Monday, June 2, 2008

How many Danny DeVitos does the world need?

Seth Godin is absolutely brilliant at questioning the assumptions and "conventional wisdom" that we all rely on when promoting our products or services. He doesn't offer step-by-step recipes "Guaranteed to triple your sales!" In fact he rarely talks about specific numbers at all.

And if his recent post Thinking about Danny Devito is representative, then it's a good thing he doesn't. Because he completely missed the point that "a few" is a whole different thing than "one."

If you haven't read it -- and you really should, it's only 152 words -- the point is that there are a lot more people competing for the George Clooney-type roles than there are competing for the Danny DeVito-type roles. Seth phrases this pseudo-mathematically:

(number of people resembling George Clooney)/(jobs for people resembling George Clooney) is a much bigger number than the ratio available to Danny. For the math challenged: Because everyone in Hollywood is trying to be George, there are a lot more opportunities for the few Dannys willing to show up.
Since his breakout role in Taxi in the early 80s, DeVito has 76 acting credits. During that time he's also had: 33 producing credits, 13 directing, 6 soundtracks, and 76 appearances as himself. It's fair to say he's prolific. And as long as he's able to maintain his pace, he will remain the first choice for anyone who wants someone resembling Danny DeVito.

Think about that phrase, "resembling Danny DeVito." Then consider this chestnut about the career of a movie star:

  1. Who's Brad Pitt?
  2. Get me Brad Pitt.
  3. Get me a Brad Pitt type.
  4. Get me a younger Brad Pitt.
  5. Who's Brad Pitt?

Now try to come up with a list of actors who you would describe as "a Danny DeVito type." Or "a younger Danny DeVito." I'll wait ...

Yeah, I can't come up with any, either. So it seems that, for now, the important formula is (jobs Danny is able to take)/(jobs for people resembling Danny). And for now that ratio seems to be "one." And "one" is really not at all close to "a few."

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