Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Are You a Money Maker?

Are you interesting?

What is your brand? Is it marketable? Would consumers rush to Wal-Mart to buy your latest creation en masse? Does it have the Simon Cowell “WOW Factor”? Even we writers face a dilemma when we [finally] write: do we keep faithful to the art or do we write for our audience?

If you’re in the habit of turning a profit – and we all are; it’s why we work - you know it’s necessary to be aware of the pulse of your customer (or audience). Anything we create for public consumption must be able to provide what the public needs. Your product must provide a service - a reward for money well spent.

Juvenal, Roman philosopher, poet and author of “The Satires” wrote, “… for the People… anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses.” While Juvenal meant this as a cynical outlook of humanity, modern businessmen and women took this ancient philosophy to heart. Translated into today's language, entrepreneurs understood that consumers will spend their hard earned money readily on two things: being fed [physically and emotionally] and being entertained.

Most sports fanatics venerate athletes to the point of worship. They will spend gobs of money supporting their favorite teams via tickets, sports memorabilia and buying other products. They will also know useless stats of their favorite players. Why? Sports feeds a need and it entertains. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

Naturally, we will have many detractors that will accuse us of selling out. I don’t subscribe to that notion. There are bills to pay and mouths to feed. Our detractors will not support us while we play the role of starving artist. Second lesson: ignore anyone who criticizes your work. Let them pay first. Then they’ve earned your attention. Otherwise, “dogs bark but the caravan moves on.” On that note, let us move on.

People are not interested in how cool you are. They want to know what you can do for them. And they are correct to feel this way. Is your brand fulfilling a physical or emotional need? For example, if you’re a comedian, most don’t care if you have won awards. As a consumer, I want to know if you can make me laugh hard. I’ll remember how you made me feel rather than your accomplishments. If you make me feel good, I’ll buy a ticket to your show. Do not create something that merely satisfies you and expect your audience to support it. Create something that plucks the heartstrings of your audience.

Consumer needs change daily. What was a hot ticket item yesterday is today’s cliché. In order to take advantage of this, you must be observant and fluid. In the streets, it’s known as “hustle and flow”. Captains of industry practice this axiom on a constant basis. For example, auto companies are retooling their factories to meet the demands of their customer base. Monolithic SUVs are not in style. Lean, green and economical is the flavor of the day. Hummers were the rage of the last decade. Now they are the scourge of America.

One of the first users of social media, surprisingly, was 50 Cent. While he was the top money making rap artist in 2003, he sensed the rules of the game were about to change. He embarked on finding new ways to connect to his audience. He went to the Internet while most artists in the industry were hanging on the old and dying business model. Through his website, he posted raw uncensored videos and the latest happenings in his world. His fans found a new social portal and felt closer to him. While other rappers were fast becoming yesterday’s news, 50 Cent’s fan base grew. Today, 50 Cent is not only a globally known rapper but also a multi-media mogul, and an author. He has the full support of his fans. Why? He fulfilled their needs. He hustled and flowed.

The same can be said of Ringling Brothers, Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie, KISS, Rammstein and Metallica. When you go to one of their shows, you’re in for an epic event. Over the top, done well, is more memorable and profitable than safe and pacified [read: boring].

So the question remains: are you interesting? How can you tell? How is your audience responding? Are you making money? If not, it's time retool your creative factory.
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