Tales of Adventure… River of Doubt


How Teddy Roosevelt nearly lost his life and what it means for your business.

“Leave me and save yourselves!” The great ex-president, a self-made bull moose of a man lay against a fallen log, his face gaunt and pale.

The year was 1914 and Teddy Roosevelt and his son Kermit were nearing the end of an epic trip to explore the most unexplored and intimidating tributary of the mighty Amazon River. Aptly named the Rio da Dúvida (River of Doubt) before being re-named the Rio Roosevelt, the serpentine waters wound through nearly impenetrable jungle, with impassable rapids and waterfalls.

Lost and running out of supplies, the expedition was in jeopardy, not to mention the lives of the entire party. Just days before, Teddy had slipped and sustained a gash on his leg, which had become infected. He did not have the energy to go on. But Kermit was forged of similar steel as his father and refused to let his father die in the wilderness. With Kermit half carrying his father, the intrepid pair limped their way back to civilization.

There’s a good lesson in this remarkable story for all of us in business: When you’re ready to give up, don’t. There is always a way, even if it means getting help. For example, you may have a big goal but a small advertising budget. Getting there may seem out of reach, but what if you can find another business to co-market with you? You may not be able to afford a print ad, for example, but maybe you could afford to split the cost on a co-branded ad campaign.

One of our clients, for instance, Peak Transport in Bend, is an Audi and VW service provider that happens to have a friendly relationship with Hub Cyclery. Of course, many Audi and VW owners are also avid bikers. So, we’re working on a combined ad campaign that incorporates both brands in some very entertaining ads, and the two will be discussing cross promotion and incentives—for example, perhaps anyone getting a tune-up on their vehicle gets a coupon for a discounted bike tune-up and vice versa. Working together, companies can achieve more than they can alone!

After Teddy and Kermit returned to the U.S., skeptics raised doubts about the River of Doubt story. Teddy rebutted his critics in a public forum sponsored by the National Geographic Society. In 1927 American explorer George Miller Dyott led a second trip down the river, independently confirming Roosevelt’s discoveries.

Make your marketing an adventure and don’t be afraid to explore options that can take you further than you could imagine!

To read the compelling full story, you can read T.R.’s account of the expedition, Through the Brazilian Wilderness or the excellent River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Candice Miller.

Kelly Walker is creative director for Intrepid Marketing, a leading Bend, Oregon marketing agency. For more information, contact Kelly at 541-419-9976 or Kelly@intrepidforward.com


About Author

Kelly Walker, MS for SWIVEL

Kelly Walker is the host of A Swig of Branding, creative director for Intrepid Marketing and a senior copywriter with over 20 years experience. He has masterminded scores of high-profile brand identity projects, written hundreds of ads and taught college-level marketing and copywriting courses. He resides in Bend with his wife Andrea, four boys and (finally) a little girl due September, 2015.

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