My Brush with Fame (and an Experiment in Social/Sports Marketing)

I am not a huge NBA fan, but when Kobe Bryant’s agent calls and says “Mr. Bryant would like to speak with you,” you take the call.

He’d read my advertising book Hey Whipple, Squeeze This and just wanted some advice about some marketing stuff. Turns out he’s as nice and normal a guy as you could wanna meet, which is amazing for a superstar many would call the best player on the planet.

So anyway, a coupla weeks back I wrote to him. (Yes, I have the Mamba’s personal email and yes, I am very cool.) I asked him if he’d return the fave and just do a posting on his Facebook account about my new book, Thirty Rooms To Hide In: Insanity, Addiction, and Rock ‘n’ Roll in the Shadow of the Mayo Clinic. I didn’t want him to sell something he wasn’t a fan of, so I gave him an out. I said, “Hey, all you have to say is ‘I couldn’t put it down,’ which will be true if you never pick it up.” Kobe says, “Sure,” and so I threw the book in the mail.

Keep in mind the dude’s got 14 million “friends.” There are TV networks that would love to have those kinda numbers.

So I’m keepin’ an eye on his Facebook page. Weeks go by, but my short history with him showed that his life as #24 on the Lakers often takes him off the social grid. But two days ago I noticed he posted he was laid up with the flu.

Here’s how famous the guy is. Even when he posts a message as banal as “I’m laid up in bed. Not feeling well. Drinking lots of fluids,” 83,461 people “like” it. And 672 go so far as to share it on their pages. The numbers, to me, seem fairly Malthusian. So I sent him a little nudge. “Mmmm,” I wondered, “if only you had something handy to read.” That seemed to do the trick.

So he posts. And here’s the thing, people. Kobe casts such a long shadow in sports that there are bloggers out there who took the time to post things like “Check out what Kobe Bryant’s reading today.” Even the Daily News (on what, one has to assume, is the slowest news day in recent history) posted: “After scoring 40 points in the Lakers’ loss Tuesday to Indiana while battling the flu, Kobe Bryant spent most of his day off Wednesday resting. ‘Still not feeling well,’ he wrote on his Facebook page. ‘It’s a day in bed for me.’ Bryant also revealed he passed the time reading the book, ‘Thirty Rooms to Hide In: Insanity, Addiction, and Rock ‘n’ Roll in the Shadow of the Mayo Clinic.’”

Looking through a site called “SocialMention” I note with interest that most of the discussion threads quickly blow past my little book and get back to talking about when Kobe will be back on the court. But a few – a very few – post things like: “If that’s what Kobe’s reading, I’m going to go buy it tomorrow.”

Bottom line? Sales up but not crazy up. And I’m pretty sure it’s not because Kobe’s kind mention of my book on his site didn’t get a trillion eyeballs. It did. My guess is that his audience shows up to talk about basketball, not what he is reading. I could be wrong and so I’ll keep an eye on the sales numbers for Thirty Rooms and do an update later.

In closing, this short exercise in humility: I’ll return the fave and mention a book about him here on my blog. “Hey everybody, I’m sick in bed and reading Kobe Bryant: In His Own Words.”

Boom. Betcha I just sold 2 copies. You’re welcome.

Kobe? Thanks so much for takin’ the time to post about my book. Get better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scenes From A Marketing Intervention on Subway Sandwiches.

OH, SUBWAY, WHEN YOU COMIN' HOME?

Several years ago, I wrote an article for Adweek about the addiction some clients have to promotions at the expense of their branding.

“Should we throw out promotions and go cold turkey?” I asked.  “Of course not. In the retail world, promotions are an essential part of the marketing mix. What I’m suggesting is, first an intervention, and then partial withdrawal.”

Today, I think it’s time we intervene on Subway sandwiches.

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OPEN ON JOHN X, SUBWAY’S CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER, OPENING THE DOOR TO SOME DINGY ROOM AT A HAMPTON INN.

INSIDE, HE’S SURPRISED TO SEE A GROUP OF 400 PEOPLE SITTING ON COUCHES, ALL WITH CONCERNED LOOKS.

INTERVENTION MANAGER: Hello John, these people here love your brand a lot and they don’t want to see you killing it anymore.

JOHN, SITTING DOWN: But …

MANAGER: With us today are representatives of the 300 agencies you’ve burned through on your promotional binge. Plus a hundred or so creatives who threw a year of their careers away hoping they might be the one to get you to stick with a decent campaign.

CREATIVE DIRECTOR #1: John, your promotions have affected the brand in the following negative ways. (HE STARTS BLUBBERING) I was up all night going through the YouTube collection of your crappy spots and I’ve never seen you commit to anything.

JOHN: Yeah, but I have all these franchisees who…

CD #1, GETS KLEENEX, CONTINUES: I saw some remarkably stupid shit with people holding up “five fingers for the $5 footlong.” And I cannot count how many idiotic spots I saw with sports figures – John Cena, Michael Phelps, some boxer named Mike Lee. Who the hell is Mike Lee?

CREATIVE DIRECTOR #2: I was so hopeful when you let our agency air the fat-people-eating-burgers stuff, but the next thing we knew, you were whoring around with that “Febru-ANY” campaign. And what happened with that marvelous “Badonka-donk” radio stuff?

JOHN: What about Jared? Whenever we ran him, sales went up.

CD#1: Then fine, stick with Jared but at least do something interesting with him, instead of the insipid, brainless, promotional crap you air.  What are you on, crack?  Jesus, Bob.

MANAGER: Calm down now. … So, Bob. What’s it gonna be? Can you commit to a good mix of brand and promo?  Can you find even a … a decent brand campaign and then really stick with it? And maybe cut back from 600 agencies to five or so?

JOHN: I… I…

THE SUBWAY CMO LEAPS FROM THE COUCH, RUNS,  THE CAMERA FOLLOWS HIM TO THROUGH THE HALLS DOWN TO THE PARKING LOT WHERE WE JARED WAITING FOR HIM IN A CAR. THEY PEEL RUBBER AND DISAPPEAR IN A CLOUD OF BLUE SMOKE.

INTERVENTION MANAGER: Well, he’s on his own. I hope when he wakes up as the assistant product manager for some third-tier regional brand of acne cream, that he’ll finally get it. That he’ll finally see how brand will get you through times of no promotion better than promotions will get you through times of no brand.