At the 2009 Sasquatch! festival in Washington, a guy got up, started dancing, stayed dancing. No friend in sight, just a guy by himself, sort of losing it on the hillside as Santigold played ‘Unstoppable’ on the stage far below. What happened next was…
At the end of the video, you can hear someone in the crowd asking in happy disbelief “How did he do that? How did he do that?” Because I’ve accounted for about 100K of the video’s nearly 3M views, I can suggest some answers.
1. He persisted.
There are a few other versions of this video, shot from different perspectives. They capture more of the response and commentary of people nearby. This one from higher up is helpful — it was shot over a longer period, and the group filming was chatty and clever and into him. (“See what one man can do. One man can change the world!”) It makes clear that Dancing Guy was at it for a while, winning quiet support, before the breakthrough. One of the popular comments on the first video sums it up:
Dancing Guy tries to coax the crowd to join him when the song starts. When they don’t, he just keeps doing his thing. Most people don’t know what their “thing” is or can’t keep to it when pressed. By persisting in what, for him, was most normal in that setting (and assisted by a great get-up-and-dance tune from Santigold), he moved a bunch of other people’s sense of normal closer to his own. What once seemed remote…
2. He stayed true to himself.
Martin Kilduff and David Krackhadrt, in “Interpersonal Networks in Organizations,” discuss the difference between high and low self-monitors in organizational settings. High self-monitors search for situational cues. They ask “Who does this situation want me to be and how can I be that person?” High self-monitors maintain flexibility and tend to make little emotional investment in relationships. Their networks are strategic and far-flung. Low self-monitors, on the other hand, tend to choose and stick with a few friends they actually like and in whose company they’re at ease. They ask “Who am I and how can I be me in this situation?”
In the context of these two categories, Polonius’ advice to Laertes in Hamlet (This above all: to thine own self be true/ And it must follow, as the night the day/ Thou canst not then be false to any man) is tricky, because it says that while the most important thing is to stay true to oneself, the reason it’s important is to carry out one’s obligations (to not appear or be false) to others. Authenticity married to circumspection, awareness without self-expression — Polonious, compromised, full of contradictions, lauds low self-monitor virtues but denies their intrinsic good.
Low self-monitors are often out-of-synch, to the point of cluelessness. They also often provide society’s evolutionary leaps. By persisting in their authenticity, by expressing novel possibilities of seeing, thinking, feeling, and behaving, low self-monitors open up possibilities for the rest of the world to consider. If the timing is right and the audience is right, a low self-monitor can move the prevailing sense of normal. Emerson, in The American Scholar (his great exhortation to individualism and the authentic life), called this process “the conversion of the world.”
3. He sold happiness.
Dancing Guy kept selling happiness on that hillside, the chance to be completely free and jerk and twist and jump up and down and feel just as free and just as happy as he did. There’s a market for happiness. It’s called Earth. If you’re in business and you can manage it, try to sell happiness. Don’t sell satisfaction, or quality, or value, or low prices. Sell happiness. Make customers “smile lots.” Sell happiness, and keep selling it, and make it easy for customers to get it.
4. He found an advocate.
In this version of the video, you can see Dancing Guy had lots of partners early on. At one point, a guy in white shades comes down to be a prop in Dancing Guy’s show, and after getting his rear slapped, he exchanges high fives and leaves.
During the Santigold song, at the critical point, this guy comes back… and he brings friends! What’s that thing called? Right, the tipping point. Dancing Guy reached his tipping point with help from a repeat customer, someone who bought in to what he was doing, and enough to drum up support among his friends.
So why go through all this trouble for a throwaway YouTube video? It’s about a goofy guy on a hill and the boozy, sunbaked twenty-somethings who join him in acting like an ass. It is and it isn’t. My wife gave me a poster with a quote from Andy Warhol when I started Eight Leaves Marketing with Darren. Although our work is quantitative, I like what it says.
At our company, whenever we grope for some basic understanding of human behavior, we rely on science, but we also reach for art.
I came across some other discussion on the video I thought was interesting: