[Web Informant] 26 October 2009: Learning branding lessons from chess champions

David Strom david at strom.com
Mon Oct 26 05:53:31 EDT 2009

Web Informant 26 October 2009: Learning branding lessons from chess champions

Chess may be one of the ultimate strategy games, but marketeers can
learn a lot from the game, and they don't even have to know the moves
of the pieces.

A few weeks ago we had the Women’s US Chess Championship matches here.
They took place a few blocks away from my office at the St. Louis
Chess Club, a dandy new spot in the ‘hood that also was the scene of
the US Open earlier this year. As part of the festivities welcoming
all the chess nerds was an event that I attended at my favorite local
art museum, the Kemper on the Washington University campus, where the
women chess champs were going to play roulette chess. It was a great
evening, a combination of smart women and interesting ideas. What more
could this geek want?

At the museum, I got to meet the current, three-time women’s champion,
Anna Zatonskih and the woman who invented roulette chess, Jen Shahade.
Both are babes, to say the least. This year’s tournament netted
Zatonskih a cool $15 grand, the largest purse of a women’s tournament
ever. Granted, this isn’t big money for other kinds of contests, but
in the world of chess, it is a lot.

I am not a very good chess player, although I learned when I was much
younger only to get routinely trounced by my younger brother, who
continues to play and even doesn’t need a chess board to keep track of
his moves.

While it certainly was fun to meet the women champions, I was more
interested in seeing how Shahade has done such a great job branding
herself online. Here are just a few ideas to get your juices flowing:

First off, she wrote a book entitled, Chess Bitch, about the current
crop of women chess players. Apart from the brilliant title, it is a
great idea for a book. In chess, many players refer to the
all-powerful Queen with that moniker, something that I wasn’t aware
of. (For those of you that don’t play, while the object of the game is
to capture your opponent’s King, the Queen has the most allowed moves
on the board.)

Second, she has all these wonderful ideas about how to invigorate
chess by making it more like a sport or like poker, ideas that I have
to say I find interesting (and play off my earlier column about making
science a spectator sport).

She even wrote a column for the New York Times a few years ago about
it (now that is great branding just right there).

Third, she understands that sex sells, and apart from being a very
attractive woman, she does things like play chess while spinning a
hula hoop and against a naked (sadly) male opponent. These are two
separate activities, but all in the interest of getting more attention
to the game. She claims the naked chess is better for her to hone her
concentration, as well as to ensure the opponent isn’t hiding any
assistive electronic devices. Yeah, right. In any event, you can check
out her video on her Web site here:

Finally, she does a lot of different events, both demonstrating
unusual ways to play chess as well as getting inner-city girls excited
about the game. Thus, she combines her passion with some solid
volunteerism, which as you should know is a great way to spread the
word on your brand.

So those of you that are looking for some new ideas, check out some of
these links. The combination of video, catchy titles, and stimulating
ideas is enough to give you your own ideas on how to brand and market
yourself online. Even if you don’t play chess.

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