Marketing has turned into Jazz


So I've been neglecting the blog for a little while (which increased my subscriber numbers dramatically for some reason), but it's not my fault. Work has been crazy. Or at least it was until a couple of weeks ago. Which made me wonder what ever happened to the good old days of summer hours. I suppose the Internet is responsible for this. The old seasonal cycle of creation is over. Which made me think about this unnecessary music metaphor:

Old school marketing : Pop Music


New school marketing : Improvisational Jazz

Pop Songs:

  • Pop songs begin life being written by a team of professionals, who based on research and past experience know the details that go into making the perfect pop song that the maximum number of people will want to buy.
  • Each song is then recorded over a series of months, where every detail is agonized over, voices are optimized digitally, and extremely talented professional session musicians are brought in to make sure the track is perfect.
  • When those musicians show up to record, they already have every note that they will play planned out for them.
  • Once perfected, the track is then packaged and shipped off to the world, and it is performed live in concert, in exactly the same way as it was recorded.
  • Once it's created, it never, ever changes again.

Basically, the emphasis is on the ability to craft a perfect song in advance, then send it to musicians to record and then push it out into the world to make money. The skills needed for this are much more about careful planning and creation in advance. Sounds familiar to the ad making process, no?

The Jazz Music

  • Jazz tunes are written with a theme and it's resulting chord changes.
  • The real work happens when a group of musicians gets a hold of it and make it their own.
  • As the tune is played, musicians are constantly adjusting according to each other and to the reactions of their audience.
  • In this way, the music is a living organism, always evolving, always changing, always adapting … but always within the overall chord progression.
  • When jazz musicians record, it takes a weekend, they just nail their takes. There's no such thing as a jazz record that takes 6 months to make.

The emphasis here is less on planning things in advance, and more on relying on the skills of the musicians to bring the music to life as they play it. This is much more about intuition, knowing the instrument, reading an audience, and the ability to instantaneously translate all of this inspirational input into creative output without causing a musical train wreck.

It seems like marketing is moving rapidly away from the huge, blockbuster, preplanned campaign, and more towards an improvisation model. While there will still be up front work for strategic and creative considerations, I would expect to see more and more emphasis being placed on the ability to optimize as a campaign is running. Change what isn't working, build on what is working, all of which is going to require new  skills out of marketing agencies. Mostly, the ability to read in real time how the campaign is working out in culture, how people are reacting to it, using it, changing it, and then the ability to work with that information to help push things to be better.

We talk a lot about how advertising is no longer a one way street when it comes to communications, but I think it goes beyond actually having a dialog with customers.  I think the ability to improvise well is going to be the hallmark of great marketing agencies as we move into the future.