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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Marketing Lessons from Bob Dylan

I'm reading a fascinating new book by historian Sean Wilentz, Bob Dylan in America. 

With a nod to David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan, there's a lesson or two for marketers in it.

All artists are sponges; great artists are sponges with vision.  

Wilentz's book chronicles how Dylan devoured (and continues to devour) the sounds and words of forerunners and fellow travelers and sculpted from them his own view of contemporary America. 

"He belongs to an American entertainment tradition that runs back at least as far as Daniel Decuatur Emmet (the Ohio-born, anti-slavery minstrel who wrote 'Dixie') and that Dylan helped reinvent in the subterranean Gaslight Cafe in the 1960s," Wilentz writes.  "But he belongs to another tradition as well, that of Whitman, Melville, and Poe, which sees the everyday in American symbols and the symbolic in the everyday, and then tells stories about it."

The question for marketers: how does a solitary artist the likes of Dylan produce so many masterpieces?

The answer: he doesn't produce mashups.  He produces marriages.  He spots harmony and concordance where others compartmentalize.  Chuck Berry and Bertolt Brecht.  Jack Kerouac and Martin Luther King.  Authur Rimbaud and Jimmie Rodgers.    

Dylan divines counterparts and BobDylanizes them. 

Marketers who want to give birth to innovations can take a page (or a back page) from him.

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