Only once has anyone convinced me – no! that should be “blackmailed me”, into attending a performance of the ballet. It was that evening I learned how much of a Philistine I can be, and on this occasion, I was Goliath. I also learned three very useful things about ballet that sad wintery evening.
The first was that people take this stuff seriously. I discovered this to my cost when in the first of three breaks, while sipping white wine with the chardonnay crowd, I stated in rather too loud a voice, that I couldn’t understand why “These people pounced around on their tippy toes when all they had to do was get taller people in the first place”. You could hear the suction pumps from three blokes away as ballet patrons choked on their ‘Brown Brothers’. I next learned that being alone for a full ballet performance can be something kin to solitary confinement. Which led to the third, more educational lesson.
As I sat, alone and in silence – at least it felt that way, it occurred to me how physically fit the participants were. Filled with a heightened awareness it then hit me again that these very talented people did not once collide or fall and they did it beautifully, with co-ordination and, dare I say it, grace.
At this point I became concerned that I might be under the spell of this age old choreography and my imminent conversion drove me to compare what I did, with what, they did. It was then the real insight dawned on me. I had looked at something I didn’t have any respect for and to me it looked easy. I had trivialised the performance because I didn’t realise what sacrifice, practise and passion it took to create it. They made it look easy but the effort it took to make it look easy was what I didn’t see.
Marketing is like that. It looks simple and uncomplicated because those of us who ply the trade, work bloody hard and with the same passion and sacrifice, to make it look easy. It’s easy to mock the performance but when you pull it all apart and blast it into little details, you soon discover how much more difficult it is to execute than you first imagined.
Business always thinks it can do without the people who produce real marketing expertise. Forty years of experience tells me differently. I mentor hundreds of young marketers at the end of their university days and what they don’t know amazes them. Why? Because when you dance, on stage every day of your life; when you practice your art; when you love what you do, you learn so much more and it’s then that the practice; the hard slog; the hours of reading and the pain of heavy late night discussions on marketing philosophy pays off.
Twenty years later, I still don’t much like ballet – but I sure as hell respect those who engage in an art form that thrills so many. Encore!