How to Change the World With Marketing | Ep 134

Change the World With Marketing

Marketing and sales aren’t just about persuading people to sign up for your music lessons. Marketing has the ability to actually change the world. Marketing encourages people to dream of a better life and a better world.


All purchases are driven by a desire for change. You don’t get a haircut because your hair is too long. You get a haircut because you want to look good and feel good about yourself.


– – Show Highlights – – 


change the world


How I Fell In Love With Marketing

When I started my music school, I really had no knowledge of marketing, analogy, sales, whatsoever. I put up some posters around town, mostly in coffee shops, and that got the phone ringing. I keep in mind, this is 2003. So the internet played a different role in our lives at the turn of the century. A few years into my business, rumors started to spread around town that School of Rock was going to move into my market. I’ve got to be honest with you, I was really nervous about it. My next-door neighbor said to me, “Dave, you really should invest some time and learn more about marketing,” I really knew nothing about marketing. I didn’t do any marketing other than these posters in coffee shops. I had a bad reaction when he made this comment about marketing. 


Marketing Mind Tricks

I just had a negative opinion about marketing. I viewed it as sleazy, psychological trickery. I viewed marketing and advertising as a way to try to persuade people to buy something that they didn’t really want or didn’t really need. This can be true in some cases. Marketing can be sleazy. Marketing can be full of psychological manipulation, but that type of marketing, unethical marketing, is really designed to benefit the business owner.


When marketing is designed to benefit the consumer or the people in the market, then everything changes. It makes me think of Seth Godin who said, “Marketing has the ability to change the world.” I didn’t really know what he meant by that at first. I viewed marketing as a way for companies to sell their products. Selling is a part of marketing, but marketing has the ability to change the world and change the world for the better.


An Example of How Marketing Changed the World

I want to share with you a few different examples of that. I want to share with you a story that happened to me just this week, that really reinforced this idea of how marketing brings goodness into the world and how marketing can change the world. If you’re over the age of 50, you probably remember a world where smoking was pretty commonplace. I remember when I was a child, I’d always buy my parents an ashtray for their birthday. Because they always needed to have ashtrays in the house, because when their friends would come over, they would smoke. My dad, who was a dentist. He had ashtrays. He’s a little like, kind of stand-up ashtrays on the floor that they’d stand up, come up to the side of the chair. So his patients could smoke before they would see the dentist.


My high school had a smoking lounge for not just the teachers, but for the students. It was another world back then. It was around the ’60s that people began to solely be aware, become aware of the medical or the health risk of smoking. It was a slow process and the culture was reluctant to embrace this message. Smoking was such and such a part of the culture. Not only are people addicted to nicotine, but the cigarette became a social prop for people. People look so cool with that cigarette in their hand when they were in a conversation. I couldn’t wait to grow up and smoke cigarettes. We used to buy bubble gum that was shaped like a cigarette. It had flour on the end of this bubble gum cigarette and you’d blow into the cigarette, and flour would come out and make a little, make-believe smoke cloud.


The Power of Words

My parents bought those for me all the time. So I’m not sure what department in our government set, or went on a mission to educate and to persuade people to stop smoking. The way they were going to have to do this was through marketing, and there was this very effective campaign. I remember these Marlboro cigarette ads that had a cowboy in it, on a horse smoking a cigarette. I saw a billboard with two Cowboys in what appeared to be a Marlboro cigarette ad. This billboard had a little speech balloon that said, “Bob, I’ve got emphysema.” That ad had a huge impact on people. It had taken this classic, cultural icon and flipped it on it’s head. There were multiple efforts, commercials, and advertisements trying to educate the public on the ill effects of smoking-and it worked. This is a great example of marketing doing good, marketing changing the world.



Look at the world now, at least in America, very few people smoke compared to the ’70s and ’80s. Back then it wasn’t uncommon to smoke a pack or two a day. There’s a stigma now with smoking, it didn’t exist before. How did that stigma get there? It was through marketing. It’s a great example of how marketing can change the world and change the world for the better. The other day, I had an experience where marketing does good. When my family moved to Cleveland, my wife put a yard sign in our yard. It was just an all-whiteboard in big black letters, one side said, “Don’t give up,” the other side of the yard sign said, “You got this.”


When a Meaningless Message Gains Meaning

I asked my wife, “What is this? Like, what does this mean?” She said, “I thought it was a really good message.” To be honest with you, I thought it was a little cheesy. You’ve got what? Don’t give up on what? To me it was just empty messages. It reminded me of this poster my wife hung up in our last house. It said something like, “Hope. Dream. Explore.” What does that mean? Hope. Dream. Explore. It didn’t mean anything to me, it didn’t resonate. This yard sign reminded me of another one of these signs. Can it say something a little more meaningful, a little more profound?


When COVID hit, it was a dark time for our country, for the world. It was a dark time for me as well. My business took a significant hit. One day I went out on a walk. I felt a little bit down about myself, couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel with COVID, and I saw that sign, “Don’t give up.” I thought, “Yeah, right. Don’t give up.” Another time I walked by my house, I noticed the other side of the sign that said, “You got this.” I needed that encouragement. All of a sudden this message that meant nothing to me began to resonate.



A Strange Knock on My Door

For months, for years, that sign sat there in our yard. In my mind, I just thought it was invisible. Yeah, it meant a little something to me during COVID, but I just thought, I bet our neighbors think it’s just sort of some empty slogan. Well, two days ago, this woman knocked on my door. She was in her 70s, and says, “Look, I know this might sound a little strange, but I just had to stop here and tell you this. I noticed that you guys took your sign down in your front yard.” I said, “Oh, right. Yeah, we just took it down,” and she said, “Well, I really wish you hadn’t,” so I said “What do you mean?”


When Marketing Gives People Hope

She said, “I just want you to know, my husband died a month ago, and I walked by your house every day for years. I ignored that sign. It just never resonated with me, or I never noticed it. The day after my husband died, I walked past your house and I read, don’t give up, and I started to cry. I just needed to hear that message at that moment. So I walked past your house, and then on my way home, I had to walk by your house again, and I noticed the other side, you’ve got this. I cried again.” I said, “Wow, that’s amazing. I’m so glad that it was so meaningful to you, and I’m so sorry to hear about your loss.”



She said, “Every day I made a point after that to walk by your house so I could read your sign. Every day I would cry when I walked past your sign. But I needed to hear that, and I would say to myself, don’t give up, I’ve got this. I was just so crushed when you guys took the sign down.” It was so funny because I took the sign down because I just assumed it meant nothing to anybody. I wound up having a nice chat with this lady for about 20 minutes. I realized this is a great example of marketing having an impact in the world. That sign was a marketing message. It was a message of hope. It was a message of compassion. It was a message of faith and encouraged the reader to have faith in themselves. It’s sometimes hard to have faith in yourself, but when somebody else says to you, “I have faith in you. You’ve got this.” It gives you a little boost.


When Marketing Goes Beyond Selling

Marketing can be unethical. It can be sleazy. It can be full of trickery when the one who’s creating the marketing is doing it for their benefit. But when you put a message out into the world, that’s designed to have an impact on the recipient of the message. When it’s designed to lift the recipient’s spirits up, it’s ethical marketing. Think of Apple’s “Think different”. Think of Nike’s “Just Do It. These are inspirational messages. Sure they’re tied with the brand. Just do it, do it wearing Nike’s. Just do it is like don’t give up. Think different means be fearless, be bold. Be fearless and be bold with our computer, our computer is the tool to help you achieve this outcome.


think small


So how can you apply this to your music school? Your music lessons are like the Nike sneaker, your music lessons are like the Apple computer. They’re just a tool, but through marketing, you can help people understand or define an outcome that they’re looking for. That’s what Nike and Apple did so well in those campaigns. Think different comes from the Volkswagen campaign in the ’60s “Think Small”. All the cars in the ’60s were big gas guzzlers. Think small was sending the message of like, “Hey, it’s okay to go with small. It’s okay to be a little sensitive to the environment, not driving around a gas guzzler. It’s okay to be modest, to be humble. Think small.”


I encourage you to ask yourself, what outcome, what change do you want to have in the world? What impact do you want to have on people’s lives? Would our world look any different if more people played music? Look at how music impacted your life. I don’t know about you, but when I’m feeling down or having a rough day, I just go to the piano and play a little bit. It’s very hypnotic and therapeutic. I might be inclined to something a little more destructive if I didn’t have that outlet. What If more people had that ability to do what you and I can do? Sit down at an instrument and just get lost. I think the world would be a better place.



You’re not teaching people how to play an instrument and that’s the vehicle. That’s the vehicle for something else. Focus on that outcome. Focus on the change you want to make in the world. Focus on the impact you want to have on people’s lives. That’s what your marketing should be all about. It should not be about your music lessons. It should not be about you’re a highly qualified, expert instructor. “Think Small,”“Think Different,” “Just do it,” “Be All That You Can Be.” These are all messages of hope. They trigger emotions. They trigger stories in us when we hear them. They paint an image of the future. If you can do that in your marketing, you’ll have a much greater impact, not only in your marketing but the greater impact in the world.


Can You Answer These Questions?

  1. How has playing an instrument made you a better person?
  2. What marketing language can you build from your answer to question #1?
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