Updated: Sep 3
Before Michael Jordan, 23 was just another number. MJ made that number something special. Something we relate to, something that brings back memories. MJ took us, those who have watched him at least, through an emotional experience. Pele did the same with the number 10 on his back while zigzagging on soccer fields all over. Kids around the world these days, when they join a basketball team, a soccer club, want to wear 23 or 10 on their backs. They want to be like MJ, like Pele.
Sometimes, some of these kids actually become superstars themselves and cement that number even further in our emotional memory. Maradona came after Pele and both Messi and Neymar followed Maradona’s jersey number 10. Lebron James is wearing 23 jersey following his highness Mr. Jordan.
But what if Lebron wore a different number on his back? What if someone, young, decides to create their own number. Let their performance, their reputation make the number and not the number’s reputation creating them.
Same thing in business. When you start a new business, when you are not a recognized brand (yet) it is crucial in my opinion to try and make a name for yourself. By being genuine, by offering a consistent high level of service, by being true to who you are and to your customers you should make the number on the jersey mean something and not let it make you.
It’s not easy, not simple but if you want to succeed, if you want to create a reputation, make something of that number on the back of your shirt this is how you have to do it. And just like MJ, Pele and others who have taken us through an emotional experience throughout the years to anchor their number in our minds, this is exactly how you can do it for your customers too. Stand out, make an impact and be personal. These are the three elements of Emotional Relevance. But the underline is being remembered. Ongoing. Consistently. Stick with it and I promise you, your reputation will be created. It doesn’t have to be the new MJ or Lebron. It could be in your own neighborhood, in your own LinkedIn community, as large or as small as it is. Think of how you got your dentist, your financial advisor, your attorney, your PT. Someone probably referred them to you right? Their reputation. Their jersey. We remember them, and by giving us great level of service every time we see them, we remember them even more.
I grew up playing basketball and my idol when I started was Dr. J (tells you how old I am…;-)...). Number 6. I always wore number 6 growing up until I moved to the US and started playing in college. When I joined the team, number 6 was already taken. One of the seniors. So I picked whatever was available - number 15.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not and was never even remotely close to Michael Jordan nor to Dr. J and ended up playing D-3. But, when I grabbed that number 15 shirt it dawned on me that I am going to make 15 a number. In that small D-3 college in New York. In my little bubble I will make them talk about number 15. And man what a challenge it was.
That year in New York was one of the best years of the school’s basketball history. We made it to the ECAC tournament. Got to play in the Garden and ESPN came to do a piece on us. I guarantee that you haven’t heard of it but in my little bubble, in my community, for my “customers” back then, number 15 meant something. And I bet you, THEY, still remember.
"There’s really no comparison to me"
Zion Williamson joined the NBA this year. If you haven’t heard of him I suggest you go look him up. He decided to create his own number and selected jersey number 1. In a few years, kids all over the world would want to wear the number 1 on their backs. That’s right, Zion Williamson is now starting a new emotional ride for us where he will engrave the number 1 in our minds.
Remember that I was the one to tell you, when you remember Zion.