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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Taking Poetry Past the Parlor

Many thanks to Maria Benet for her comment to my post on marketing and authenticity. She writes, in reference to dealing with the publishers that are putting out her forthcoming book of poetry:

"I have often tried to brainstorm a few fun ideas to promote books and the press, but at the core, most members are too serious still to recognize the creativity involved in taking poetry past the parlor...."

"Taking poetry past the parlor." I love that! That Maria sure knows how to turn a phrase. It could be the title of a marketing seminar for artists and intellectuals. If I ever put something like that together I would gladly pay her a royalty for the title.

It's so gratifying to hear some recognition of the more "poetic" aspects of the marketing process from someone in the arts.

The most difficult and exasperating consulting assignment I ever had was doing some work for an art museum. The poor chap who hired me, the assistant director, shared the kind of understanding that Maria expresses, and tried to use me as an ally in changing the culture of the curatorial staff with respect to marketing.

Fat chance. Besides, I don’t do culture changing—especially with a bunch of intellectuals. Their position was very simple: put together the right exhibition. That IS the marketing, period—i.e.,”build it and they will come.” If there’s a more positional group than art museum curators, I’ve yet to meet them. I was very relieved when the board told the assistant director to can the project.

In a way, it reminds me of the time when I was soliciting some business from a young chiropractor. “Marketing?” she asked, somewhat incredulously. “I’m a professional who does excellent work. My patients say good things about me. Why would I need any marketing? I don’t even believe in it, unless you’re selling soap or something.”

I thanked her for her time and complimented her on the suit she was wearing, observing that it projected a very crisp, professional look.

"Well, I hope so,” she replied.

“But I thought you didn’t believe in marketing?” I shot back over my shoulder as I walked out the door.

I don’t usually do smart-ass stuff like that, but I simply couldn’t resist that one.

Actually, it isn’t just artists, intellectuals, and professionals. It’s often the same story with engineering or manufacturing people versus the marketers—the “build it and they will come” mentality.

Anyway, good luck to Maria in dealing with her serious-minded publishers.

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