Passion vs pop: when the middle way doesn’t work

God knows Seth Godin doesn’t need any more press. however, i would like to highlight the double bell curve he threw as a crumb to his adoring masses recently (OK, I know I’m one of them):

Seth's Passion vs Pop

The thrust of the post? When you’re creating an advert or a marketing campaign, don’t go for the double-whammy of pop and passion… stick to one or the other for the overall theme. What happens if you don’t? See that trough in the graph? That’s where you will end up. There are precious few consumers in that space (and, although he doesn’t go into it, I’m thinking a fair few producers). Realise your precious polarity and stick with that.

As the advertising/marketing/PR triumvirate moves in the direction of online media (think of the proliferation of podcasts, video ads, multimedia press releases) an implication is this graph is only going to become more important. As we move away from brochureware to real content we must ensure we get the tone right. Look at the big ad agencies – they have been playing with this formula since the birth of broadcast media. One type of campaign for a bank, yet a completely different one for a music label. Well, talking of music labels, Seth ties this theory to the music world, and I have to say it does strike a chord with my attempts to win two dancefloor crowds as a DJ. In this context I need to figure whether I’m after the hard core bass heads or your casual listener. You can’t serve two masters.

So, although I’m broadly in agreement, there are a couple of things that aren’t clear to me.

First up is whether it could ever be worth attacking that trough between pop and passion? As with any theory, buck the trend and you might find something there. As noted above, there’s probably a tonne of other folk in that space too, but if you can stand out from the crowd, welcome to the big-time.

The second point is whether this graph remains static when you hit your ‘passion’ sweet spot. Take cartoons. I’d say both The Simpsons and South Park began life way on the left. The feature-lengths from both of them are ample proof that somehow they’ve definitely drifted into the ‘Pop’ bell curve, but where exactly has that left them? Somehow they seem to have brought their passion into the pop curve. As an alien in New York (well, almost), I’d say that’s something Americans tend to do with aplomb. Don’t believe me? Travel to the depths of Africa and watch kids get down to NWA or Biggie. There are definitely the shared experiences that only pop can bring, but they are mixed with dollops of passion. Or am I missing the point?

Clarifications, anybody?

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