The LinSanity of Tebowing: Why It Matters to Business

From the Winter Issue of the Marketing Leverage Times newsletter…

Nothing captivates your full attention like coming down a Colorado ski slope at lunchtime and seeing a flash mob of close to 400 adults in front of the ski lodge, simultaneously moving into a position that looks like a cross between genuflection and Rodin’s The Thinker – on skis.

That was my first up-close interaction with the Tebowing phenomenon (with a bastardized version of the music from “St. Elmo’s Fire” playing in the background, no less). No sooner did the Broncos lose that January playoff game and Tebowing quickly faded away , when up popped LinSanity–based on the sudden rise of Jeremy Lin of the New York Knicks.

In the Bay Area, LinSanity has been particularly intense, both because Jeremy Lin is a local boy who grew up in Mountain View and went to Palo Alto High School (though he was forced to attend Harvard when nearby Stanford didn’t accept him), and because our area’s large Asian-American population is thrilled to finally see one of their own stand out in the NBA.

Tebowing and LinSanity are interesting for sports buffs, but the lesson behind this phenomenon is important for business as well.

Why? Because who we pick as cultural icons reflects what’s important to our society at the time and, more importantly, what’s not. Lin may never have the long outstanding career of a Kobe Bryant and Tebow may not outpace a quarterback like Tom Brady, but they have a certain humility and down-to-earth quality that isn’t found in many of today’s star athletes. It’s the same kind of pureness one felt watching Octavia Spencer’s heartfelt acceptance speech at the recent Academy Awards ceremony.

In a time when we’re recovering from the greatest recession in nearly a lifetime, in the midst of a presidential election that seems to be about who is the least offensive choice, it’s interesting to see who are America’s new folk heroes. They’re not the typical athletes, or the usual Hollywood celebrities, and they’re certainly not our government leaders, current or aspiring. In an age of social media engagement and citizen journalism, the people who capture our fancy are unknown, down-to-earth Everymen who rise above the norm to greatness.

We no longer believe the paid celebrity spokesperson: we look to our friends and colleagues to convince us to try a new product, or not. We’re not wowed by the same big budget marketing promotions and deals of a previous generation: we’re looking for authenticity and relevance to our own lives. We’re not necessarily looking to outpace the neighbors with more and more new “stuff;” instead we’re trying to adjust our spending and consumption to reflect what’s important in our own lives.

Stop and think about how this impacts your local business marketing. Are you still trying to convince people to buy your products and services because they have more bells and whistles, features and functionality than the competitors? Are you trying to out-wow the competition by being the loudest and most flamboyant alternative? Or are you building a community of customers and prospects that trusts you have their best interests at heart, believes you mean what you say, and looks to you to play from the heart?

All the trappings aside, today’s customers want you to deliver value in a way that makes it easy to root for you and share their excitement with your success with friends and colleagues – a phenomenon we see most clearly with the incredible financial success, market power and near cult-like following of Apple.

Don’t be left out in the cold.

Learn what’s important to your customers and find an effective way to deliver it – before someone else captures the hearts and minds of your target audience.

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