to-be, but Jethro will always be an is.
And the reason I love that line, and noted it at the time, and have saved it in Evernote, which is where I keep so many of my notes and quotes over the course of time -- the reason I saved that is because to me, that's reflecting on the power of brands.
If you're a Rule Breaker investor, and you know our six traits, our six principles we're looking for when we pick stocks, you'll know that one of them is the "powerful brand." I love to find companies that are recognized. That are not only recognized, but that are actively chosen.
Because we have a wealth of choices. We just talked about cable channels today. Or just the internet as its own channel. How many different YouTube channels are there? I don't even know. There are tons of choices for our entertainment. There are tons of choices for just what toothpaste you select at the five-and-dime, which I guess is a little old-school term.
Or the supermarket these days. The SKUs. Just the sheer number of choices of toothpaste are remarkable. It might be Crest. It might be Colgate. But is it the tartar control or the gentle whitening, and are you going to take it in a tube or a pump? It's remarkable, the SKUs of just that one product category.
So we're talking about a proliferating number of choices that we all have, and it is a remarkably great problem to have. I think it can be a problem, but let's pinch ourselves and be really grateful that we would have that kind of abundance around us that we would actually have to feel like it could be stressful just to select a toothpaste. Kind of a great problem to have, but it is the power of brands that causes you and me to go, "This one, not those."
And this one sometimes just habitually. Mechanically. Not even thinking about it. In a good way, sometimes we turn off our brains, as in The Power of Habit, which is an excellent book by Charles Duhigg. We've had Charles on some Motley Fool interviews in the past. Anyway, one of the things Charles teaches us is that once we kind of figure out how to do something we turn off a part of our brain and just mechanically do that.
And if, by the way, you're the business on the other end of that consumer transaction, I'm not suggesting that you want to turn people brain-dead to follow your norm, and I'm not saying any of us actually is, because at any point you can shock yourself out of it and go, "You know what? I didn't have a good experience there. I think I'm going to switch." Or maybe something better comes along. Somebody invents a new way to do something and you want to take that service, instead of the old one.
We have a lot of choices, but it is the power of brands. It is that Jethro will always be and is. Those are the kinds of companies I think that you and I should be scrutinizing. Asking ourselves, "Huh!" as Jeff Fischer and I once did back when we were running The Motley Fool, Fool Portfolio on AOL back in the day. It was Jeff who said this to me. "Huh! Did we think about Starbucks?"
And even though Jeff and I both enjoy coffee -- we certainly have spent a lot of time at Starbucks, both individually and sometimes together over the course of years -- at that time, I think the year was 1998, we hadn't yet thought to put it in our portfolio. I'm pretty sure Starbucks went public. Maybe it was 1992.
It was definitely early '90s, so Starbucks had already been out there for five-plus years, and we were regularly consuming and appreciating the product, and finding a Starbucks in whatever airport we had just flown into rather than whatever the coffee was that was served one door down.
I think you know it. I think I may be describing a lot of people. I have Starbucks in my hand as I make this point. But the power of a brand is so very powerful, and Jethro will always be and is. And you, dear Rule Breaker, should always seek out and respect brands when you consider which stocks you want to be buying and owning for the long term.