Piotr Jakubowski – Mind over Marketing

Getting Dirty While Staying Clean

One Dirty ManIn one of my recent posts about Michael Phelps I mentioned how his brand has been stretched a little too far in the wake of his record-breaking success in Beijing.

A few months ago I had the pleasure of working for a large construction equipment manufacturer at the CONEXPO – CON/AGG tradeshow in Las Vegas. CONEXPO occurs every three years and consists of the who’s who of the construction industry. In my work with the manufacturer, I had the chance to interact with Mike Rowe for the entire span of the tradeshow. Mike Rowe is the host/victim of the popular show “Dirty Jobs” on Discovery, and through my three days of work with him I realized that Mike has his brand under control.

Although having held numerous jobs and roles in the past, Mike is known as the guy who does the dirty work. He’s known to his fans as the guy who cleans bird poop at a chicken farm, sweeps chimneys, shears alpacas and handles baggage. There are two remarkable things about the show.


  1. 90% of the jobs are collected through user-submission – engaging the fans, the people who actually complete these jobs, with the program
  2. Mike Rowe and Discovery truly understand his audience both on and off the air

In February 2008, FastCompany officially labeled “Dirty Jobs” a megabrand, and indicated that Mike Rowe had become a hot commodity for advertisers with his extremely unique access to a certain demographic. In the process, Rowe has sidestepped deals for reality TV shows, hosting activities and acting roles. Why? Credibility.

What Mike and his team has understood is the idea of credibility. One thing that he consistently mentioned during the tradeshow is “maintaining the brand image” and “not selling out”. Through the success of the show he has almost single-handedly brought attention to “people who make civilized life possible.” One of the questions he consistenly asked was “how can all that brilliance be ignored?” By not selling out, Rowe and the Dirty Jobs brand is keeping true to the demographic with which it has the closest ties.

In the meantime he has picked up sponsorships with Ford, Whirlpool, HP and done speaking events for companies such as Motorola or Yahoo. Despite being approached by Toyota, Rowe felt that Ford, as an American company, fit much better with their image as well as the demographic. What else would the guy with dirty work drive than a Ford F-150.

With well thought out planning, Rowe and his team has managed to maintain the authenticity that appeals to the tastes of this group of individuals, while not alienating the other viewers – those who love watching the Discovery channel. Steering clear of the lucrative temptations that have peppered the rising popularity of the show, Dirty Jobs has managed to stay raw, rugged and most importantly – dirty.