Top 3 Marketing Lessons from Jeopardy Champion Alex Jacob

Kimberly Burghart April 21, 2015

Professional poker player Alex Jacob is known in the poker world for his strong play (as well as his large afro), but he has recently garnered mainstream attention thanks to his strong performance in the popular game show Jeopardy. Jacob just ended a six-day run as Jeopardy champion, emerging victorious in six straight games and garnering a total of $149,802 in the victories.

What has Jeopardy fans and others on social media buzzing is the unorthodox style with which Jacob plays the game. Using his experiences as a poker professional, Jacob employs an aggressive betting strategy combined with principles of game theory to agitate and confuse his opponents. For example, rather than continuing in one category in which he is performing well, he will abruptly jump from category to category trying to throw off his opponents while also hunting for “Daily Doubles.” This method has been utilized successfully in the past by previous Jeopardy Champions like Chuck Forrest and Arthur Chu.

When Jacob finds the Daily Double, he will almost always bet big even if the category is not a specialty of his. He has a good sense for when and how much to bet based on the dollar amounts his opponents have accumulated. In Jeopardy, only the champion gets to keep his or her total winnings, so it doesn’t make sense to be too risk averse.

Jacob’s approach has proven successful in his game show endeavor, but there are also some lessons we, as marketers, can learn from him and apply to our digital marketing efforts. Let’s take a look:

1. Developing a Strategy and Sticking To It

It was abundantly clear that Jacob didn’t walk onto the set of Jeopardy without a strategy in mind. Based on his research and experiences, he knew the best ways he could set himself up for success. This is the same approach you need to take with your marketing strategy. Developing a marketing strategy is not something that should be done overnight. It takes careful planning, research and preparation. Much like Jacob modeled his strategy after proven tactics that worked well for others, your strategy should be based on what has worked well for companies just like yours. Of course, you don’t want to completely just copy what the competition is doing, but take what successful companies have done and mold that to fit your business needs and available resources.

Another important part of a marketing strategy is a willingness to stick it out.  You don’t want to cut bait at the first sign of trouble. Jacob has had some close calls during his reign as champion, and you will similarly experience some bumps on the road to digital marketing success. The important part is to not make any rash decisions without giving your strategy the proper amount of time to take effect. Also, remember that these bumps on the road are all relative. Be sure to set realistic goals, so you aren’t setting yourself up for failure before you even get started. 

2. Understanding the Psychology and Behavior of Your Marketplace 

Much of Jacob’s approach is based on the psychology concepts and the behavior of his opponents. He will make moves based on the way he believes they will react in certain situations, and will try to gain an advantage based on their expected common behaviors. Psychology is an important concept in the world of marketing. The goal of any marketing strategy is to generate leads, and the marketing methods you utilize should all be aimed towards reaching your target audience and turning them into leads.

To reach and appeal to your target audience, you need to understand the ways in which they think and behave. Understand what mediums they respond to and how you can best grab their attention. Whether you are designing a social media campaign, drafting an email or creating a landing page, an understanding of common user behaviors will help guide you in making decisions about the best ways to attract and convert your audience.

3. Knowing When to Bet Big and When to Play It Safe

As Jacob’s strategy has shown, it is important to take risks in order to achieve success. But equally important is knowing the right time to take them. Jacob takes calculated risks, and only does so when the reward far outweighs the potential loss and there is little to gain from standing pat.  In order to create and execute a successful marketing strategy, you must not be afraid to take risks. While venturing into unknown territory can be intimidating, sometimes you need to jump in and take chances. But choose your spots wisely.

Let’s say, for example, that you are interested in experimenting with some pay-per-click (PPC) advertising in order to generate more leads. This risk could pay off, but you need to make sure you calculate and evaluate it properly first. Consider the available resources in your marketing budget as well as the time and effort it will take to coordinate a PPC campaign. If you are low on personnel and financial resources, this is probably not the best time to start a campaign.

As you can see, Jacob’s approach, while unorthodox, has paid off well during his stint on Jeopardy. As marketers, we can certainly learn a thing or two from his path to success.

All you Jeopardy fans out there, what did you think of Alex Jacob’s performance?  Were you happy to see him go or did you wish he would’ve stayed longer? What other marketing lessons can we draw from his success? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Have any questions about these marketing lessons or want to learn more about how to develop and execute a successful marketing strategy for your business? Contact us today to speak with a digital marketing expert. 


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