Friday, January 12, 2007, 7:51 am.
The start of a Washington Post social experiment in “context, perception and priorities.”
And of Joshua Bell’s 43-minute nightmare.
For the experiment, Bell, one of the world’s greatest violinists, donned a cap and plain clothing.
And busked for change as an incognito street entertainer in a D.C. Metro subway station.
1,000-odd rush hour commuters passed by.
But only seven stopped to listen to Bell.
He collected a paltry $32.17 from 27 people, excluding $20 from the one person who recognized him.
Despite being an internationally acclaimed virtuoso, Bell’s subway audience was blind to his performance.
It was simply background music to them.
There’s your modern day marketplace parable.
Preoccupied, stressed out people.
An exceptional, refined idea.
And, in affect and effect, nothing. Nada.
A brilliant idea, even if placed directly in people’s paths, is simply not enough to engage them today.
Please don’t delude yourself into believing that it is.
The results will break your heart and your spirit.
Instead, realize that perception, context and priorities (a.k.a. "branding") matter.
The marketplace is an impassioned dance.
It's a moving and evolving exchange of value.
Yes, Bell had his moves perfected.
His core competencies were second to none.
But he didn't appeal to the unique circumstances and desires of his dance partners.
He didn't bring his idea to life in a clear, meaningful and differentiated way.
And the results confirmed the Post's dispassionate approach.
A self-fulfilling prophecy if I've ever seen one.