Dear CMO:

The story goes that Rosser Reeves, ad man responsible for the “unique selling proposition” and slogans like “I Like Ike” came across a man begging in the street one afternoon and offered him a suggestion. Instead of “I am blind,” Reeves added a sub-text to the man’s plackard, so the story goes, that not only improved his afternoon haul but animates a point about vividness that we all need to keep in mind.

The addition? “I am blind. And it is spring.”

No play to pity, or fairness or guilt. An emotional snap that brings us back to our own anchor points and life experiences, a sensory reminder that we’ve all experienced spring – through our eyes, for most of us – all our lives. “And it is spring” is a touchstone for anyone in the  business of ideas. The point is what they think it is.

Which brings us to Rio. Do you really think the Brazilians made a more persuasive case for their infrastructure than Madrid, Chicago or Tokyo? I don’t know, but I think this would be a tough sell. The story emerging from the Copenhagen selection meeting is that Rio’s weapon was The Map. And The Map is hard to argue with.

North America: 12

Europe: 30

Asia: 5

Oceana: 2

South America: None. Never. Zero.

On a map, this makes no sense. Why are the South Americans at zero? This isn’t fair.

How do you think African IOC committee members viewed a South American country with no historical representation? Brazil’s contention that the Olympics should not be the sole preserve of rich nations has likely piqued their interest, too. Will a South American delegation support Cape Town or Johannesburg in the future? My guess would be yes.

The Map is vivid. It tells an iconic story where slews of words would fall on increasingly deaf ears. Image the hubris in these meetings! Imaging having to sit through endless rounds of nationalistic representatives waxing poetic on the merits of their own countries, one after the other. The Map cuts through the jibber jabber and mutely spells out the injustice of a Euro-centric Olympic heritage.

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Key Takeaways:

. Show, don’t tell: In board meetings, sales presentations, and even simple requests, we all have a tendancy to talk when letting our audience understand with a simple, vivid image would serve our purposes better.

. “And it is spring”: Not “and you can see,” or “don’t you care,” or even “and I wish I could see the flowers.” You’ve set the stage and then placed your audience in the scene itself. This is vivid. And vividness is psychologically sticky.

. Sometimes you can’t win everywhere – you just need to win somewhere: Rio won where it knew it could win. The winning number was “Zero.”

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Rio will host the 2016 Olympics because it told a more vivid story than Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo did. Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo had infrastructure, celebrity, media and experience. But Rio had a Map. And now, it has South America’s first Olympics.


PS: On a related note, would they have beat Madrid if the games were going to be held in Sao Paulo? Or Florianopolis? Is is “Rio” vivid enough in and of itself to capture the imagination? Just a thought.