What do Beethoven and Business Marketing have in Common?
For those of you who don’t know me well, my educational background is in Musicology. Musicology, in a very broad sense, is the cultural study of music rather than the performance of it. In other words, I was not the one singing on stage, I was the nerd in the library researching why Liszt made a certain trip to London in 1841. So, keeping that in mind, I had an interesting observation the other day. Not about Liszt, but about Beethoven. Beethoven, we all know his fifth symphony, right? If you’re a Dodgers fan, it’s the thing they use every time a hitter on the opposing team strikes out. Remember the little thing, Dun dun dun duuuuuuuunnnnn Dun dun dun duuuuuuuuuuuuunnnnnn Here’s an example played by my favorite conductor of all time, a bit fast for me personally, but still good.
Yeah, that thing, not so well represented in text form. But we all know it. Well, Beethoven takes that melodic fragment, called a motif (or motive), and passes it from the strings to other instruments in the orchestra. He repeats it in different rhythmic and harmonic ways. For the entire movement. I got to thinking about this piece, and how it is kind of like business marketing. How many times have you seen the same commercial, maybe for the same product, slightly varied from the last time you saw it? Well, that’s kind of how Beethoven did the Fifth Symphony. Recognizable little fragments that you can’t get out of your head, and, just in case you didn’t hear it the first, third, or tenth time, Beethoven repeats it again. Sound familiar? I also got this idea because it’s very common in newsletters you get online. I received a newsletter from a well-respected Thought Leader promoting his latest online course.
A few days later, I received the same info about the course, just put in more flowery language. Much like how Beethoven passes the theme through the instruments in the orchestra, this course was passed through the orchestra of branding, pricing, discounts, bonus offers, bonus offers with other discounts, time-limited offers, and time-limited bonus offers. So, just in case you didn’t get it the first, third, or tenth time, you might, just might get it the next time the motif was repeated. So, little did he know, but Beethoven’s most famous melodic fragment has become a model for business marketing and mass production. With all that said, time for me to go get a Starbucks, that little known coffee chain down the street. Wonder if they’ll play any Beethoven there?
Dave Bahr is the founder of In-Sightful living. He works as an advocate for persons with disabilities and a usability specialist. Schedule a Call with Dave here.