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What A Brand Manager Can Learn From A Violin Player

Branding

As much as our world continues to change and evolve, there are some things that will never change in the eyes of a consumer. One of them is the fact that perception often is reality. And brand managers and brand marketers alike should never lose sight of that, especially when it comes to packaging.

Last November I wrote an article that spoke directly to the importance of product packaging and how a poor package can not only impact sales but also be quite dangerous.

Titled “The Most Misleading Packaging Design I Have Ever Seen,” it spoke to one specific product package, but raised a lot of questions about packaging in general.

Today comes an example of how perceptions and reality often blur and become one, and how that perception can affect the way consumers view your product.

The story is actually a few years old–2007, to be exact. But I just heard about it and I wanted to both share it and overlay it, if you will, into the world of branding and packaging.

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The story, as it appears on Snopes.com, goes like this:

A man sat at a metro station in Washington, D.C. and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, because it was rush hour, it was calculated that 1,100 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only six people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the most talented musicians in the world. He had just played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, on a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, he sold out at a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100 apiece.

Here’s video of what went down in the subway station:

Now, this was all part of a social experiment organized by the Washington Post. The idea was to gauge the reaction of people coming upon this ordinary-looking street musician–and to make the point that if we don’t stop and listen to such world-class music, what other things are we missing in our lives?

Plenty, I’m sure.

How does this relate to packaging and branding?

Ask yourself right now, what message does the packaging on your products–the ones you’re responsible for–convey?

Obviously I’m not talking about an iconic brand such as Campbell’s Soup, whose packaging is as iconic and famous as it gets.

What I’m talking about are the lesser-known or brand-new brands, if you will. The ones that few consumers know about. If a consumer comes upon your brand/package in a store, what message will it deliver?

Remember you could have the greatest (insert product here) in the world. You could be one of the most finely made products in the world using all the finest and freshest ingredients with a superior taste to match. You could be playing with that proverbial violin worth $3.5 million dollars.

But if your package does not convey this, what good is it?

Now I am not here to say that the packaging is the make-or-break point for any CPG item. No. Obviously you need a good marketing plan, strong and creative advertising, prominent shelf space and on and on and on.

What I am saying is that packaging is a very important piece in the overall branding puzzle. On the other hand, in the case of the violinist, people could not only see him but could also “sample the product” at the same time.

So perhaps the lesson is to get those in-store demos rocking and rolling so people can not only see your product, they can experience it for themselves, too.

Sources: YouTube, Snopes.com

Steve Olenski is a freelance writer/blogger currently looking for full-time work. He has worked on some of the biggest brands in the world and has over 20 years experience in advertising and marketing. He lives in Philly and can be reached via emailTwitter,  LinkedIn or his website.What A Brand Manager Can Learn From A Violin Player image

Comments on this Article: 1

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  1. Rob says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I found this article/experiment very intriguing, and appreciate your relating it to branding and provoking thoughts on how this story should be considered when marketing a brand. There certainly are lessons to be learned from this that can be applied to branding, such as “engaging” your “customers,” but (and please elaborate if I’m missing the boat here) I’m having a little difficulty relating this incident to packaging. Even if Joshua Bell had been “packaged” in a tuxedo and staged surrounded by a velvet rope, I’m guessing the social response would not have been much different. Your thoughts?

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