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What Does Will Smith Know About Marketing Strategy?

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending this year’s Marketo Marketing Nation Summit in Las Vegas. Global marketers gathered to evangelize marketing technology, network with contemporaries, and join educational sessions to make them better at their jobs. But the event also boasted an attention worthy keynote speaker: Will Smith.

The entire conference was abuzz with anticipation to watch Will be interviewed by Marketo CMO Sanjay Dholakia. Over a 30 year career, Will has entertained audiences in music, television, and film. In the process, he taught us how to jump on it, saved our world from terrifying aliens, and took us to Miami. But still, the question lingered amongst a hall of professionals who have focused their careers on a specialized and increasingly technical craft. What can Will Smith tell me about marketing that I don’t already know?

First, let’s get the fun stuff out of the way. Yes, Will performed “Gettin’ Jiggy wit It” (you’ve never seen uncool until you’ve seen a sea of marketing nerds attempt to get jiggy.). Yes, he’s every bit as charming as you’d expect. And yes, he made a self-deprecating dig at Wild Wild West. But to answer the more important question, it turns out the Fresh Prince knows quite a bit about marketing.

Using his decades long career in the limelight as a corollary to the way we market to consumers, Will talked about understanding the needs of an audience. That translates whether you’re talking about moviegoers or millennials looking for their next pair of sneakers. Will even indicated that his surprise “Gettin’ Jiggy wit It” performance was deliberately placed at the top of his appearance because he knew the crowd had been sitting for hours of sessions and would appreciate the opportunity to stand up and get moving! He did what every marketer should: observed his audience, evaluated what they needed most, and gave it to them with perfect timing.

Will also talked about shifting focus based on results. He discussed a downtime early in his career, when his second rap album disappointed on the charts after his first smash hit, which went 8-times Platinum. Rather than continue on with what was not working, Will took the opportunity to pivot his career by moving to Los Angeles to pursue acting. There were several more examples throughout his career where Will made pivots for continued success. What does this tell us? As marketers, we cannot rest on our laurels. What worked yesterday won’t necessarily work tomorrow, so it’s important to know when it’s time to try something innovative.

Lastly, Will continually touched on the concept of authenticity. He told an anecdote of a discussion with his adult son, who told Will that cheating, and in a broader sense, dishonesty, is passe. Why? With all the technology in the world and the huge presence of social media, people have access to more information than ever. Individuals cannot pass inauthenticity for reality when their peers have a wealth of information at their fingertips. And neither can brands. Your brand is not what you say it is, it’s what the people say it is. Consumers can spot content created by brands to serve their own agenda. They can also spot authentic content created by real brand advocates with no agenda. Naturally, that’s the kind of content they value.

What does Will Smith know about marketing? A lot. He knows that it’s important to allow an audience’s needs to drive your strategy. He knows the importance of adapting away from ineffective methods to try something new. And he knows that authenticity always wins out over the alternative.

How jiggy is that?

Image Source: Flickr Creative Commons / By: Spencer Tirey, Tirey Photography