I have now watched this video a dozen or so times (thank you, Chuck Olsen - @chuckumentary on Twitter). I've Twittered about it. I went for a run on Easter morning and thought obsessively about it. And now I blog about it to you. I've been in this business of marketing and advertising for my entire career, and never have I found someone who encapsulates the current state of media and culture than Susan Boyle in her seven brief minutes on "Britain's Got Talent."
So. Go watch it. Then come on back. Grab yourself a tissue. You may need it. I did. And, please, do yourself a favor and watch the whole seven minutes.
OK. You back?
Look. I'll admit it. I can be a bit of a sap. As a good Lutheran, I rarely make it through a "Beautiful Savior" without a good ol' fashioned choke-up. But in this case of Susan Boyle I was immediately struck by the wholesomeness, the transparent beauty, and authentic delivery of -- what? -- her content. The juxtapositions between the sugar-buzz of Britney Spears -- who can't sing, can't deliver a true musical performance, hasn't written a song in her life, and is making parents of young girls worldwide cringe at her trashy enterprise -- and the shocking magnificence of Susan Boyle's performance can't be underscored enough.
My expertise is in marketing, and I hate to cheapen this story by bringing it back to that conversation. And yet, as someone who's profession is to help leaders and organizations understand where the world of marketing and advertising is moving, I cannot ignore this opportunity. Susan Boyle's story and performance embodies the entire concept around marketing and advertising's transformation to become entirely transparent and authentic. Often termed as "social media," the crazy-idea is to provide a platform -- a stage -- for organizations to simply tell their stories and give them the dream "to sing in front of a very large audience." The magic in this crazy-idea is that very good stories seldom need enhanced packaging. In fact, the more packaged the story becomes, the less believable it is. Susan Boyle, in all her awkward mannerisms, in all her pitiful set-up ("I've never been kissed" - HELLO???), shocks the judges and audience by the singular beauty of her voice. Her story immediately transcends packaging as we are all immediately consumed by the humanity -- and inhumanity -- in all of us.
Most products are not mass-market products. They fill niche needs. Especially in business-to-business environments. To "sing in front of a very large audience" for most organizations means to sing in front of a very small audience in the relative scheme of things. The beautiful transformation we're going through in marketing is one in which marketers and advertisers need to find ways to get out of the way and provide the means in which truthful, authentic stories can be told and move people. Let the story be the story.
I believe we're coming to the end of times when advertising and marketing professionals can be effective in dressing up clients and their products to make them something other than what they really are. Consumers are becoming less fooled by these outdated shenanigans. We now operate in a world where we in the field are matchmakers between truthful products and services and the audiences for whom they are intended.
I love Susan Boyle. I would love to see her win this competition and put out a great album because it would show us how much we allowed ourselves to overcome the inauthentic, overly packaged debris of consumerism to indulge and appreciate true beauty.
Authentic Shill Alert: On May 11th, I will be hosting and moderating a program entitled "Radical ROI: Seizing the Potential of the Digital Marketplace." The program is intended for senior executives who are eager to make the necessary changes within their organizations to fully become their own "Susan Boyles." Speakers include Paul Douglas (CEO, Weather Nation), Jan McDaniel (former CEO, American Red Cross/Twin Cities), Joel Kramer (Founder/CEO, MinnPost.com), Phil Hotchkiss (Founder, BigCharts.com), and Graeme Thickins (Founder, GT&A Marketing). Details here.