Imagine being able to ask 10-times the average price for your product or service without losing a drop of demand.
With an average ticket price of $1,000, this is what Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton has achieved on Broadway (the average Broadway ticket price is around $100). Clearly, this creative endeavor has achieved something undeniably impressive from a business standpoint.
So, what’s the clear-cut formula that marketers can exploit in ten easy steps to match Hamilton’s high-demand dominance?
There isn’t one.
Before you stop reading
Having said that, let me say that there are important marketing lessons to be drawn from the success of this musical. What’s more, the desire to learn from such success is totally natural. However, it’s important to think through what will actually work for you (given the strengths and weaknesses you have), and what won’t.
Lin-Manuel’s Alexander Hamilton directly mirrors this search for the keys to success in his first conversation with Aaron Burr, saying (after admitting to punching a colleague of Burr’s):
“I wanted do what you did, graduate, too, and join the revolution. He looked at me like I’m stupid; I’m not stupid…”
Burr’s advice to Hamilton is, “Talk less. Smile more. Don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for.” – advice he does not follow. In fact, much of Hamilton’s success in the narrative stems from doing the exact opposite.
All of which leads us to the lessons I have drawn from Hamilton.
Experience, analyze, be inspired, and iterate. Don’t blindly imitate.
There are models and formulas that work for some – things like Account-Based Marketing, Content Marketing, Social Media, and so on – but which aren’t right for others. Look for things that have yielded success, but don’t ignore your own strengths just to pursue what works for someone else.
“Be heard with every word; drop knowledge.”
The genius of Hamilton is its painstaking commitment to historical accuracy; every line is a lesson. Beyond its musical/theatrical entertainment value, show-goers are bound to learn something new from the experience. If you want to follow this example, think of ways that your marketing communications, rather than simply articulating the value of the product or service you’re marketing, might actually provide insights or advice that help buyers be successful, prepared, or more competitive.
Don’t “Send a fully armed battalion to remind [your customers] of your love.”
Of course, in marketing, a fully armed battalion may be more akin to a thirty-plus touch follow-up campaign, but, essentially, the idea here is “don’t go overboard when reaching out to customers for whatever reason.” Lines like this from crazy King George in Hamilton are fun, which is why (admittedly) I tried to work one of them in, as well as an important reminder not to lose touch with reality when excited about your brand or concerned that customers don’t get it.
“You disgust me!” “Ah, so you’ve discussed me!” Work for good press, not any press.
This line is pithy and on-point, especially considering that the disgusting individual being discussed was promptly dismissed. More broadly, though, the PR efforts of Hamilton have been consistent with the brilliance offered in the musical. From Miranda’s freestyle session with the POTUS, to pretty much every element showcased at the Tony Awards, the press about the play reflected the themes the play conveys. Being “on brand” goes beyond corporate-approved jargon and talking points; all of your marketing communications and press opportunities should express the brand value and promise. If they don’t, don’t do them.
“Be in the room where it happens.” Don’t just assume that it happens.
This is particularly apropos for CMOs. Executives can frequently be unconcerned with “how the sausage is made,” focusing instead on results and returns. Taking the time to lean over a marketing manager’s shoulder, sit in on a brainstorming session, or have a stake in – not simply approving – marketing efforts helps to build a dynamic of unity and respect within the team. When it comes to explaining why or why not an effort worked to other C-level people, a CMO or marketing exec who has seen what his or her team actually does can fully do their work justice.
“Teach ‘em how to say goodbye.”
In the narrative, Hamilton highlights George Washington’s revolutionary decision (in terms of governance) to step down after two terms. The lesson here is knowing when to step down and let the merits of past work stand for the future. If you’ve made a good enough case, catered to your customers needs, or just entertained them to the point of being memorable, the impact will linger. When the job is done, let the job speak for itself.
On that note, I’ll leave you with this parting tip: If you don’t have $1000 (or can’t get tickets), just listen to Hamilton, be inspired, and use what you can to make something that’s a little better than what’s been done before.