New York Knicks' Jeremy Lin drives to the basket during the NBA All Star BBVA Rising Stars Challenge basketball game in Orlando, Fla. on Feb. 24, 2012. (Gary Bogdon/AP)

The media frenzy surrounding the sudden rise of New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin may be cooling, but it offers important branding lessons on how small businesses can raise their profiles.

Lin’s surge to fame primarily reflected through social media and traditional media coverage alike has given marketers and advertisers an opportunity to leverage a trending phenomenon.  Furthermore, it provides an example of an age-old marketing tactic.

“Lin-Sanity” stands as an example of how a person, concept or product can catch-a-fire (in terms of popularity) and create an immense amount of buzz quickly.  In addition, marketers have capitalized on the awareness of trending sensations like Lin and attached their brand to his.

 As marketers and advertisers, we are witnessing a free lesson of a traditional marketing tactic — emotional attachments.   Communications experts would refer to this as an appeal based on “pathos” or emotion. Lin’s rapid rise to fame reintroduces this notion and reinforces the idea that consumers still crave a feel-good storyline. 

The most important lesson is that Lin-Sanity serves as a call to action for marketers and advertisers to evaluate their methods and understand that emotional attachment to brands still exists.  Properly leveraging this notion can add significant return on investment, especially to products that have existed for a long time.

One of the greatest strengths with social media (Twitter, in particular) is that trending topics bring with them a certain tone or mood as exemplified by certain expressions and punctuation used.  In this case, Lin is a social media phenom that has captured audiences across many verticals and the tone surrounding him is one of positivity and wonder coupled with notions of an underdog spirit and genuine excitement.  Small businesses can leverage this same strategy to make an emotional appeal that much stronger to reach audiences outside of their target market.

Due to the expansive nature of social media, the spectrum of users in terms of demographic diversity is immense.  Small businesses looking to both use social media and leverage trending phenomena can track the different people who are participating in the issue and learn the demographic groups involved.  This can be learned by analyzing who the biggest participators are and who makes up the mass of others involved in the trend.

 Relevant demographic information is the male-female distinction, geographic location and particular interest groups, among other elements.  Learning which demographic groups are participating and care about the phenomena can then inform the small business marketers who will receive their phenomena-related messages the best.  These groups may indeed be outside their target audience which will afford them the opportunity to grow their audience and customer base.  If those participating are within the company’s target audience or a portion of them are within their target audience, then there is potential to grow a stronger connection with them and affirm brand loyalty.

 Furthermore, Lin’s case is an example of building brand loyalty through unique storylines and leveraging it on social media.  Since small businesses typically have a unique story as to how they came to fruition, there is an opportunity to leverage pathos and create a similar emotional attachment to their brand.  Simply put, telling their story can be a strategic approach to appealing to customers and establishing their own sort of emotional excitement.  Brand loyalty is the result.

 The ability to reestablish this can help certain older products catch-a-fire and return to prominence.  Small businesses can leverage this by directly connecting with consumers.  As we have seen, sometimes stimulating consumer’s emotions and generating a traditional feel-good storyline can take an average (or even poorly known) brand and make it a phenomenon.

 Kenneth C. Wisnefski is founder and chief executive of WebiMax , an online marketing firm in Mount Laurel, N.J., specializing in search engine optimization, search engine marketing, pay per click management and social media marketing.