This week I was driving to pick my son up from school and as I often do, I tuned into the Rich Eisen Show. Sportscaster Al Michaels was his guest. Michaels was on because this past week was the 37th anniversary of The Miracle on Ice. Most people know The Miracle was the U.S. defeat of the Russians in hockey at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid. Michaels was a young sportscaster working his first Olympics in 1980. He was the play-by-play announcer of the game that featured a rag-tag group of kids defeating a team of the best hockey players in the world. A true David and Goliath moment. Just two weeks prior, this same Russian team beat the Americans 10-3 in an exhibition game at Madison Square Garden. For so many reasons, this game was a moment that transcended sports and prior to the game, Al Michaels said he felt tremendous pressure of making the inevitable crushing defeat interesting to his viewers.
During his interview, Michaels delved into some of his personal memories of the game he called. This was a game that launched his career. He had only announced one hockey game prior to this, but it was with 5 seconds left that he made his mark on history. As the clock ticked to 5 seconds remaining, Michaels voice raised to a fever pitch, the puck was cleared from the corner to center ice and Michaels screamed "Do you believe in miracles?! YES!"
Eisen asked if the call was scripted. Michaels said there was no way to script it, because no one gave the Americans a chance. He said he had so many things racing through his head, but as the clock was winding down and a U.S. victory was at hand, the word "miraculous" popped into his head. This is where I think he connected and we can learn a lesson. What if he had just yelled "Miraculous!" or "It's a miracle!" Would the moment be so memorable? Perhaps, but I believe there is more to it. There are so many reasons this is something we all remember, but I believe the fact that he phrased this as a question to the viewer is why it connected. He brought the viewer into the moment. He connected what was happening on the ice and all of the drama surrounding it with those watching the game at home. He asks "Do YOU believe in miracles?" That "you" is also making a connection. We already had feelings about the game, but he helped us remember those feelings. I still cry when I hear the call. I can hear his excitement and the tone of his voice in my head. I think it's that simple. It's something so easy, yet so often glossed over in marketing. The path of least resistance to your customer is achieved by making the message about them. Asking a question is the easiest way to create a sincere connection. If you are on a first date and you ask lots of questions, your date most likely thinks "Wow, this person is really interested in me." I believe your chances are greater that you get a second date, than if you talked solely about yourself or asked no questions at all.
Michaels went on in the Eisen interview and asked, "What are the major moments we remember where we were?" The Kennedy Assassination, The Challenger Explosion, 9/11? All horrible tragedies in our history. Rarely is it something so uplifting and so positive that we can say "I remember where I was for that moment in time." The Miracle on Ice was that positive moment. I remember exactly where I was for The Miracle and I can see it in my mind's eye. I was only 7 years-old. A rare shining light in a sea of tragic memories. We remember for many reasons, but it's part of us because Michaels did the simplest of things that escape us in today's selfie society. He asked us a question that made us feel. The phrase is now synonymous with the moment. It defines the moment and it defines how we feel about the moment. Remember this when trying to connect with your customers and clients.
Perhaps this gives the old adage of "Ask and you shall receive." new meaning.
Media Masters is based in Austin, TX and produces video marketing content for small local businesses to large international corporations.