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Me And My Hoodie


I love wearing my rhino hoodie (that’s me at left).

I wear it every night when I walk my dog around my neighborhood in the dark. In the winter, it protects me from the cold and wind. In the summer, it keeps the mosquitoes away. Sometimes, when people get close to me, they give me strange looks, appear obviously uncomfortable and say things like “Oh. Hi. I didn’t know who you were.” But they’ve never started a physical confrontation with me (at least not yet).

I wear it on long airplane flights to get some sleep and keep my earbuds on during takeoff and landing without the stewardesses seeing, in protest of the insanely dumb rule that one must turn off all electronic devices so as not to cause a crash (if that were even remotely possible, that would make all electronic devices at least as dangerous as four ounces of shampoo, thus causing them to be banned from being carried aboard all planes, wouldn’t it?). Sometimes I get strange looks from other passengers. But they’ve never started a physical confrontation with me (at least not yet).

Fortunately, I’ve never worn it while on a walk through George Zimmerman’s neighborhood.

In case you’ve been completely ignoring The Biggest Story In America, he’s the guy whose hobby was acting out some kind of vigilante fantasy by joining his “Neighborhood Watch” program and following people around his neighborhood with a loaded gun, looking for trouble.

That hobby ended last February, when he confronted a teenager named Trayvon Martin, because he felt Martin looked like a suspicious “punk” by walking from a convenience store back to his dad’s home while wearing a hoodie. After a brief physical encounter, Zimmerman shot the teenager right in the middle of the chest at point-blank range.

Here’s a very brief, straight-to-the-point summary of the case, courtesy of Bill “No Spin Zone” O’Reilly as explained in the “Talking Points” segment of his first nightly “The O’Reilly Factor” television show after a “not guilty” verdict was delivered in Zimmerman’s murder/manslaughter trial:

“Zimmerman focused in on Martin, who wasn’t doing anything other than walking to his father’s house. Zimmerman also made a mistake by not following the advice of the 911 operator to back off. Talking Points understands the anger towards George Zimmerman. He initiated the fracas. But you don’t convict someone of murder because he shows poor judgment, or because he racially profiles.”

Makes sense to me.

Since this was a case of “he said/he shot,” of course Zimmerman could tell any story he wanted. And since he shot Martin on a dark, rainy night, there were no witnesses who saw the whole situation unfold.

So it would be hard to imagine there not being enough “reasonable doubt” for a jury to find Zimmerman not guilty of murder. Were it not for all the politics and racial undertones, it’s hard to imagine a case like this even going to trial.

Therefore, I’m okay with the finding of “reasonable doubt” and therefore the “not guilty” verdict.

I’m just glad George Zimmerman doesn’t live in my neighborhood.


What does any of this have to do with marketing your business, you ask?

Here are just some of the important lessons…

1. If you live in a dangerous neighborhood, you should be especially motivated to do everything you can to get the heck out of there.

There are many ways to become wealthy, and building a successful business by taking massive amounts of the right action is certainly one that any American can choose. I’ve lived and worked in some of our nation’s worst ghettos (back in my door-to-door sales days), and just about all I could focus on was building a business and getting the heck out of there.

2. Controversy is one of the very best ways to get people’s attention.

Shortly after the verdict was announced, all of social media blew up with emotional reactions on both sides. I posted to my Facebook page about the absurdity of how there’s nothing our legal system could do to hold Zimmerman accountable for his deadly behavior, and some of my followers immediately chimed in on both sides of the issue. Here’s my favorite reaction:

Facebook Follower: “Steve, did you listen to the trial. I watched all of it.”

Me: “Of course I didn’t listen to the trial. I have a life.”

(*And what would you expect me to tell my clients? “Sorry. I haven’t gotten anything done lately, because I have such a dull life of my own that I had to stay glued to a TV set all day long for the past three weeks watching someone else’s drama?”)

3. If you want to people to notice you, you have to be willing to take strong, controversial stands.

You’ll alienate some people and strengthen your bond with others. (For example, I’m about to find out how many people leave me angry comments below, and/or opt-out of my email list and social media accounts just because they’ll have a strong emotional reaction to this post.)

4. Track everything you do, and pay attention to what your audience tells you they really want.

“HLN” started out as the “CNN Headline News Channel,” and has now basically become the “Controversial Trial Channel.” Almost all of their programming consists of finding a criminal trial to sensationalize, and then presenting non-stop, 24/7 coverage from every conceivable angle, before, during and after the trial.

Is there an area of your business that has been remarkably successful, that you can make the complete focus of your business – and cut out the rest?

5. Look for every opportunity to be creative and persuasive (and sometimes even outrageous) in your sales pitch.

Believe it or not, during his closing argument, Zimmerman’s attorney Mark O’Mara actually defined a sidewalk as a weapon (and even said that to suggest otherwise “is disgusting”). This, of course, is news to millions of people who only THINK they’re unarmed when they routinely walk down an average street. O’Mara may have a future as a copywriter, if he ever decides he’s had enough of the courtroom…

These are just some of the business and marketing lessons we can learn from America’s latest “Trial Of The Century.”

What’s your number one takeaway from it?

19 Responses to Me And My Hoodie

  1. Jon Bockman Reply

    July 17, 2013 at 7:02 am

    Priceless – “Of course I didn’t listen to the trial. I have a life.”

  2. Phil Brakefield Reply

    July 17, 2013 at 8:33 am

    Took me awhile to catch on to the power and advisability of taking strong, controversial stands (especially when they fly in the face of big corporate dogma), but doing so is now a HUGE part of my marketing persona and is one of the things folks say they like about me!

    And for the record, the only thing about your picture I find troubling…the red shorts. If I was a neighbor hell-bent on taking out a suspicious-looking character, those shorts would tip in the decision.

    • Steve Sipress Reply

      July 17, 2013 at 10:44 pm

      Way to go, Phil. You had the guts to test something, and when you discovered that it works for you, you ramped it up. Very smart.

      And if you think the red shorts make me look suspicious, you’d love the black sweatpants I wear with my hoodie every night in the winter…

  3. Larry Reply

    July 17, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    What a great marketer you are! Smart guy, use current events tie in with your message, brilliant!

  4. Joe Reply

    July 17, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    I would stop and ask you what you were up to if I lived in a gated community in which there has been several break-ins as well as robberies and especially if I was part of the neighborhood watch. Not to mention if you don’t live in that community, you are trespassing and YOU shouldn’t be there in the first place!

    • Steve Sipress Reply

      July 17, 2013 at 9:36 pm

      I would expect that, Joe. I just wouldn’t expect you to shoot me.

      • Joe Reply

        July 17, 2013 at 10:56 pm

        Steve, put in the situation with someone on top of me, hitting me in the face to the point of breaking my nose and bouncing my head off a concrete curb, I have the right to defend myself which includes using my firearm.

        • Steve Sipress Reply

          July 17, 2013 at 10:57 pm

          Of course you do, Joe. Even if you were the untrained vigilante who decided to appoint yourself judge, jury and executioner of the suspicious character. Sad, but true.

          • Joe

            July 18, 2013 at 6:50 am

            I don’t look at it as the untrained vigilante, I look at it as the concerned neighbor looking out for his other friends and neighbors.

          • Steve Sipress

            July 18, 2013 at 7:51 am

            I look at it as both.

  5. Ace Luciano Reply

    July 18, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    As you can imagine, I also took a strong stance on this, as I do many things.

    You can also imagine that, if I had you (I know, laughable, and improbable) or ANYONE ELSE on top of me assaulting me, there would not be one moment of hesitation in pulling the trigger.

    I have been in a standoff. I’ve had practice and training for years to prepare me for such. I was fortunate that I did NOT have to shoot the man that robbed me and then pulled out a gun. I certainly could have.
    Had he moved any other way than he did (away, back to me), he would have died. Period.

    You can always say “I would have” or “They shouldn’t have” etc.

    By a marketing standard, George Zimmerman was an apt pupil, as he TOOK MASSIVE ACTION in response to the threat to his neighborhood. He did SOMETHING. which reminds me of TWO things a mentor of mine says:
    1. Good is GOOD ENOUGH
    2. READY, FIRE, AIM!

    • Steve Sipress Reply

      July 18, 2013 at 3:37 pm

      Yes, but YOU would never actively go looking for trouble in a crappy neighborhood.

      YOU would only act in what would actually be self-defense.

      Big difference from what this lowlife did.

      *And while both of the above rules you quoted produce excellent results in marketing, neither applies to responsible gun ownership, as you well know (and practice).

  6. Chris Reply

    July 19, 2013 at 7:18 am

    So on that basis of being controversial you would then agree with Rolling Stone for putting a terrorist on the cover of their magazine and making him look like a rock god?

    • Alex Reply

      July 19, 2013 at 8:26 am

      And it works. They are going to sell thousands of extra copies. They are in the money making business. And they just made a lot of money.

      • Steve Sipress Reply

        July 19, 2013 at 10:44 am

        Agreed. It appears to have been a great move for them. Excellent example of getting your target market (in this case, extreme liberals) to love you more, and not being afraid to alienate people who are not in your target market (in this case, people who hate the Rolling Stone anyway are outraged).

        Personally, I’m disgusted by the cover photo and article — but if Rolling Stone cared what I thought about them, they’d be idiots.

  7. Janelle Nagy Reply

    July 23, 2013 at 9:43 am

    Steve, I agree with you on most things but not on this and mainly your stance critizing Zimmerman as an “untrained vigilente, judge, jury and execurtioner”. Zimmerman did not come at Trevon with a gun in his hand, bent on shooting him. The gun came into play AFTER Trevon jumped George (who drew first blood?), broke his nose and cracked his skull and reached for the gun. Would you allow him to next have your gun too? The death was a by product of the shooting but I would be hard pressed to think Zimmerman’s intent was anything but to get Trayvon off of him and to survive the assault, not to kill.

    • Steve Sipress Reply

      July 23, 2013 at 1:13 pm

      I’d like to believe that things happened the way you say they did, Janelle. Of course, only a dead kid and the guy who shot him know for sure, and apparently neither one is capable of telling the truth very well.

      As I stated, I believe that there was so much “reasonable doubt” that not only was a “not guilty” verdict obvious, but the case never even should have made it to trial.

      My problem with Zimmerman goes much deeper than any “intent to kill” — it’s with his intent to profile and follow a “suspicious character” in his neighborhood, disregard a police order to stop following him and decide not to identify himself to the “suspicious character” as a member of his Neighborhood Watch program.

      Anyone with any common sense or training or lack of a vigilante mentality would have handled the situation completely differently, likely resulting in a different outcome.

      I appreciate having responsible gun owners as neighbors.

      I’m equally (or even more) appreciative that I don’t have wimps-with-something-to-prove like Zimmerman following people around my neighborhood and confronting them while carrying a loaded weapon.

      I can only imagine how different people might feel towards him had his gunshot missed its target and gone through a nearby window, killing some other child of one of his neighbors.

      In that case, it’s a good thing Zimmerman took perfect aim and shot Martin right through the middle of his heart at point-blank range. Way to go, Georgie.

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