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Annals of Marketing
When Marketing is Not Needed
Monday, 19th November, 2012  - David Farmer

As an experienced wine merchant I do not like making mistakes when tasting wine. Even at this late stage of my career I'm still anxious when tasting and keep saying to myself; 'David, do not make a big error'. Fortunately the tasting boundaries of wine are quite narrow and it requires rare stupidity to reject great wine. Realising the wine is great but refusing to pay the asking price, well that is a different and more common problem, and those are the decisions you regret.

I suspect we all get some satisfaction from the mistakes of others as it helps us to be more accepting of our own. It hurts if you are marketing an event or product and the critics, or worse the public, make the call and pronounce it a dud; but at least some of the time they are wrong and the products succeed anyway.

These annals are about marketing items and ideas, so what are we to make of things which just take-off without marketing or minimal marketing. And is there an understanding or a meaning to be found from a product which is panned but goes on to be successful anyway?

Do we call these unusual successes the non marketing of items? They succeed from street talk or perhaps the viral spread over the web. Anyway I have decided to include two items about non marketing or how some things just happen that defy the odds.

Let's start with this gem.

In November, 2009, letters and memos released from the BBC archives revealed that readings of Enid Blyton books and plays were banned for 30 years from the 1930s. The opinions included; as lacking "literary value" and being "such very small beer", a "tenacious second-rater" and the best of all, an internal email dated 1938 by Jean Sutcliffe, head of the BBC Schools department saying, "There is rather a lot of the Pinky-winky-Doodle-doodle Dum-dumm type of name (and lots of pixies) in the original tales." [various reports, Stephen Adams, Telegraph UK, November, 2009]. Enid Blyton has sold 600 million books.

And another.

On May 3rd, 1960, a short musical 'The Fantasticks' opened in New York at the Sullivan Street Playhouse. It closed in 2002, becoming the longest running musical ever. The New York Times review, 4th May 1960, was at best lukewarm to cold and Brooks Atkinson perhaps regrets these comments; "Although it is ungrateful to say so, two acts is one too many to sustain the delightful tone of the first... ...Perhaps 'The Fantasticks' is by nature the sort of thing that loses magic the longer it endures."

The Fantasticks is still being sung and to date there have been more than 11,000 productions in 3,000 cities and towns in all 50 states, as well as in 67 countries, including Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia; Patrick Healy, New York Times, May 2nd 2010.

An original investor recalls; "A lot of times during that first summer of the show, there would only be two or three people sitting in the audience. People kept telling us to close. Annie and I would go to the playhouse and drink five scotches apiece just to deal with our nerves about this show that we fell in love with." Dividends will cease flowing in 2020.

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