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 timed with a dance music beat. At the end of the monologue you can hear Giorgio 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 re-think the approach to my [marketing] work.

It got me thinking about how we [marketers] always follow best practices, heavily use templates and, oh dear Lord, how we love checklists.

There is nothing wrong with that. 

But sometimes I think the very things that help us get our jobs done block our potential to ship some majestic shit.

We’re too methodological

We always look for recipes that guarantee success. If they exist then why didn’t you become rich after reading that “Step-by-step guide to becoming a millionaire in 7 days”?

Everyone is different. Every situation is different. Times are different.

But we still like to pretend that we have certainty of 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 pick that low hanging fruit to get you started. But if you lock yourself up in that cage you will always be the follower, 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 nobody has ever done.

I like how Signal shattered the preconception of how we use ads by launching this provocative campaign on Instagram:

Source: Signal.org

Instead of bragging about their USPs they exposed Facebook’s creepiness. This was only possible by forgetting about all the checklists and ads best practices for Instagram.

And this is what happened after:

Source: Google Trends

Dream big

If you’re like me then you probably sometimes have one of those wet dreams where you see yourself on the cover of Adweek being praised for that genius campaign you have executed. 

You’re not going to get there if you’re just doing what everybody 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 everybody 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 pains of your industry. For example, we all know that developers and clients don’t get along very well.

Here’s a Quora question:

And this is the first answer:

Also, let’s see what people think about webinars. Here’s another Quora answer on the question “What do you think about webinars?”:

Ok, so you know 2 things:

  • Developers and clients don’t get along

  • Your target audience hates webinars. They want infotainment.

What can you do?

How about organising an online event called “Developers vs Clients”? 

You can bring these two groups together, let them speak openly about their challenges and turn this into learnings. 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

Recently I came across this post by Steven Bartlett (who became the youngest Dragon in Dragons’ Den and refuses to wear a suit

Source: Steven Bartlett’s LinkedIn profile

Don’t be the prisoner of your past learnings and preconceptions. Open your mind to any experience and let it teach you something new every day.

In my early marketing career at a (ulgh) corporation, I learnt that marketing means posting on socials, 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 organisation. That was me. 

I had to unlearn this 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 they had so much useful information about our clients that I could use. This information made me question everything I’ve been doing previously. So I had to forget my old habits and adjust my strategies to the new reality I had 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. Truth is 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. 

Final thoughts

Being a marketer nowadays means being a fast un-learner and a risk-taker. In this digital world where consumers are drowning in the sea of choice, they’re looking for real value. You need to open your mind and cut through this noise by carefully listening to the world and adjusting your strategy to new realities. 

So don’t be this marketer that’s stuck in the past and wishing that what brought you here will bring you there. Free your mind from preconceptions and enjoy the creative juices flowing.