What the Marketing World Can Learn from John Travolta’s Oscars Fail

Hey, John, we’re still wondering… who’s Adele Dazeem?

In case you didn’t see it, here’s John Travolta’s epic pronunciation fail at Sunday night’s 2014 Academy Awards ceremony.

Image courtesy of popsugar.com.
Image courtesy of popsugar.com.

And in case you didn’t know better, here’s the actual name of the “Let it Go” performer, who also happens to be a Tony award-winning Broadway actress and somewhat recent Hollywood star.

But here’s the thing: we’ve all had tremendously embarrassing moments like this, whether we realize it or not. The key is to not let these moments cross over into our professional worlds (again, sorry ’bout that, Travolta), but of course, that’s easier said than done. So, how can we, as marketers, entrepreneurs, and innovators learn from this blunderful moment in Oscars history?

1. Have a clear vision of the client’s wants and needs.

What happened on Sunday night was that Travolta had no idea who Menzel was, which makes us wonder… Did he not even go to a rehearsal, or what? How was he completely unfamiliar with the songstress’ name? How had he not even heard her name before that night? And if he had heard her name, why could he not remember how to pronounce it? But even if he hadn’t remembered her name, there was a teleprompter right in front of his face. A simple pair of glasses could have made all the difference.

All that to say… just a few minutes of research and preparation would have aided Travolta in delivering a proper introduction. As business owners, content developers, and experts in our fields, we have to ask, how was this scenario even remotely possible? In our field, we have to know what we’re about; we have to know what other companies are doing; and we have to know how the tech world is expanding, in order to avoid fatal flubs like this one.

And here’s something else: Menzel was visibly effected by the verbal snafu. Theatre geeks and Broadway buffs know Idina as Elphaba, the Tony award-winning actress, Glee mom of Rachel Berry, and originator of many lovable and memorable roles — MaureenElphaba, and now Elsa. Realizing you’re not as known as you think you are can be a huge confidence jolt, no matter who you are. The characteristically earth-shaking, mountain-moving Menzel was off her game, her voice strained and, at the end of the number, audibly cracking. In other words, Menzel biffed it at the Oscars. She biffed it hard. And she may not have if Travolta had done his job well (or just done it at all).

Be informed, and be prepared. That’s all. Travolta had one job at Sunday’s Academy Awards — introduce Idina Menzel. Idina Menzel. Uh-dee-nuh Men-zell. Take care of her introduction. Simple, right? Evidently not. A quick Google search would have saved him a lot of brain-ache.

2. Know what you’re about. 

Travolta had no idea that the world would call him on his egregious error, because it wasn’t obvious to him. He may have thought, “No one will notice as I trail off the end of my words and pull back from the mic to look behind me as the performance begins…” Such is the error of many agencies who are under the misconception that what they don’t know, others must not know, either. Wrong. Read up on your client, keep abreast with their wants and needs, and avoid making yourself look like an imbecile.

3. Know your audience.

Again, if Travolta had done a bit of research, he would have learned that the Oscars viewership is becoming increasingly comprised of Broadway- and Hollywood-knowledgable, educated film and theatre people — all of which know who Idina Menzel is (or at least know how to pronounce her name). The bit could have been much more impactful if the introduction had been done right. Instead, people were distracted from the performance because they were tweeting about Travolta’s lingual lapse.

Menzel's voice audibly cracked at Sunday's Oscars. She may have 'let it go' a little too much.
Menzel’s voice audibly cracked at Sunday’s Oscars. She may have ‘let it go’ just a little too much. Photo courtesy of justjared.com.

So, what’s the moral of the story, friends? Let’s learn a metaphoric lesson from Mr. John Travolta.

1. Have a clear vision of the client’s wants and needs. If you need glasses to see the teleprompter, then for Pete’s sake, GET GLASSES.
2. Know what you’re about. YOU’RE JOHN TRAVOLTA. You’ve been in Hollywood for four decades and are one of the most recognizable faces of our time (minus the hair plugs). You should probably know who you’re sharing the Oscars stage with. Know your business.
3. Know your audience. If you don’t think people will call you on your bull, think again. You need to be on top of your game, so do whatever it takes to get there. Be smart about it. Be informed. Be prepared.

Keep this in mind next time you and your business set out on a new venture. And remember, wearing glasses won’t make you look dumb — not knowing your stuff will.

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