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What Entrepreneurs Can Learn from Borat (take 2).

I’ve been a fan of Sacha Baron Cohen for some time now. I enjoyed his HBO show. His primary character Ali G was well executed and I was excited for his recently released movie Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. I blogged about the movie a few weeks before its release.

Today, I came across a post entitled “What Entrepreneurs Can Learn from Borat.”

The post has three primary points:

Take risks, without fear.
Audacious, yet credible.
Never stop selling.

I agree with this analysis and wanted to expand on a few other points. What really makes this “sell”, is how well it is delivered. This only comes with practice. Many of these same jokes have been tweaked and practiced numerous times on a variety of subjects. Even in the movie, Sacha Baron Cohen includes small clips of his previous work. My primary point is that a good entrepreneur has done it before and learned from his/her mistakes. It is almost certain that Sacha’s jokes, and impeccable timing, came through numerous failed attempts at solid delivery. Practice, practice, practice… never give up.

There was a grassroots, viral, marketing campaign that leveraged technology. Beyond the classic myspace campaign, Sacha also stirred up lots of free press by irritating the Kazakhstani government. He registered, which, once they discovered it, created lots of press when the country revoked it. Following his appearance on MTV Europe’s Music Award show, the country of Kazakhstan spoke out publicly against Sacha Cohen.

“We view Mr. Cohen’s behavior at the MTV Europe Music Awards as utterly unacceptable, being a concoction of bad taste and ill manners which is completely incompatible with the ethics and civilized behavior of Kazakhstan’s people”, concluding “We reserve the right to any legal action to prevent new pranks of the kind.”[Source]

Staying in character, Borat responded in a video posted on the “Offical Borat Homesite.” From wikipedia:

“In response to Mr. Ashykbayev’s comments, I’d like to state I have no connection with Mr. Cohen and fully support my Government’s decision to sue this Jew. Since the 2003 Tuleyakiv reforms, Kazakhstan is as civilized as any other country in the world. Women can now travel on inside of bus, homosexuals no longer have to wear blue hats, and age of consent has been raised to eight years old. Please, captain of industry; I invite you to come to Kazakhstan where we have incredible natural resources, hardworking labour, and some of the cleanest prostitutes in whole of Central Asia. Goodbye! Dzienkuje!”

With these simple actions, and the ability to spin the press movment to Borat’s advantage, the government was stuck.

The next week, the government hired two Western public relations firms to counter Borat’s claims, and ran a four-page advertisement in The New York Times. The advert carried testimonials about the nation’s democracy, education systemCyrillic characters. He would make another response when promoting his movie in front of the Kazakhstani Embassy in Washington, roundly denouncing the advertisements as “Uzbek propaganda”. [11]

On December 13, 2005, the right to use the domain name was suspended, and the site attached to it was closed down.[12] The domain-issuing body said that they took this action since false names were given for the site’s administrators, and also because the site was hosted outside Kazakhstan. However, the stated underlying cause of the action was in order to censor the content of the site: “We’ve done this so he can’t badmouth Kazakhstan under the .kz domain name,” Nurlan Isin, President of the Association of Kazakhstani IT Companies, told Reuters. “He can go and do whatever he wants at other domains.”

Another key point is how all of the marketing was also done in character. Sacha stayed in character, as Borat, for any and all of his interactions with the media. (Never stop selling.) Again from wikipedia:

Borat has also appeared on BBC1’s Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, he appeared on Late Night with Conan O’Brien on July 14, 2004 and on November 2, 2006 in his own feature film, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Cohen (in character) promoted the film with appearances on Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Opie and Anthony, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Howard Stern Show, Live with Regis and Kelly, Late Show with David Letterman, on which he played the berimbau as a guest musician with Beck, The Today Show where host Matt Lauer interviewed him and CBS’s The Early Show where host Harry Smith interviewed then playfully wrestled with Borat.[2] Just minutes before the CBS appearance, Borat appeared on Fox News where both hosts laughed constantly throughout the interview. But Gretchen Carlson could not stop even when Borat expressed his astonishment when she stated that she would see the movie on Saturday: “You let women in cinemas here? In my country we have a pen outside for the animals and womens!”

I would be most curious to find out how much of this planned or more likely just clever response to the situation. Overall, you’ve got to admire the way the marketing of this movie has really succeeded. Regardless if you like this his humor or this movie, there are pretty serious lessons that can be taken away from this film.

Kendall Schoenrock’s business background includes experience in tech startups, real estate development, and angel investing. Currently he runs Schoenrock Investments, a family real estate investing office that is an umbrella to multiple other entities focused on residential, commercial, and entrepreneurial endeavors.

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