Marketing lessons from the “Father of Disco”
An essay on how to open your mind and cut through the noise.
I recently listened to the track Giorgio by Moroder by the legendary Daft Punk and Giorgio Moroder, the “Father of Disco”. It’s a monologue set to a dance music beat. At the end of the monologue, you can hear Moroder say this:
“Once you free your mind about a concept of harmony and of music being correct, you can do whatever you want. So nobody told me what to do, and there was no preconception of what to do.”
This last line gave me incredible inspiration. It stuck with me for a couple of days, and it made me rethink the approach to my marketing work.
It got me thinking about how we marketers always follow best practices, heavily using templates, and oh dear Lord, how we love checklists.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but sometimes I think the very things that help us get our jobs done can block our potential to ship some majestic shit.
We’re too methodological
We always look for recipes that guarantee success, but the problem is that they don’t exist. If they did, then why didn’t you become rich after reading that step-by-step guide to becoming a millionaire in seven days?
Everyone is different. Every situation is different. Times are different.
But we still like to pretend that we’re guaranteed success through the methods that worked for someone else on the other side of the globe who happened to be at the right place and at the right time.
It’s perfectly fine to experiment with best practices and to pick that low-hanging fruit to get you started. But if you lock yourself up in that cage, you’ll always be the follower and never the leader.
So let yourself go crazy sometimes. Drop preconceptions and allow that quirky side of you to take over and do the unorthodox thing that no one has ever done.
I like how Signal shattered the preconception of how we use ads by launching this provocative campaign on Instagram:
Instead of bragging about their USPs, they exposed Facebook’s creepiness. This was only possible by forgetting about all the checklists and best practices for Instagram.
And this is what happened after:
If you’re like me, then you probably sometimes have those crazy dreams where you see yourself on the cover of Adweek being praised for the genius campaign that you’ve created.
You’re not going to get there by just doing what everyone else is doing. You need to snap out of the loop from time to time. You need to reinvent things, re-think processes or create unconventional combinations. This is only possible if you let yourself forget about all the instructions for a moment.
Let’s look at this hypothetical example:
If you’re a web development agency, the preconception is that the best way to attract new business is to win awards and do webinars to get your name out there. But that’s what everyone else is already doing. Let’s forget about that for a moment.
Let’s start with a blank page and think about one of the biggest pain points for your industry. For example, we all know that developers and clients don’t get along very well.
Here’s a Quora question that highlights that:
And this is the first answer:
Also, let’s see what people think about webinars. Here’s another Quora answer to the question, “Do people really like webinars?”:
Ok, so now you know two things:
- Developers and clients don’t get along
- Your target audience hates webinars. They want infotainment.
So what can you do about it? Well, how about organizing an online event called “Developers vs. Clients”?
You can bring these two groups together, let them speak openly about their challenges, and turn that into learning. At the same time, you’re providing entertainment because so many clients and developers can relate to these typical situations, and it will make them giggle.
Learn to unlearn
I recently came across this post by Steven Bartlett (who became the youngest Dragon in Dragons’ Den and who refuses to wear a suit):
Don’t be a prisoner of your past learnings and preconceptions. Open your mind to any experience and let them teach you something new every day.
In my early marketing career at a corporation (ugh), I learned that marketing means posting on social media, battling with PPC agencies, and annoying the sales guys. Back then, everyone considered marketers the “floaty kind”, detached from reality and the rest of the organization. That was me.
I had to unlearn all that when I joined a small company. I realized that to do my job properly, I couldn’t be locked up in my little marketing island. I finally made friends with the sales guys and found out that they had loads of useful information about our clients that I could use.
This information made me question everything I’d been doing, so I had to forget my old habits and adjust my strategies to the new reality I’d discovered.
It’s tempting to cling to your old learnings. This is what makes you feel experienced and proud. But you have to make room for new rules. The truth is that the most valuable experience you can gain is feeling comfortable with not knowing. Things change faster every day. If you don’t let change into your comfort zone, you’re going to have a hard time.
Being a marketer nowadays means being a fast un-learner and a risk-taker. In this digital world, where consumers are drowning in a sea of choice, they’re looking for real value. You need to open your mind and cut through the noise by carefully listening to the world and adjusting your strategy to new realities.
So don’t be a marketer that’s stuck in the past and wishing that what brought you here will take you there. Free your mind from preconceptions and enjoy the creative juices.