Probably Not Your Kind of Jazz

My best friend’s dad is a genre-free artist. He paints, ponders, builds stuff and makes music. He is as brilliant as he is chaotic — traits so often colliding in creatives it has become a cliché.

He plays — one might say unsurprisingly — in an experimental jazz band. Now, experimental to some could suggest “using various instruments in surprising combinations and inventive yet difficult to follow rhythms.”

In this case, however, experimental means “to use everything that might produce sound at the same time and in the least coherent manner possible.”

I love it. Not because of how it sounds (there’s no clear distinction to be made between the sound check and the actual performance), but because of what it is and how it’s marketed.

The band’s tagline is “Probably not your kind of jazz”.

This is one of the most brilliant works of marketing I know of. The band has not (and never will) become famous, because their music is so specific that it will never appeal to many. And that’s exactly why I love the tagline — it is brutally honest.

A different angle

Today, so many things are marketed in a way that the product or service advertised sounds as appealing as possible to as many as possible.

If you buy this, you’re smart. If you hire us, you’re wise. If you sign up now, you sure know what you’re doing and if you put this on your skin, you show that you truly respect yourself.

It gets utterly boring and repetitive.

But not with this jazz band. Whatever it is they do — it’s probably not for you. And they understand. They’re fine with it. They acknowledge that they’re not for the masses and nowhere do they suggest that they are any good, to begin with.

In a world where everything has to be bigger, faster, and better, this is brilliant. It opens up a whole new way of thinking.

Playing hard to get

But apart from the refreshing angle, there’s something else at work here. The band is playing hard to get. We, the consumers, are not used to being rejected. We’re used to being invited. Whatever we want to spend our money on — we’re welcome to do so.

Again, not with this jazz band. They tell you: there’s a good chance you won’t like it. Or, better yet, you won’t understand it. So keep on walking, there’s nothing to see (or hear) here.

If there’s one thing that will make people curious, it’s excluding them. How many people gaze through open fences? Not so many. And how many people just can’t help themselves if there’s a peephole to look through? The difference is vast. If people think something is not for them to see — they’ll want to see.

So telling people that what you’re selling is not for them is brilliant. If, of course, it is done cunningly. Simply rejecting people won’t work — but suggesting they’re not who you’re selling to will give them a chance to choose for themselves. “Hey! I sure as hell am smart/experienced/strong/funny enough for your product.” That is the gold you’re digging for.

As soon as someone has committed to proving to themselves that he or she does qualify as your audience, it’s gonna be hard for them to pull back — they’ll quickly cross a point of no return. By then, you’ve won half the race without really doing anything.

Hinting at a subgenre

Lastly, they give you the impression that they don’t just play regular jazz. No, they play a kind of jazz. That’s a lot more interesting than mainstream jazz, isn’t it?

People who are into kinds of jazz obviously know far more about jazz than people who, well, just listen to jazz. At least — that’s what you’d expect. And that’s exactly what’s appealing. If you listen to their jazz, you must have refined taste.

So hinting at a niche — even if you don’t name it — can work wonders. A drill can drill many things. But a concrete drill is way better at drilling concrete than any other drill. Right? And a heavy-duty drill is better than one that’s not heavy-duty. Right? Well, the truth is: I have no idea. How heavy is heavy-duty? And can normal drills not drill concrete? They probably can. But people with concrete drills will never agree — nor will they who own a heavy-duty drill.

So next time you’re working on a campaign or a sales pitch, think back to this jazz band and their honesty. Try a different angle for once. Instead of appealing to everyone — try being brutally honest about what’s for sale and maybe hint at excluding some people.

Not only is this a refreshing exercise; it turns out you will attract exactly the people who will love your product rather than those who don’t need you in the first place. And those people will go that extra mile to prove that they are worthy customers who truly get what you’re selling. They’ll be proud to be part of the gang, and defend whatever it is you stand for.

They will become advocates, and to those who don’t agree, they’ll say: “well, it’s probably just not your kind of jazz.”