For Keegan-Michael Key, choosing which brands to work with is all about evaluating accessibility.
The comedian, who is famous for his work on shows like MADtv and Key & Peele, spoke with Adweek at the relaunch of MetroPCS—now known as Metro by T-Mobile.
At the brand’s event on Oct. 8 at New York’s Grand Central station, he became the first customer to sign up under the Metro by T-Mobile name. There, he said that the brands he likes to work with the most are the ones that work to democratize their products. It’s a large part of the reason why working with Metro by T-Mobile felt like a partnership that made sense for him.
“The price of something doesn’t necessarily mean better quality, and that’s something I learned when was a kid,” Key said. “I figured why not practice what I preach?”
What he preaches is that brands should be trying to “help an average consumer gain some equanimity,” he said.”If you see that a person is in a lower income bracket, why shouldn’t they be allowed to have the same service as someone in a higher one?”
It’s something he appreciates about Metro by T-Mobile: The brand provides an essential service—cell phone plans—to people at a lower cost than competitors, making it accessible to more people. And it’s not just ordinary cell phone plans: With its relaunch, Metro by T-Mobile also committed to bringing 5G to customers next year.
By partnering with these sorts of brands, Key wants to show people that something they might have assumed was out of reach actually isn’t. It’s a similar process, he said, to making people laugh.
“One of the main ingredients of humor is noticing that which is right in front of us that maybe a lot of people don’t notice,” Key said. In his own partnerships, those are the moments he searches for. “I learn as much as I can about a product, and then say ‘Well, back up, what is the thing you just said there?’”
Key said his own personal brand has grown because of his accessibility. Starring on the sketch comedy show Key & Peele with fellow comedian Jordan Peele, Key said that fans were allowed to feel a sense of connection with the pair because of the shareable nature of their sketches, as well as the fact that the show inserted Key and Peele into people’s homes and everyday lives.
“There’s an ownership, for lack of a better word, that our fans have of us, from being on television, which is in your home, and on your phone, which is in your hand,” he said. “When people share a sketch, what they often do is watch you experience the sketch. I like to feel like a person who is serving and sharing.”
Beyond accessibility and equality, Key taps into another main driver in his brand partnerships: passion. He said he loves seeing employees of the brands he works with excited about the company. And in working with a company, he said he really tries to get to know what is happening within its walls—which comes from developing a relationship with executives and meeting employees.
“The passion is the most important thing,” he said. “To see that someone is a fan of where they work and they’re legitimately excited.”