Marketing is similar to conducting an orchestra: our role is to bring all the different pieces of a story together into one, harmonious experience.
I’ve been thinking about this for a while, but this superb TED talk from Itay Talgam helped to bring those thoughts together:
Itay’s points have relevance to many areas of business, but they seem particularly pertinent to today’s world of participative brand relationships.
Let’s explore his points in a bit more depth.
Be as one
Itay begins his talk by observing that, until the conductor arrives, the orchestra is just making noise.
Some of that noise may stand out above the rest, but ultimately, the noise lacks a coherent structure.
A conductor’s role is to establish that structure:
“The conductor enables eveyone’s story to be heard at the same time.”
It’s important to remember that brands only exist in people’s minds, and their perceptions differ depending on individual experiences and context.
Some people hear different parts of our brand’s music in different ways, and those differences lead to differing perceptions and preferences.
As marketers, we need to ensure that the important instruments stand out, but also that they all come together in one, harmonious melody.
Communications should work as an ensemble
When combined effectively, a full orchestra delivers a far richer experience than any one instrument can on its own.
The same principle applies to communications channels (i.e. media): we can use the power of a ‘solo’ where appropriate, but relying too heavily on just one instrument can limit your potential.
Our task is to take the beauty and power inherent in each instrument, and weave each of them together into a rich symphony.
Audience participation is a double-edged sword
The clip Itay shows of the Viennese audience clapping along to the music is a great example of audience participation.
Rather than ‘interfering’ with the performance, their contribution adds to the ‘story’ and elevates the experience.
However, such participation would have ruined a rendition of Mozart’s Moonlight Sonata:
Where it’s relevant, audience participation can play a valuable part in the experience, but it’s critical to remember that it’s not always relevant.
Our task is to identify when it makes sense to harness participation, and then influence and guide it to ensure that it doesn’t become an unwelcome distraction.
Inspiration vs. control
Itay tells the story of the conductor at La Scala, who was forced to resign because he was overly commanding.
As Itay notes, trying to control with an iron fist removes the possibility of partnership – a loss that would have serious consequences in a world where participation is becoming increasingly important.
If we try too hard to command the conversations surrounding our brands, we risk suffocating them.
Instead, we need to shift our focus from control to guidance – as Itay suggests,
“Open a space for players to add in another layer of interpretation — their own.”
We can guide the conversation along a particular path, but we need to allow that conversation the freedom to evolve of its own accord as well.
Quite early on in his talk, Itay notes that:
“success comes from happiness”
Most importantly, you’ve got to get involved.
A means vs. the end
For me, the most salient point in Itay’s talk is when he contrasts interpretation with execution.
As marketers in a social world, our role is to inspire; not to control.
That will inevitably lead to some unexpected results; sometimes, people will interpret our efforts in a way that is markedly different to what we’d intended.
However, as long as the the results are still favourable, there’s little reason to worry: there are many different routes to success, and it’s arriving at the destination that counts.
All the right notes…
I’ll conclude with a point I’ve made a few times before: success in marketing depends on them, not you.
Sometimes, even if you play all the right notes, you can’t guarantee you’ll achieve success.
Take it away Eric, Ernie, and André…