Creative Marketing - What Would Thelonious Monk Do?

By Chris Hislop // Published on Mar 21, 2014

In today’s marketing landscape, SEO is being fueled by content. If you’re not practicing the art of sound, frequently updated content as a part of your organization’s marketing initiatives, it’s only a matter of time before your competitors put you out of business. That’s the stark reality. Here at the Boldwerks HQ we find inspiration in many things, but for me, I look to the master, the undisputable king* of the keys, Thelonious Monk. His poster hangs in my office. Whenever I find myself in need of a pick-me-up, I look to him and think, “what would Thelonious Monk do?” Makes perfect sense then to focus this blog – this tasty bit of content – on Monk himself. To take a look at what he gave to the world, and learn the craft of effective content marketing practices through his own words. Strap in and hold on tight… Here we go! 

"I say, play your own way. Don't play what the public wants. You play what you want and let the public pick up on what you're doing.”

See what he’s doing here? This is how I play too. While it is important to get your brand out there and to appeal to an audience that will in essence support what you’re doing and further your mission as being a sustainable entity, it’s important to follow your own rules. Don’t simply be another sheep in the herd. Be the shepherd. Sow the seeds that will get people to follow you down the path you’re taking.

“A note can be as small as a pin or as big as the world, it depends on your imagination.”

Bold words. In the world of content, the piece of collateral you’re putting together can be weighed by this very measurement system. What are you looking to achieve? Who is this content serving? Are you whispering, or are you yelling? There’s no right and wrong when it comes to crafting content that has the ability to make a small ripple in the water, or start a tsunami – it’s all fuel, and the more fuel you add, the brighter (and hotter) the fire burns.

“Whatever you think can’t be done, somebody will come along and do it.”

I’ll add another personality to the mix here… In the words of NBA superstar Kevin Garnett, “Anything is POSSIBLE!” If you can dream it, you can make it happen. Don’t let somebody else pull the rug out from under you. Just do it.

“Always leave them wanting more.”

This should honestly be the end goal to any piece of collateral you’re producing. From written copy, to video, to an audio segment, social media post, brand advertisement, fresh creative design… Always leave your target audience wanting more. If you wall it off at the end, it’s all for nothing. If you leave it open-ended, you’ve opened the door to an infinite number of potential leads. And, as we know, leads lead to business.

“When you’re swinging, swing some more!”

Everyone hits their stride at some point. It may last forever, or it may come in spurts. When you’re on, you’re on. Don’t sit back and relish in those moments. Look to improve. Look to get as much out of your “stride” as you possibly can. Challenge your own boundaries. If you slump over out of sheer exhaustion, then you know you’re working as hard as you possibly can. Keep swinging.

"Sometimes it's to your advantage for people to think you're crazy."

Listen, it’s important to have your own voice. Thelonious (we’ve) said it before, and it’s worth stating again; don’t live in a templated world. Challenge the status quo. Challenge your own creative limits. People notice the brands that are rising above the noise. You don’t get to that point by being “normal.”

"I made the wrong mistakes."

Such a poignant thought in the world of content marketing… A lot about marketing is trial and error. You don’t achieve great reward by being safe. You have to take risks. You have to put yourself out there. You’re bound to fail as many times as you succeed. It’s important to learn from your mistakes. That’s where the real return on investment lies.

"After two takes you're imitating yourself."

Thelonious Monk was all about challenging his own greatness. He didn’t want to imitate anyone. While he appreciated the roots, and found value in the education those roots provided, he wanted to be an original. And in being an original you sometimes have to rethink what it is you’re doing. If you keep creating the same thing over and over again, and never shift your train of thought at least a tiny bit, you’re going to become stagnant. That’s not a good thing.

"Everyone is influenced by everybody but you bring it down home the way you feel it."

Influence abounds. Harness the very sentiment. Consume it. Analyze it. Make it your own.

"I hit the piano with my elbow sometimes because of a certain sound I want to hear, certain chords."

There’s no right or wrong way to create marketing content. Most of the “right” is in the very act of making it happen. Think outside the box. When you get tired of the notion of simply using your fingers on the keys, start thinking about other means of getting some sound out your craft.

"If someone wants to play music you do not have to get a ruler or whips to make them practice."

In a nutshell, you should want to be doing what your doing. If you don’t, quit. Save yourself, and your clients a lot of time, anxiety, and headache. If you’re not sure what your doing sitting in the seat your sitting in, you’re not supposed to be sitting there.

“You’ve got to dig it to dig it, you dig?”

Precisely.

***** 

In parting, how about a few words from fellow jazz giant, John Coltrane?

"Working with Monk brought me close to a musical architect of the highest order. I felt I learned from him in every way--through the senses, theoretically, technically. I would talk to Monk about musical problems, and he would sit at the piano and show me the answers just by playing them. I could watch him play and find out the things I wanted to know. Also, I could see a lot of things that I didn't know about at all.”

Learn from the masters. Learn from your peers. Learn from your environment. This is vital. If the art of education is not a working piece of your daily practice and vocabulary, chances are you’re dead already. If you’re not, beware the reaper.

Want to talk content and steering your business ahead of the traffic? I’m open for discussion, and welcome visitors anytime.

*I would also love to hear from you if you dispute the notion that Monk is the undisputable king of the keys. I will talk music until I'm blue in the face...

"If you don't make a total commitment to whatever you're doing, then you start looking to bail out the first time the boat starts leaking. "
- Lou Holtz