When reading Christopher Knight’s Culture Monster piece in this past Sunday’s LA Times, I was struck by more than just the points he made about a “levitating” rock and the responses it is invoking. The main components are permanent installation Levitated Mass by artist Michael Heizer (a 340-ton granite boulder perched above a 15-foot deep slot), the concerns of money spent ($10 Million) and the question of what constitutes art. I feel that the whole conversation pointed to a larger concern relating to people’s general inclinations when internalizing anything. Well, really, it might be more about how so little is internalized. While not getting all touchy-feely about how amazing a sunset is, or how much wonder can be found in a flower or the bee fluttering about it, there is a sense of our rushed lives leaving us unable (or unwilling) to appreciate the nuances of anything. In fact, much of marketing is the art of making products/experiences/ideas seem so obviously perfect that consumers have no idea why they would choose anything else. As we toe the line between being disruptive to the point of jarring and normal to infer that our product is the normal, natural and the perfect solution for what ails us, we are forever conflicted about whether we should be the rock or the magical levitation.
How often do we launch a marketing program that is grueling in its planning, exquisite in its execution and terrific in its ROI and KPIs – yet the response from the c-level or publications is ho-hum? Or, conversely, how many times has something been slapped together at the last-minute with wonky execution and ho-hum measurables – yet the experience was so disruptive that it was lauded by senior executives and publishing pundits? Though it’s never so cut and dry as the examples above, we’ve all been a part of examples that take bits from each side.
In the case of Levitated Mass, who knows how many people will just look at it and not even thing of it as anything more than a garden rock? Will people consider the whole story about Heizer’s conception of the installation some three decades ago and only recently finding the perfect “rock” in Southern California – or the crazy “parade” as the boulder made its way through the streets of a major metropolis? Ultimately, none of that really matters as the true test would be if people are actually moved when the come in contact with the installation.
That same test holds true for marketing – it can’t be about the big disruptive execution or the subtle representation of what a product does or can do for a consumer – it has to be about moving people and making a connection.
We’ve certainly seen some fantastic marketing product executions over the years – some have driven sales and some might have just garnered buzz and awards. Unfortunately, we’ve also come across some executions that are barely noticeable and, at most, only generate a shaking of the head with the questioning of, “So what?”
As opposed to marketing, art has time to build appreciation or importance. With some campaigns, there’s just a matter of days or weeks of life. In this case, there may need to be some consideration of the beautiful sunset or flower as the right mix of disruption and connection is required. Disruption without connection doesn’t do much good in the long run. We know that people will probably never care about what went into marketing programs – nor should they. They should only be concerned with how much they were connected with it.
Knowing that we would be naive to think that the marketing or business world is as ideal as this, we’ve got to sometimes take a step back, open our eyes and smell the flowers. In the end, it is about more than a rock. It doesn’t need to matter about cost (with fiscal prudence assumed, of course), the way it was conceived or the route it took to get to its end state – all that matters is whether the “magical” connection was made with the intended audience. Everything else works itself out – at some point…