3 Marketing Lessons from LeBron James’s “The Letter”

LeBron James has been consistently brilliant as a basketball player over the past decade, with an average of at least 26.8 points during this time-span. However, according to polls taken by California-based E-Poll, his reputation and likeability over the same time span has been anything but consistent. The company takes the opinions of a sampling of the U.S. population, and gives an E-Score ranging from 0 to 100, with 100 being the most known, liked and appealing. The good news for LeBron is that Americans like LeBron more than they ever have since his infamous “Decision” made in July of 2010. This month, LeBron scored an 80 after he announced his return to Cleveland in his July 11 SI letter, nearly doubling his E-Score of 47 from 4 years ago.

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Lesson #1: A Product’s Features and Benefits Do Not Immediately Translate into Likability and Preference If there is one thing to be learned from the roller coaster that is LeBron’s reputation, it is that his outstanding basketball production did not directly translate into likeability and a better reputation. There is an old adage that the best products do not always win in the marketplace; a business also needs to ensure that its products are well perceived by their customers. When James left Cleveland four years ago, his TV show announcement and subsequent partying left a bitter taste in the mouths of many NBA fans. And as a result, his reputation plummeted. For a business owner, they need to realize that a product doesn’t speak for itself – you need to tell your story in the right way in order to increase the preference and likeability for your brand and products among your customers. Or at the very least, ensure that you don’t follow how LeBron announced his “Decision” four years ago and consequently decrease your brand’s reputation.

Lesson #2: Help Your Customers Understand the “Why” Behind Your Company What was especially notable about LeBron’s SI letter was how he explained the “why” behind his decision to move back to Cleveland. And it was more than just about basketball. James states in his July 11, 2014 SI letter: “I feel my calling here goes above basketball…My presence can make a difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where I’m from. I want kids in Northeast Ohio …to realize that there’s no better place to grow up.” The business lesson is to explain the “why” behind your brand and products that help your customers understand your values and priorities. It is not enough to just “let the products speak for themselves” – customers now want to buy products and services from businesses that align to their values and priorities.

Lesson #3: Create Compelling Content LeBron’s SI letter was released as he left to attend the World Cup. Due to his unavailability, the letter stood as his statement and final word resulting in the media reporting what he wanted them to report in his own words. For a business, the lesson to be learned is that it is important to control your brand’s narrative. And the best ways to do this is via creating compelling content (like what LeBron did with his SI letter) and have this content tell your story in as many channels as possible, including your website and cross social media.

To learn how Spicy Spirit Marketing can help you with the “why” behind your brand and company, and create compelling content that tells your narrative, contact us today.

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