April 27, 2017
Going to the Yankees game the other night gave me the opportunity to see Yankee rookie and MLB darling Aaron Judge in the flesh. Standing at 6’7” and weighing 280 pounds, he towers over his professional-athlete peers and is hitting the ball harder and farther than people have ever seen. His performance at the Home Run Derby made people talk about him as if he was unbeatable and a god among men — but also, with the current climate in this country and in baseball, immediately brought up questions about whether he is achieving his success naturally or whether he is cheating.
The biggest home-run hitters in recent baseball history have in large part been tainted with the stain of steroid use. Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bond, and many more have been linked to the use of performance-enhancing drugs and will forever have an asterisk next to their accomplishments. They were hitting it harder and farther than anyone had ever seen, and they were cheating to do it. Now that we have a new player doing what they did on the field, will we be able to get past our doubt of greatness being something that can be achieved without cheating?
Doubting the veracity of what’s in front of us based on our past experience is a perfectly logical way of thinking. But, at the same time, that doubt puts a layer of distortion between experiencing something great and accepting that this is, in fact, real greatness.
As marketers and as storytellers, this doubt may be our single greatest obstacle to reaching people. Our society is so completely inundated with marketing telling people about the “next great thing” that many people glaze over when anything is being told to them by a brand. The use of influencers to create content is one way that people get beyond this doubt, but I think that the cultivation of a trustworthy brand voice and brand presence is even more important to get beyond this filter of doubt. Trust is in short supply these days, and that makes it even more valuable.
I hope that Aaron Judge can be the face of the next phase of baseball, and that we can restore a little bit of trust in the hearts of consumers.