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On Jeremy Lin and Marketing: We Love The Unexpected

Here’s the latest on a topic that has obsessed people worldwide—from sports to culture. According to Nielsen research, NY Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin’s endorsement potential for now tops the marketability of LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. LeBron and Kobe, for those who don’t know, are arguably considered the most high profile NBA players in the world.

What does this tell us about not only popular culture, but how it might inform our marketing decisions? Obviously, Americans love an underdog. Who doesn’t? We identify with the ‘average guy’ and feel a surge of hope and excitement that ‘one of us’ can make it on the big stage, with the big players (i.e. LeBron and Kobe, whom we can admire but never hope to be). So, a marketing approach that helps us to personally identify and embrace the subject, or the cause, is probably going to have the best chance to catch fire.

But there’s more. The cross-over effect of the unexpected comes into play. Like it or not, the truth is we associate Asian-Americans with a predominant set of skills, and the National Basketball Association has not been among them. So, again, the unexpected. Marketing take-away: surprise me.

Humility is also a surprise, it seems, and of course an added extra. It’s an irony of the way our world works, but while we admire and trumpet high achievement, we don’t especially want to hear someone brag about it. Lin=likeable. He spreads the praise, at one point even asking the media to focus on the entire team, not just him (Can you imagine?).

What’s more, showcase that underdog, that likeable guy, that surprise, in a major market, New York City. Make your splash in a big way, on a big stage.

Finally, there’s a magic to Jeremy Lin, just like there is to marketing: sometimes you’ll just hit the jackpot, and it’s with the intangible: timing, luck, a slow news cycle.

I always ask my clients to give me any and all stories they have, and not to edit with what they feel is most marketable. They may still follow up with the one they assume is a “slam dunk” (pardon the pun), and I’ll shake my head and have to say: it may not make it. For example, recently, we placed a story on a major network T.V. show, and it was about an unglamorous (albeit important) hernia surgery procedure.

So, just get the most you can, and put it out there. You just never know when you’ll have your Jeremy Lin moment.