Marketing strategies for the hapless

by Brian Clarey

I’ve been thinking lately of things I can do to raise my profile, to up my visibility quotient, to put my name on everyone’s lips and always be lurking somewhere in my readers’ consciousnesses.

Kind of like Angelina Jolie and Britney. And the delicious, crisp taste of Coca-Cola.

For a task like that you’re gonna need something more than a sandwich board and a bell.

What I need is some marketing. I need to be packaged and made palpable. I need head shots and a jingle and a few quick slogans that get my message across, preferably slogans that rhyme.

And maybe, I’m thinking, I need a catch phrase, one that’s vague enough that I can use it in my commentaries all the time, but stylistic in a way that it will be instantly identifiable with its source. Like “And that’s the way it is,” but without the suit and the gravitas.

I got the idea while covering the Market America convention this weekend [see story on page 10], where the dominant philosophy is that everything has value as long as it can be sold.

The Market America people know how to raise their profile: Align yourself with a short list of upper-tier celebrities and then trot them out before the faithful. While I missed Ashanti on Saturday and J-Lo on Thursday – sorry, J-Lo – I did get to spent a few moments with Joey Cheek, cutie-pie Olympian and Greensboro’s favorite son.

I’ll tell ya: If this kid had never even won a gold medal I’d still be impressed with what he did in the years between his 17th and 27th birthdays, a 10 year period which for me consists of a million things I can never tell my kids.

But of course he did win the gold (and the silver) in 2006. And I can’t help but feel glad for the kid who is now reaping the benefits of a decade of hard work.

He’ll start Princeton in the fall.

I asked him, “You can pretty much go wherever you want, right?”

“Well, yeah” he smiled.

That’s a pretty good catch phrase – not for me, but it works for the fair-haired boy.

He also let me hold his gold medal, which was really heavy.

As Joey Cheek is a young man on his way, Mel Gibson’s public profile seems to be circling the drain.

Note to Mad Max: A good catch phrase should not include the word “Jew” deployed in a hateful manner. It turns off a significant demographic.

Sure he was drunk – police records show his blood alcohol content was .12, a few clicks above the legal limit. But if the tiny actor is as big a drunk as everybody seems to think he is, then he should be able to carry a .12 on a movie set, or perhaps a high-powered luncheon with some of those guys who really run Hollywood, the ones with catch phrases like “Oy vey!”, “Mazel tov!” and “I can get it for you wholesale.”

There’s no denying that he said, “The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world,” to the arresting officer, who just may be the only Jewish cop in Malibu. But there is a possibility of mining a catch phrase out of the incident, as long as you don’t mind walking around calling people “Sugar tits.”

And again, that’s not gonna get you anywhere.

Something else that’s not gonna put you on the fast track to recognition is journalistic fraud. Oh, you can get away with it for a while (witness Jayson Blair, Phillip Glass, et al) but it is not a long term strategy for success (witness Jayson Blair, Phillip Glass, et al).

Take the case of former Reuters photographer Adnan Hajj, whose catch phrase might be, “Photoshop makes it so.”

Hajj, who was employed until very recently as a freelance photographer by the international news service, saw fit to use the graphics editing program to’… enhance’… the extent of devastation in Beirut by copying and pasting pillars of black smoke over a shot of a suburban area which, in fact, had been bombed by an Israeli air strike. Reuters determined that the photographer employed the same technique on a shot of an Israeli F-16, upping the numbers of flares it was dropping from one to three and inferring that the flares, used as decoys in combat to divert surface to air missiles, were actually bombs.

And thus Mr. Hajj became acquainted with another catch phrase: “You’re fired” – though it was not delivered by the pilapanthic nightmare that is His Trumpness.

Donald Trump has always understood the value of a good catch phrase, which is funny because he’s never understood the value of a good barber.

At any rate’… my search for the perfect catch phrase continues. For the next few weeks I’ll be trying out, “I left it in my other pants,” and “See you in hell.” I’ll let you know of one of them sticks.

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