Guest post: Chris Matyszczyk considers Mark Cuban's dancing skills and his significance in the tech world, a place where marketing most often lacks the "human" touch.
Next Monday, he will be performing the Paso Doble or the Viennese Waltz. With his teeth.
And, if the relationship between the tech world and real human beings is something that interests you, then you should share his pain, grab your tipple of choice and cheer him on until the neighbors come to your house or call the police. Or both.
You should then put aside your misplaced pride (you’ll find it in the NERD folder on your laptop) pick up your cell phone and vote for him as many times as your knowledge of your extended family and their dexterity with texting will allow.
I am talking about a significant moment in the history of the tech business.
Dismiss me if you will (you’re a killjoy halfwit if you do), but if you asked a real human being who, in their opinion, epitomizes sport, they might say Tiger Woods. Fashion? Giorgio Armani. And if you asked them who epitomizes the tech world, they might come up with the names Gates or Jobs. They might. But they would more probably say: “ Men who wear glasses.”
This might seem as unjust as it seems trivial. Until you sit in a meeting, as I have, with those who have any number of great ideas about tech and not one clue about how to form a relationship with people who might buy those ideas.
People are not predictable. They are not consistent. They are, as Sydney Pollack’s character in the movie “Michael Clayton” says: “Incomprehensible.”
This is where Mr. Cuban’s appearance, performance and perseverance on a TV ballroom dance show might just be a significant event for the tech world.
It’s true to say that he dances about as well as the Cincinnati Bengals stay out of jail. But he seems like a human being. Someone with a childlike, almost absurd enthusiasm. Someone who is prepared to make a fool of himself in order to conquer something that, in his heart, he has as much chance of mastering as George Steinbrenner has of mastering man-management. Someone who has created a wonderful soap-opera storyline with the scar on his left buttock that covers his newly-installed hip.
For too long, the tech world has stuck to gizmodification as its core strategy.
“Hey, people. Look at this cool new machine that does, er, cool new things.”
It has never seemed to sufficiently respect that its most important and potent icon ought not to be a thing, but a person. The aviation world, for example, has Richard Branson. He makes you believe it’s fun to fly. He’ll even give you a massage while you do. And he makes competing brands look like cattle trucks.
Where is his tech equivalent? Where is the man or woman who will make you feel the newest gizmo is both fun and human even before you actually hold the gizmo and press all its buttons?
A few years ago, Cuban made himself popular by criticizing some of the deep-seated, pants-pleated conservatism of the NBA. This was after he had made sure his Dallas Mavericks players were treated better than anyone else in the League. He helped create a team that played maddeningly open basketball. Indeed, his maddening openness and honesty can be at times so comic, so utterly without guile, that you wish you were in his fat man’s jeans and less than clean basketball boots.
I wouldn’t wish his haircut on anyone. But I would wish his sense of humanity on every single employee in the world of tech.
Cuban understands the enjoyment of life, the need to reach out to those who may not be in love with your product. Those who may still, whether you like it or not, actually look at your product with a soupcon of trepidation.
In a world where tech constantly struggles to make itself be seen as anything other than the slightly dull boy who has all the right answers and only gets kissed by women he pays (and then not always), how can one not appreciate a man who goes on TV wearing sleeveless black shirts last worn by Gene Pitney. Or was it Bobby Darin?
I have never met Mr. Cuban. But I will be voting for him on Monday night. You should too. Think of it as a excellent business move.
Chris Matyszczyk has spent most of his career as an award-winning creative director in the advertising industry. He advises major global companies on marketing and creativity. Chris has also been a journalist, covering the Olympics, SuperBowl and other sporting events. He brings a non-techie's perspective to the tech world and a sharp wit to the rest of the world. Check out his "Pond Culture" blog.