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What My Addiction Teaches Me About Marketing

Playing music is something I enjoy. One of my musical addictions is listening to covers. I don't know why, but it's a weird fascination for me.

I love listening to different covers to hear other people's interpretations of the same songs, especially popular hit songs. Sometimes, it's just out of curiosity. Other times, it's a way for me to get into the heads of other musicians.

I want to understand how other musicians view a song. I want to hear their “take” on a song.

Some bands try to make their covers sound exactly like the originals, while others give them their own unique flavor and flair.

Since the early 2000s, I've been listening to a podcast called Coverville. I'm also subscribed to several YouTube channels about covers, too. Of those, my favorite shows are the ones where they discuss hit songs that ended up more popular than their originals.

A few of them are so surprising, you say to yourself: “What? That was a cover?!”

Some are even covers of covers. For example, “Killing My Softly” by The Fugees (1996), which won multiple music awards, was a cover of Roberta Flack's version (1973). A lot of people my age already know this. But most may not know that Flack's version was also a cover from Lori Lieberman (1971).

The music industry is teeming with examples like these.

In my native French, we don't call singers, musicians, or performers “artists.” We call them interpreters. According to the French dictionary, an interpreter is “someone who interprets the expression of an artistic or creative work.”

Marketers and entrepreneurs are interpreters, too.

When you look at the biggest business successes throughout history, even those that have seemed to have appeared “out of nowhere,” or that were “overnight successes” or “the result of sheer luck,” we overlook the fact that the idea often came from somewhere else. 

It might have been the germ of an idea based on a similar product or service. Or it might have been the exact same, but their success came from an approach or marketing tactic stolen from another industry.

Marketing guru Dan Kennedy often teaches about applying other industries' marketing tactics to your own. Focus on what he calls “practical creativity,” which is rearranging the old, tested, and proven in a new or augmented way.

But many companies and professionals say, “Well, what [industry] is doing is great, but it wouldn’t work in my industry.” That is often not the case. Similar to the music industry, marketing is filled with tactics that were stolen from others.

Chances are some of the most successful people in your industry may have come up with an approach that wasn't entirely new to begin with.

Innovation isn't magical. It's merely rearranging the old into a new or different way. Most breakthroughs come from looking at distantly different fields or industries from where you can mine marketing ideas.

So don't be an innovator, at least when it comes to marketing. Be an interpreter.

As Picasso said, “Good artists copy; great artists steal.”

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