Before I get started I need some music. I'm thinking the Rolling Stones. Nothing like a little music when I'm writing, especially when my back is hurting and I'm still feeling toasty from the warm reception to my debut on Seeking Alpha. But don't let me be a poor host, while I get settled you can watch this video: http://www.youtube.
Okay good, I've got my lumbar cushion in place, my laptop is humming and Mick is singing "You can't always get what you wa-ant". Good stuff. And I assume that you couldn't miss Jim Cramer's frustration with not getting what he wants in the segment. I mean that is not what you would call self-satisfaction dripping from phrases like "...it is cavalier at this point to ignore me, but not only am I ignored, I am dismissed as a gadfly. It's pathetic." Say what you will, but on Wednesday James J. wasn't happy with his brand.
So what's he got to complain about?
He has two wildly successful brands serving overlapping market segments. Brand 1: The interviewee, the answer-man, the insider; paired, although not always like a fine wine, with an interviewer/interlocutor as so often seen on TheStreet TV, CNBC, etc.
Then there is Brand 2: the Mad Money man, and we all know who he is. Granted, it is a colorful image - Business Week called it "...perhaps best described as Louis Rukeyser meets televangelism meets Pee-wee's Playhouse". Colorful, yes, but it goes over great.
The point is there's no shortage of people NOT IGNORING Jim Cramer. He's reaching the pros and the joes, the day traders, the gold bugs, the newsies, the amateurs, and all the people hoping to "stump the band" with an obscure stock (and who are delighted when he knows 'em and nails 'em). Lots of audience, but Jim's not getting what he wants.
There is a market segment he's not reaching: the government, the powers-that-be, the policy makers. He wants to reach them, and why shouldn't he? He's right more often (and always a lot sooner) than they are. It's a big jones for Cramer - like a student from Duke looking to score some basketball tickets - but for some reason the brand isn't going over with the target audience.
Oh hang on a second...
I really like to hear this part when Mick sings "but you just might find..." and the backup singers kick-in with "...you get what you nee-eed". Yeah that's good stuff.
So I've got Mick and Keith and a lumbar pillow and Jim Cramer has an itch. And it is a genuine itch, I think he really cares, it is his passion, (and the best brands come from the genuine, the authentic) he wants to see it done right. He wants better stewardship of the financial system to which we are all tied.
Actually, you could quite fairly point out that he has gotten a lot that he's been calling for this week: AIG (AIG)was bailed out, Europe kicked-in, heck even McCain stepped up and said Chris Cox should be fired. Cramer needed all these things and so did we, but that's not what he wanted. In markets, timing is everything, and just-in-timing is just too hair-raising.
What Jim has is a great product - great credentials, great track record, great knowledge. What Jim wants is brand strength - the ability to influence a small, powerful, but difficult to reach market segment (the government) so that he can perhaps nip a few buds and head off some passes. Jim used the words "moral authority", I call it clout. Either way its absence is a symptom of a branding problem.
So now some advice before I listen to the rest of "Let it Bleed": To reach the elusive segment the positioning will need some tuning. It is less an issue for the Mad Money family of products than it is for the interviewee+interviewer relationship. If you don't have "shelf appeal" for your target audience then you begin by rethinking the packaging.
If an interviewee is the product then the interviewer is the packaging - as intermediary the interviewer holds tremendous sway over the nuances of positioning. How the interviewer frames the discussion of what we have and what we need, could help get Jim what he wants.