What does a Madonna concert and lunch with a Danish Prince have in common? I had the chance to experience both in recent days, and I’m afraid I was underwhelmed. What struck me was that both had the opportunity to greatly entertain and inspire their audience, but both fell short — opportunities lost. What can we learn here?
I admit this post doesn’t directly relate to Internet advertising or security. And yet it might, because it struck me that even famous people at the top of their game sometimes settle for mediocrity when they should be great. When we expect them to be great. Ultimately, this is a lesson we need to learn in marketing and advertising.
First Madonna, who had an extraordinarily choreographed show at Staples Center on June 3rd; the most elaborate staging I have ever witnessed, with dancers who did things I did not imagine were physically possible (check out parkour) Yet the audience never really got into the concert itself. Was it because the only spontaneous words spoken by Madonna were to curse at people for not standing up and dancing? Or was it because the set list lacked many of the big hits most of us 40-somethings came to hear? Or that her band had no personality and was not even introduced? Or that the dancers appeared quite sour in their grungy street-fashion?
I love Madonna, having played her music on the radio since I was a DJ for KSPC back in college, and I have huge respect for any person who can build a multi-hundred-million-dollar fortune from scratch. But I was disappointed. Especially since I paid $380 per seat – just face value!
Enter a Danish royal, Prince Joachim, who had absolutely nothing to do with Madonna, except that I happened to attend a lunch with him about the same time. He’s on a trip through the U.S. and was the honored guest for the Danish-American Chamber of Commerce, which promotes business ties between America and Denmark and Scandinavia at large. Most of us in attendance own businesses and consider ourselves quite positive about Denmark and the ability for Danes to compete internationally (ok, I’m 100% American, but 13 years in Europe showed me we can learn a lot).
The 100 or so guests were expecting some words of inspiration or encouragement. Something like, “thanks for working hard to promote Danish business in this part of the world”, or “how could we back in Denmark do better to support you in America?”, or even, “thank you for the free lunch”. Nothing. No comments. He accepted the obligatory gifts with a smile and headed outside for pictures.
I’ve heard he may be shy, but he’s also a representative of the top of Danish society, even if he was born into the position. He’s had nearly 40 years to learn to speak publicly, and shmooze and realize that people want to hear him. Why didn’t he grab that chance? Why didn’t he engage his audience and provide some added value for us (and maybe himself)? How much effort could it take to increase goodwill and enthusiasm and motivation on both sides? And he even had a PR person traveling with him. What a lost opportunity. And I paid for that lunch, too.
Which gets me back to my point: that when we have opportunities to be great and to exceed expectations, we must go full-bore towards them. It’s okay to be mediocre if you sit home alone. But when others, perhaps thousands of people, pay lots of money for our products, we are obliged to give them what they expect – at a minimum. And to truly exceed expectations will make us memorable, and, ultimately more successful and satisfied.
(And on that note, I send huge kudos to Dave Wakeling and his English Beat band, who performed at the Key Club a few weeks ago – one of the best, most sincere performers I’ve seen – who connects with his audience, knows who butters his bread but follows his principles, doesn’t stand behind showy props, and only charged $35 for a great concert. I haven’t stopped talking about it since…)