Case Study: Be More Chill—More than one way to make a hit

Two years after almost no one went to see this poorly reviewed musical debut in New Jersey, its soundtrack showed up on the Billboard Top 10 original cast album chart. More than a hundred million streams after it was first recorded, Be More Chill is the hit musical that you can’t see (yet).

Except for Hamilton, this is the most beloved musical of its time, spawning fan fiction, illustrated video animatics, and high school productions.

This phenomenon happened without a Broadway debut. Without the risk and time and committee meetings. And most definitely without strong reviews after opening night. Charles Isherwood wrote in the New York Times: “predictable in its contours . . . stale . . . boilerplate . . .”

The thing is, it wasn’t a play for Isherwood or any of the other critics. It was aimed squarely at the new generation that has adopted it. And talked about it. And shared it. A fan named Claudia Cacace in Naples, Italy, drew some of the video animation, which was seen by Dove Calderwood in Idaho Falls, Idaho, who hired her to draw some more. And so it spreads.

At a recent café performance and meet and greet in New York (the meet and greet lasted for several hours), fans came from all over the world to meet the creators. And, just as important, each other.

It should come as no surprise that there will be a new run of the musical. Off-Broadway this time.

What’s a car for?

More specifically, what’s a teenager’s first car for?

It’s not simply a need for transport. After all, when the teenager was fifteen, he didn’t have that much of a transport problem. And plenty of teenagers make it through the college years without a car. This is a want, not a need.

Few purchases cause more change than this one, and in this case, we’re seeing different changes for different people.

For the teenager, a car enables a change from dependent child to independent adult.

That’s a shift in status, in perception, and in power. It’s far bigger than four wheels.

For the parent, it causes a change from dominion over someone to offering freedom and responsibility. And it leads to significant discussions about safety, about control, and about status.

What will the neighbors say? What will we tell ourselves about safety? About independence, opportunity, and coddling?

All of these changes are at the heart of the car decision. When the designer, the marketer, and the salesperson see these changes at work, they provide more value, because they can design with these issues in mind.

Too many choices

Old-fashioned industrial marketing is built around the person who pays for the ads. It’s done to the customer, not for him or her. Traditional marketing uses pressure, bait and switch, and any available coercive methods to make the sale—to land the client, to get the money, to sign on the line that is dotted.

When the customer has no choice but to listen to you and engage with you, when there are only three TV channels, only one store in town, only a few choices, the race to the bottom is the race worth winning.

But the newly empowered consumer has discovered that what looks like clutter to the marketer feels like choice. They’ve come to realize that there are an infinite number of choices, an endless parade of alternatives. For the marketer, it’s like trying to sell sand in a desert.

A million books published every year.

More than five hundred kinds of battery chargers on Amazon.

More coaches, courses, and clubs than they could ever consider, never mind hire or join.

Surrounded by this tsunami of choice, most of it offered by folks who are simply selfish, the consumer has made an obvious choice. Walk away.

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