I've been in marketing for over seven years and a dancer for close to a decade. Working at Google sometimes makes me feel like Dorothy in the Land of Oz, and the wizard is digital. An elusive but pervasive being with magical powers not well understood. I've never tried to connect the worlds of marketing and dance but recently I started to notice parallels.
The kind of dance I do is Latin ballroom dancing, but the principles apply to all genres of movement. I've paid a lot of money for coaches to tell me the same thing -- that no matter what you're doing, what body part you're moving, think about starting the movement from your center, as if your legs start all the way up at your belly button. Your core is your engine. This not only creates beautiful elongated lines but a sense of power and "truth" that comes from the body moving as one piece. Not just a flailing arm and thrusting leg. To an untrained eye, it's hard to tell when movement is coming from the wrong place, much like how many campaigns are built without insight, or a lackluster one at best. The result is the same as bad dancing. Lack of power, truth and beauty. Lack of conviction. The consumer isn't persuaded, the audience isn't wowed. Origin matters. As marketers, no matter how time-pressed we are, we need to hold ourselves up to the standard of finding an insight and having that be the core for everything else.
Go slow to go fast
A lot of dance is an illusion. Many of my mistakes were from mimicking what I thought I saw, without understanding again the origin. Take for example the concept of speed. My favorite coach and his partner made their careers on speed. Naturally I expected insider tips on how to be fast. Instead, he simply said, "go slow to go fast." He created speed through contrast. Of course his world-class technique made him faster, but the fact he slowed down right before a crazy trick move, made him a bullet. Often in marketing, especially digital marketing, we worry about speed and competition outpacing us. Some things are worth being slow about, like cooking up an insight. Then we have to be fast to test that insight, and not lose its integrity with excessive focus groups and evaluation. At Google our mantra is "launch and iterate" -- it's not that we do everything fast, but once we've settled on a pretty good thing, we go fast, and the magic is in the contrast.
The biggest difference between marketing and dance
There are obviously many but one is personal for me. A cardinal sin in dancing is to think too much. My coaches always said, Get out of your head. The audience doesn't care what's going on in there. They only see what they see. There was nothing like the physicality of dance to force me to live in the moment... to really perform. In my day to day job, we have strategy and we have execution; time for thinking and time for doing. The better a dancer I become, the more I realize in that world, the strategy is the execution.
A part of me likes to think my passion for movement makes me better at my real job. Sometimes it just helps to see things from another perspective.