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A Marketing Lesson From Michael Jackson's This Is It Film

Deconstruction is a powerful idea. All it means is taking an experience or something real and breaking it down into its individual components. Deconstructing helps you to understand something. Deconstructing tells a story. I remember the first time I saw the movie Amadeus, the Oscar winning dramatization of the life of Mozart, there was one scene that stayed with me. It was the composer Salieri describing (and deconstructing) the music of Mozart:

It helped me to understand classical music in a way I had never thought about. This weekend, as I watched the memorial documentary of Michael Jackson's planned concert tour, This Is It, I thought about that same feeling. The moment of watching something that was deconstructing a vision and a story that I hadn't quite realized the significance of until that moment. This Is It has been getting rave reviews since coming out last week and has already crossed the $100 million mark. Some are already anticipating that it is Oscar-worthy. Here's the preview, in case you haven't seen or heard about it:

What made the film most powerful for me was one moment when Michael was working with his band and rehearsing the length of a pause in a song – encouraging them to "let it simmer." Then the music was brought together with the filmed visuals that were done on a green screen and you saw how the pieces interacted. The film deconstructed the concert that never was, and gave you a vision of what it would have been.

It would be easy to write a marketing post about how this movie has been promoted and perhaps even criticize how it is turning Michael Jackson's death into a venue for moneymaking. The most powerful marketing idea I will take away from the film and experience, however, is the real power of deconstructing an experience to give people an inside look and emotional attachment to it. Deconstruction helped me understand the power of classical music, and the genius of Michael Jackson. The same concept could work equally well for deconstructing a cause such as the fight against Pneumonia and World Pneumonia Day, or sharing the vision behind an inspired marketing campaign. How could deconstruction help your marketing?

  • Morgan

    Great point Rohit.

    I think it has a lot to do with two key points that go into building a successful community: 1) feeling like an insider and 2) shared experiences.

    1) What “This Is It” did is make you feel like an insider. When you watch a concert, you’re an outsider, you only see the finished piece. You don’t get to see the genius that goes into the production to bring it all together. It’s by definition. You are, after all, the audience.

    But by inviting you in, Michael (and the producers) made you an insider. He made you part of the crew. He gave you the voyeuristic opportunity to be a part of the inner circle. It’s a thrill and a very powerful tool. Now you feel like you know more than anyone that hasn’t seen the movie. You’re on the inside. You’re special and part of a group that is different from the rest of us who are just watching the concert, uninformed.

    Which leads to point #2 which is a shared experience. Now everyone (at least the majority) that sees This Is It has that same shared experience. They’ll talk about it. They’ll spread it. They’ll relish in the fact that they are part of a smaller subsect of MJ fans who are bonded by this movie (vis-a-vis all of us other MJ fans who didn’t have the experience).

    In fact, the big reason for this comment is that my mom saw This Is It the other day and said much of what you said. She can’t wait to own the collector’s edition blu-ray to memorialize that experience.

    Whenever brands can let people in behind the polished, finished product it makes people feel special and connected with others who had that opportunity. It’s a powerful tool if done right and clearly has worked with This Is It.

    Great post.

  • Rohit

    @morgan – Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for reading. Feeling like an insider is indeed powerful and I appreciate you taking the time to share a comment!

  • Tracy

    Very insightful. Thank you!

  • Ted

    Can you illuminate a little more what you mean by “deconstruction”?

  • Jamie Favreau

    Very insightful post.

    I have been working at sports arenas for the past 6 years and the artists go to great length to make sure you don’t see any of the “behind the scenes” stuff. Even if they are just rehearsing some of them don’t want you to be a part of this process even if you can still hear them.

    I heard good reviews about the MJ film but I am not sure if I will see it.

  • Redlin-Cook | Vertical Measures

    Great Post! Simple, but so true. Deconstruction helps others imagine an event and thereby take part in the feeling or experience of something. This sharing process is both a great way to market but also to engage and motivate. Thanks for sharing!