The Dip

Was the DaVinci Code any good?

Depends on what you mean by good.

If you read a lot of literary fiction, probably not. If you read a lot of thrillers, even then, probably not the best you’ve ever read. But if you are a marketer measuring return on investment, then sure, it was better than good. It was fantastic. One of the bestselling books of the last twenty years…

The Dip that Dan Brown got through had not a lot to do with some objective measure of the quality of his work and everything to do with good fortune, hard work, excellent timing and the power of the right ideavirus. The short version: The DaVinci Code was popular because it was popular.

The last 75% of its sales were made to people who never ever buy books. They bought it because ‘everyone else was buying it.’

I don’t believe that this is a Dip you can easily seek out or set yourself up for. But I think it’s a fascinating lesson in the power of being the best in the world. There is a pot of gold at the end of most rainbows, except most people never get there. The mistake, of course, is to believe that following the path of the person that went before is the way to get through this Dip. It doesn’t work that way when it comes to culture. Just like old jokes, what worked yesterday probably isn’t going to work tomorrow.

Pop hits work precisely because they are hits. And marketers can work hard to create an environment where the book or movie or song or restaurant they create moves through the most challenging part of the Dip… the gulf between the organic, natural audience for a product and the much bigger, hyper-excited pop audience.