retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

“You can observe a lot by just watching.” Let’s be honest, if we had a motto here at MNB, it might very well be that saying from baseball great Yogi Berra. As you might have noticed, we try - and hopefully succeed - at finding lessons everywhere.

Sometimes, even where you least expect it.

Recently I finally got to see “The Book of Mormon,” the outrageous and wonderful Broadway musical based on the very same religious book you find in every Marriott Hotel. If you haven’t seen this show there are two key points I need make.

First, the show was conceived and written by the guys behind the television show “South Park.” So as you might expect, it possibly contains the most profanity of any Broadway show in history. Its references are irreverent, bawdy and many times embarrassing.

Second I’m actually a big Broadway fan and I’ve been blessed to see countless shows in my life. Without hesitation I can say that “The Book of Mormon” is one of the best musicals I've ever seen and I understand why it is constantly playing to sold out houses in New York and beyond. The energy, the comedy and the sweetness of it are all amazing - even if it’s impossible to sing most of the songs out loud without offending everyone nearby.

The business lesson however came in the Playbill, the show’s printed program handed to the audience. It reminded me on a line from the first (and best) “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie, when a British officer calls Captain Jack Sparrow, “the worst pirate I’ve ever heard of.”

Sparrow’s response: “But you have heard of me.”

All publicity can be good publicity - remember that.

On three consecutive right-hand pages in the Playbill for “The Book of Mormon” were ads from the Mormon Church or, more correctly, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints. Each ad features a close up picture of a person suggesting that if you like the play you are guaranteed to like the book. The real Book of Mormon that is.

Here’s the thing: the musical is probably the least reverent portrayal of the Mormon faith ever. EVER!!! Every part of the religion’s teachings get a solid ribbing from Joseph Smith to Brigham Young to the missionaries who ring your door bell. Even Jesus gets in on a couple of songs.

The church could have taken offense, staged pickets, urged boycotts or, let’s be honest, done far worse. Instead, based on those ads, it seems the folks at LDS decided to go along with the joke and just maybe use it as the most unorthodox marketing tool ever.

And you know what, it might just work. It’s highly possible that many theatergoers might watch the musical and leave with some curiosity as to what the actual book says. That in turn could lead anywhere. Even, perhaps, to new Mormons.

The lesson is clear: sometimes in this hyper-serious world, we need to remember to pack our sense of humor and our willingness to laugh at ourselves. It’s not ever easy, but just maybe others will laugh with us. Or, when things aren’t so funny, it reminds us that a willingness to engage an issue can be far better than hoping it goes away.

You really can observe a lot by just watching…and maybe smiling.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@morningnewsbeat.com . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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