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Remaining authentic amid a sea of hype

Mark Beard - Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Remaining authentic amid a sea of hype

Recently USA Today journalist Edna Gundersen characterized the career of singer/songwriter Jack Johnson thus: “unbending path of honest self-expressionin today's spectacle-driven pop world, where artifice trumps art, that's a non-conformist stance and one that has impressed legions of admirers”.

So how, in our marketing-driven culture do artists like Jack Johnson remain true to their craft, generate critical acclaim and a sustainable income?

“Consider such as the late jazz pianist Bill Evans, generally aspire to be artistic innovators, attempting to create music that meets their own artistic values of quality while appealing to a genre or sub-culture of fans. Early in his career Evans was troubled by the mysteries of career promotion. Not a natural self-promoter, he resolved to be the best musician he could be, trusting that audiences would find him. Evans never compromised his musical and artistic vision, and although open to new musical ideas, he always maintained the traditional jazz song structure. With this artistic approach he became one of the most successful jazz musicians of all time” (Source: Music Marketing PR and Image Making)

As for Jack Johnson, Billboard chart analyst Keith Caulfield puts it this way:

"There's a certain mystique about him that people find fascinating: how he exists as a musician in a hyper-public world, his conscious decision to lay low as that surfer dude chilling out in Hawaii."

The irony is, that sometimes, artistic serendipity comes first, then the “branding” follows.

We marketers are tempted to assume that the process goes something like this:

  • Through research, identify the unmet needs of market segment.

  • Develop a product and brand story that meets the needs and expectations of that segment.

  • Pull out the “4-Ps” from the marketing toolbox and “pee” all over that market.

  • Wait for the cash to roll in.

But… marketing is non-linear. Don’t assume that just because a pro-forma marketing plan document sets out “marketing” in a rigid order, that marketing in practice follows those rigid steps.

Often product development, (or in Jack Johnson’s case artistic expression) comes first and the “marketing” follows. True it could be argued that product/artistic development is a constituent element of the product “P” in the ubiquitous marketing mix. If this is true, then marketing must be non-linear. It simply defies logic that an artist, like a market researcher would first consult the market prior to creating.

I think Jack Johnson, Bill Evans and even the Ray Kinsella character in Kevin Kosner’s Field of Dreams had it right…” if you build it, he (the fan) will come”.

Read the full Edna Gundersen USA Today article here
http://www.usatoday.com/life/music/news/2010-06-01-jackjohnson01_CV_N.htm


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