Jim Cramer has got a branding problem

September 17, 2008 § Leave a comment

Jim Cramer, the Mad Money man, Mr. Silver Lining, has a branding problem. He’s the boy who cried “wolf”. Not the boy at the beginning of the story, but the boy at the end, the one that everybody should be listening to, but they ain’t.

I’ve been spending the past few days flat on a heating pad nursing a bad back and watching the news. And boy is it a newsy world right now, but I’m not going to go into that.  Well, just enough to say that the big stories, the wet stories, the dry stories, the red and blue stories, aren’t THE story.  As I said I was flat on my back watching the news, enjoying the cozy warmth of an old cat who was enjoying the cozy, ambient warmth from the heating pad, when I heard the “ding”, the lovely interrupting chime that tells me that Mr. Bailey is on the chat.

Bailey and I go back to kindergarten. He’s the smartest guy I know and that’s saying something.  He’s the one that dropped the pin, but he denies it and I respect him for that.  But that’s an old and obscure story. Not THE story. The story that gets the capital letters is best told by Mr. James J. Cramer and it comes out in the interview. Go ahead watch it, I’ll wait.

Notice something? Where’s that colorful, frothy, prickly-cuddly financial whiz we’ve come to love?  This isn’t the Mad Money Cramer, this is something different.  This man is serious, and it is chilling.  This is the boy crying “wolf”.  Forgive me, he’s crying  “WOLF!”   “WOLF! WOLF! Hello? Scary, terrifying wolf!” And the people around him aren’t getting it.  Mr. Bailey is, but he’s not like most of the rest of us.  It’s hard to fathom, because it is a complex messy story about finance and markets and too long doing the wrong thing thinking it will come out right.  But I’m not a markets guy, I’m a guy with a bad back and a cat on my lap.  These things are over my head.  I took different classes.  I am branding guy so talk about branding, Cohen.

Why is Cramer sitting still in the video?  Why is he clenching his hands so tightly together?  Because he’s trying to rein in his brand. His personal branding, the mad man mojo, is a hair trigger away from exploding and he knows he’s got to keep it down.  Nail the lid down on it so it don’t explode… but why?  It’s about credibility.  He doesn’t want you to miss the news for watching the show, because this time the news is too heavy, too big for the histrionics.  He’s afraid of this, and he’s trying to communicate it the only way he knows how, by saying it as calmly as he can. When the entire capital producing machine of the western world is in jeopardy, you want to get the story across.  You want people to know it ain’t a show.

This guy with bags of credibility, the former hedge fund manager, the guy with the money show on the money network is worried that you won’t believe him.  That’s the brand problem.   The usual shtick is out the window and we don’t know how to respond. This isn’t fun.  This isn’t swagger.  We haven’t been taught this language, it’s not part of the Cramer iconography. This is a guy dropping his brand armor because he thinks that will help us see that this is an unfathomably large, trillions of dollars large, situation and it could easily implode like a black hole. Truly, I don’t know what it all means, but I can see when I watch that video that he has an inkling of the meaning – something dark ahead – something too dark and too serious to risk not getting the message across, and that’s why he’s clamping down, and that’s what’s chilling.  A normal person wouldn’t be calm, a normal person would be screaming and shouting if they had that same fear in the eyes, but that’s the norm for Cramer.

The brand is upside down, the crazy man is acting sane.

The calm is the omen of the storm.

And if Cramer is right it is nothing compared to the problems ahead.

*Ding*

As I write, it is Bailey on the chat: Feds are taking over AIG. We live another day.”

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