Monday, June 8, 2009

Lessons from a crazy dancer

I love this video. It reflects a great lesson in marketing...

I'm sure that at some point, we've all looked like that guy dancing on his own. For whatever reason, we decided to take a step against the standard around us. When this happens it is hard to feel anything but foolish.

For example, let's say we had decided to implement a new media strategy. Something driven by what people enjoy, and something connected by what they like to share. Excited we take the leap and make our strategy a reality. We've flown out of the gate only to realize that we're completely exposed to everyone else. Now we're not quite as comfortable. The worst part about this is that for a while it feels like we'll always be it - that guy dancing alone at a concert. It is at this point that most brands give up. They've been dancing in a new strategy or social media space and the initial momentum has worn off - they're feeling insecure. They're starting to doubt if this whole strategy thing is going to work. Everyone's looking at them but no one is really joining in. For most brands (currently) that's enough. They've made their point. They've proven they weren't afraid to try. Another successful stunt that held the attention of a few thousand eyeballs and 'engaged the audience'.

Meanwhile, a smaller portion of brands (let's call them the Few Brands) will stick it out long enough to reach another level of 'engagement'. The Few Brands will have the reward of being noticed plus have the experience of being mocked. Much like the second guy who joined our wild man dancer in the video, another brand will try to pick-up on the attention the Few Brands are generating. For those copy-cats the visual impact will be less - their intention is misplace. It reflects a strategy based on brand insecurities or laziness.

Then there is the last segment of brands who will realize the most success for their patience and efforts. The Successful Brand sets out knowing it may look foolish, but is equipped with the strategic depth to ignore (or even encourage) those that mock/tag along to the idea. The Successful Brand will finally encourage that third person to join in. That third person represents the key audience the Successful Brand requires to break down the barrier between 'audience engagement' (those who watch) and 'audience participation' (those who join). Soon after that audience joins, the momentum carries itself. No longer needing the original brand presentation, these people define their interaction with each other and their own enjoyment as projections of the Successful Brand's original action. The people no longer notice the awkward foolish looking dancer. Instead they embrace the intention and experience the Successful Brand has initiated. In the end, it is the memory of that experience that will be tied to the brand: The experience being synonymous with what that Successful Brand means to the people it has connected to each other.
Hat Tip: Martin Delaney

UPDATE JUNE 10: Read Seth Godin's take on the video