The Argument for Thought Leadership: Crude Oil and the Cult of T. Boone Pickens

Marketers ask me all the time the benefits of thought leadership, and I have only one thing to say: “Make it happen.”  When it doesn’t work, it’s often for a number of reasons:

1.    Poor execution.
2.    Not enough effort. In b2b, there really is no such thing as over-exposure.
3.    Poor choice of superstar – a.k.a., your thought leader. The one who is going to fill the house, put butts in the seats and pretty much make your brand the equivalent of a household name.

Masters of thought leadership include:

1.     Wall Street (the latest happenings not withstanding). Think Mary Meeker and the cult of Alan Greenspan.
2.    College Basketball and football coaches – remember, these dudes have even written books that smart people actually read! At least we are led to believe they actually wrote the books.
3.    Politicians – duh – for the most part.

And they can come and go. Witness Henry Blodgett.

But my favorite master of the thought leadership game is T. Boone Pickens.  In a nutshell, T. Boone is a wildcatter who made billions in the oil game.  Since 2001 until earlier this year, T. Boone could move the crude oil markets like no other.  He was always the thought leader du jour on CNBC, “The Wall Street Journal,” and you name it with his oil price predictions.  He always brought data to his commentary and was the first person to call  for the $100 barrel of oil.  What people were never told was that he was the single biggest holder in oil futures on the Nymerc (where oil is traded).  Pure brilliance: An oil speculator from Oklahoma, looked upon as the oil expert, who every time he got on tv made tens of millions for himself and his beloved Oklahoma State University (he donated $60 some-odd million to their athletic department).

Check out this Bloomberg article from ’07:

Boone Pickens, chairman of Dallas- based BP Capital LLC, told financial news network CNBC that crude-oil prices will rise to $100 a barrel, perhaps before the end of this year. “It could come this quarter,” Pickens said today on CNBC. “Within a year, you’re going to see $100 oil.”

Guess what this “genius” is doing now?  Selling alternative energy.  Guess what that means? He started selling his oil contracts at $150 a barrel and could be going short.


What’s the moral of the story?  I used to giggle at PR folks, but the reality is, companies need to create superstars in their industry.  I am not saying it’s easier in the b2b world, but there is a massive desire for content and b2b organizations need to take advantage.  Here are my tips:

1.    Think like a political strategist or Hollywood PR machine: Make sure the message, ideology, and goals are clear and well fleshed out.
2.    Pick the right superstar: its usually a CEO, but it can be a resident “smarty-pants.”
3.    Blog, panel and speak: Get in front of the masses.  Keep in mind, all three are realistic.  How many trade show companies send out requests for speakers?
4.    Pictures: Learn from the best, the face works.
5.    Leverage the other thought  leaders:  get yours in the loop with other bloggers, columnists, writers and talking heads.  These are the guys who will turn to your guru for quotes.

Take it from T. Boone, the thought leader can move the market in your direction.

Craig Rosenberg is the Funnelholic. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter

  • Lacshme Thumma

    Your posts have actually been really good. Great work man.

    ***You should note that the YouTube video on this post no longer works.