When branded as Kitsch, some creatives may feel insulted. Kitsch may be defined as something ordinary or with poor taste. It could be said that something Kitsch lacks any artistic value, and that is something only destined to be used as decoration. In the world of marketing, it is easy to kill initiatives that get a bad rap, if the creators and executives do not stop to think for a second that every failure might come with an opportunity. Developing content, telling a story with the right ingredients (characters, conflict and resolution) is not always a winning game.
In 1975, when the Rocky Horror Show movie premiered, the results were not as expected. The movie was created based on the success of the Broadway show but the adaptation could have easily gone straight to video or TV without any major hurdles. The reception in the box office was not as expected, and that could have been the end of the story if it wasn’t for an executive that noted that the same movie-goers where showing up night after night. He noticed that the movie had the potential to become a cult movie, and thought of a different strategy to market the movie. Nowadays, the Rocky Horror show can still be seen in several theater across the United States, and the screening has become a performance. I attended a screening at The Plaza Theater in Atlanta a couple of years ago, and the interactions were hilarious. Movie-goers dressed up as the characters, screamed back at the actors, changed the lines, dance and sang. It was an experience like no other. The Rocky Horror Show story could have ended back in 1975, but it is still going after more than 40 years, and it has collected more than $130 million according to IMDB.
If Kitsch back then was supported with the kind of audience analytics we are able to produce today, maybe The Rocky Horror Show would have been created different or marketed different from the beginning. Who knows? Maybe instead of Kitsch we will be referring to their success as niche, and praising the creators for understanding crowd cultures.
You could have the characters, the conflict, and the resolution, but for the storyteller and the content creator the most important thing is having a clear understanding of their target audience, believe in the product, and above all, surround themselves with people that believe in them, and that have the flexibility to adjust the strategy and discover new opportunities beyond the failures.
Recently in the world of fashion, designer Rei Kawakubo launched a collection that was consider Kitsch by the experts. She instead celebrated her collection and said that it was something that “can express something deeper and can give birth to progress.”
If you understand your audience and create content that reflects what they are, they will consume it. That’s why Kitsch is successful. Kitsch is a reflection of what we are, and what we aspire to be.
STATUS: “Don’t dream it. Be it” – Frank N. Furter (The Rocky Horror Show)