Marketing is the process of isolating an idea, process, person or product–placing a halo around it–and directing attention away from everything else. What you are selling takes center stage, alone in a throne, aglow in its magnificence.
This week I watched an excellent documentary, “Living In A Material World,” directed by Martin Scorsese. On the surface it is a tribute to the life of Beatle George Harrison. Dig deeper though and you come to see that it is actually a commercial for a man whose greatest achievement was the lucky coincidence of falling in with the greatest song writing team of all time, Lennon & McCartney.
The film (given the director’s need for drama, for a protagonist, for pathos) glorifies Harrison to the point that a young person first being introduced to the Beatles through the documentary, would think George was the sun around which the band evolved. Through the use of selected film clips, reminiscences and music cuts, Harrison is glorified far beyond his true role in, or contribution to, the Beatles.
“Living In The Material World,” is slight of hand: it is the marketing of George Harrison camouflaged as the truth.
Before you get the wrong idea, let me explain:
* I believe Harrison was a good musician.
* I am a fan of his limited body of work.
* I am always deeply affected by his masterpiece, creating the metaphor of a sobbing guitar.
But Harrison alone, Harrison if he had not been a Beatle, Harrison without the launch pad of John and Paul, would today be George who?
Scorsese used his prodigious cinematic skills to remove Lennon & McCartney from their rightful place at the epicenter of the phenomenon and replace them with the now canonized George Harrison–all a brilliant piece of marketing and a lesson for marketers from a filmmaker who hardly views himself as anything so crass as a marketer at all.
This makes me think of an inverse analogy to the way the baseball Hall Of Fame functions. Given that star players are highly hyped and marketed throughout the heights of their careers, the Hall limits candidates for induction until five years after they have hung up their spikes. This way the voting is conducted after the applause has faded and the judges can make their assessments once the player’s achievements can be viewed with the proper perspective.
In a sense, there is a belief that the further we move beyond an event, the better equipped we are to judge it fairly. But the opposite can occur as well. Removal from the heat, the truth, the reality of the moment, gives us the liberty to reinvent what truly was and view it through an entirely different prism. To market fiction as fact, all in the name of creative license.
I have no axe to grind with George or Martin.
Just a statement of fact that he was a more or less ordinary man who happened to be “extraordinarily” lucky.