Lessons from Jeremy Lin on how to build an inspirational brand.

By Luke Sklar and Amber Hudson

First there was Tebowing.  Then came Linning.  From religion to ethnicity, the social media world has got it covered.  This time around it’s all about the Linsanity.  As in Jeremy Lin, a point guard with the New York Knicks.  So what’s with this guy?  Well, on paper he basically sucks. He didn’t win any athletic scholarships, he wasn’t drafted out of college, rarely played in his rookie year and was sent to the D-league (development league)…several times.  Then last month Jeremy Lin comes out of nowhere, screeching the Knicks into a winning streak, launching him into the starting lineup and sparking a global following.   Let the memes begin!

Linning

First up, Linning:  a pose from a secret handshake originally between Lin and Landry  Fields.  Then there are the seemingly never-ending puns using his name:  Linsanity, Lin and bear it, Lincredible, Linning Streak, to Linfinity and beyond.  Even Stephen Colbert got in on the action:  “Yes! I have a raging case of Linsanity. I have been declared legally Linsane. My symptoms.. linsomnia, restless linsyndrome and lintestinal blockage!”

Hey, what if we did that with marketing jargon:  There’s brand Linsights, Linvertising, return on Linvestment, Lin-Lin situation, Linternet marketing, Lindepth analysis, Lin-hanging fruit.

Back to the story.  The following chart shows the “search interest” on Google.  Tebow clearly has nothing on Lin.

Click to see full size

But we can’t chalk all this up to just a kid who is playing good basketball.   That’s only part of the story.  The other chapter is about his ethnicity.  Lin is one of the few Asian Americans in NBA history, and the first American player in the league to be of Chinese or Taiwanese descent.  He has become a hero to many and he’s busting through stereotypes.   Not that Ben & Jerry’s helped with their well-intentioned but misguided “Taste the Lin-Sanity” frozen yogurt.  Complete with fortune cookie pieces.  (Just as an aside, I think folks need to chill.  Ben & Jerry’s wasn’t trying to be offensive, they were trying to be NICE.  The world has developed a raging case of over-sensitivity).  At the end of the day Lin has built an inspiring brand based on a story many can relate to.

So through all this, brand managers should ask themselves:  does my brand have a good story?  Does it inspire?  Does it move people to take it and make it their own?

As of this writing, the Knicks are starting to float back to earth, losing 6 straight games. We think this story will lin-k to the bottom of the ocean like the Costa Concordia (had to throw in a plug for a favourite blog).  But who really knows.  I think Spike Lee sums it up quite nicely:  Don’t try to explain it, dissect it. We’re just in the middle of it and enjoy it. Especially if you are a Knick fan… It’s a great American story. A great American story.”