The reflected glory of Trump, Branson and Jobs

Tips for Entrepreneurs: As soon as you are affiliated with respected figures, clients will become comfortable with you.

Bibi netanyahu (photo credit: JPost Staff)
Bibi netanyahu
(photo credit: JPost Staff)
Donald Trump, Richard Branson and Steve Jobs – along with other famous names – do a lot for building your company’s credibility. People that have never heard of you and don’t know you from Adam may not trust you, but as soon as you are affiliated with the name of someone they have heard of and respect, the potential client’s comfort level goes through the roof.
This is true with testimonials, which I use with clients all the time. It shows them how to create a whole new positioning based on trust. I’ll cover that in a future column, but in this piece, I’m going to focus on a simple technique that you, the reader, have seen in the past – but simply did not realize what was being done or how it was being done: “When you purchase the Q-7000 Widget before the end of December, get a full year’s subscription to Prevention Magazine absolutely FREE! A $47 value!” Or, from a creative design firm’s seminar, “Attend our seminar and receive as a bonus Walter Isaacson’s newly released and only authorized biography, ‘Steve Jobs.’ Let the insights of how Steve made Apple insanely great inspire you to transform your business!”
What just happened? The companies, people or publications that have just been mentioned are not affiliated with the product you are buying in any way. In all likelihood, they have purchased publisher’s copies or subscriptions in bulk from Ingram (a book wholesaler that authors should know about, because they can sell authors books for less than the publisher will give it to them, PLUS the author gets a royalty on top of that as well!). They’re not associated with the books, but from the buyer’s perspective, there is a “step-up” effect that brings a small business to a higher level by its mental association of affiliation with a recognized brand.
In the States, I often receive two tickets to some real estate or business opportunity seminar or another at which Donald Trump’s books are given as a gift for attendees. While I study them for the copywriting and marketing techniques, I have yet to spend a half-a-day at some off-airport hotel listening to a sales pitch, but many others do go. And it’s fair to say that if Donald Trump’s name wasn’t dropped in the conversation in the mailer for the event, attendance would be much lower.
Depending on the market of your targeted client audience, the exact giveaway (known as BIRG in psychology for “basking in reflected glory”) can change dramatically. Offering a Jack Welch book to a corporate audience, Richard Branson to an adventurous and entrepreneurial one and a Wall Street Journal subscription to a financial offer or opportunity seems fairly obvious.
But how about offering something not directly related, yet something that you know the client would be interested in? If you know they love Israel, you’d offer them a gift subscription to The Jerusalem Post. If you know they are very health-minded, a subscription to Prevention Magazine could move them. And if you know they like golf AND that they drive a Lexus, is there something you could offer them that would appeal to them as a golfer that could be blended with the Lexus image? You want them to want what you offer and, on top of that, give you that mental affiliation with luxury.
This may sound shocking, but the truth is that Michael Jordan never even wore Nike shoes before he was hired as the face of the now world famous “Swoosh” logo.
In a speech to MBA students, Warren Buffet talked about the moat of business, and how Coca Cola will always remain the premier cola because they are “the” brand.
What can put you in the driver’s seat can also take you out. For instance, Kodak was “the” brand until they allowed Fuji Film, another competitive film company, to win the Olympics sponsorship.
Athletes believe they can “be like Mike” by wearing the same brand of shoes he promotes. Soda drinkers will always think of “Coke” as the soda to ask for when mixing a drink or enjoying a cold refreshment. Amateur photographers will think, “Well, can this other film be anything less than Kodak if the Olympics themselves are shot with this film?”
This is a powerful principle, and is the reason why, when an athlete associated with a product is part of a criminal or personal scandal, companies race to remove their association with the endorser.
You may not like or feel comfortable with this technique.
I was horrified years ago when I heard it the first time. But once I was empowered with the knowledge, I saw it being done all the time. There’s a reason that the milk is in the back of the store, that the veggies are always in bright, wide, airy isles at the supermarket entrance and that eggs are quite far from the cash register (“the till” if you are British).
Start viewing both your mailbox and the world around you through this lens. Think about the cereals you buy, the flyers that catch your eye (why do they say FREE $20 VISA card instead of just $20 cash?). Ask yourself why athletes license their names to a wide variety of products.
They’re all ways that marketers use to get and hold our attention. They do it because it works, and you can too!

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Issamar Ginzberg is a rabbi, businessman, public speaker and marketer. He travels extensively between New York and Jerusalem, and has been published in more than 30 national business publications, including Inc. Magazine, which honored him with its Top 10 Entrepreneurs of the Year designation.