How the best marketing changes the way people see things


Many of us know the name of one of the 20th Century’s greatest composers. Most would even recognize his popular pieces. What we may not realize is that some of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s most famous works we’re not even his own.


The name is not as familiar, but Niccolo Paganini was an early 19th Century Italian violinist. The most celebrated virtuoso of his time, building the pillars of what we know today as modern violin technique.

Paganini was known for his imaginative compositions that expanded the timbre of the classical instruments. He could use violins to mimic the sound of other instruments and even farm animals as in his famous Il Fandango Spanolo(The Spanish Dance). Other prominent composers often referred to Paganini as a phenomenon since he had exceptionally long fingers and was capable of playing three octaves across four strings in a hand span.

Probably his most famous and well known composition was his 24 Caprices for Solo Violin written between 1802 and 1817. Each caprice or “piece of music” being an study on varying violin technical skills. Some of the most fiendishly difficult in all violin literature earning him the nickname “Devil’s Violinist.”

Here is the original Caprice №24 by Paganini. Take a listen. It’s only 4:26 but hang with it for at least a minute or so.

A well known piece that most of us recognize immediately. It is widely considered one of the most difficult pieces ever written for the solo violin. It requires many highly advanced techniques such as parallel octaves and rapid shifting covering many intervals, extremely fast scales and arpeggios including minor scales in thirds and tenths, left hand pizzicato, high positions, and quick string crossing. Things I know nothing about, but you can appreciate the complexity just from listening.

Back to Rachmaninoff. He was a natural pianist, but approached music more as a composer. He was a noted interpreter, often taking the work of others and creating variations of their well known compositions.

“Interpretation demands creative instinct,” Rachmaninoff would say.

“You can give their works color. That is the most important thing for me in my interpretations, color. So you make music live. Without color it is dead.”

Rachmaninoff was Russian born, but found himself part of the late-Romantic period of music composition. He lived and breathed melody. His work was described as nostalgic, melancholy, and emotionally introverted.

Paganini’s Caprice №24 in particular stuck out to him. During the summer of 1934, towards the end of his life at his villa home on Lake Lucerne in Switzerland he composed 24 variations of Caprice №24. It would come to be known as Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini’s and go on to be one of Rachmaninoff’s most famous works — essentially someone else’s tune.

Of all the variations, the eighteenth is by far the most well-known and is often included on classical music compilations without the rest of the work. It is based on an inversion of the melody. The A minor in Paganini’s theme is played in D flat major.

In other words, Rachmaninoff turned it “upside down.”


He literally took the music, turned it upside down and then played it.

Unreal right?

Listen to Rachmaninoff’s eighteenth variation (upside down version) of Caprice №24:

Almost the complete opposite. Where Paganini is driving and technical, Rachmaninoff is melodic and soothing. Paganini, devilish in tone. Rachmaninoff, angelic.

All from turning the music… UPSIDE DOWN.

I’ve always believed that the best marketing changes the way people see things. It takes something that has always been there and turns it in a way that makes it fresh, interesting and approachable again. Perhaps it takes judgements and attitudes and allows them to be softened or influenced.

“I know you think X is like this, but (turn it upside down) really it’s like this.”

Rachmaninoff took a classic piece that had always been there and turned it UPSIDE DOWN. He took the preconceptions people had of Paganini and his work and created something completely different that connected with a 20th Century audience in a new way.

Dentistry has always been here — that’s nothing new. The best marketing takes what’s always been in front of us and turns it UPSIDE DOWN.

Something that’s needling and sharp now becomes beautiful. Something that may have been painful and uncomfortable now becomes relaxing. Something that’s created anxiety and fear becomes a path towards lifelong health.

The best dental marketing takes the stereotypes and attitudes about dentistry and turns it upside down creating a message that connects in 2016 with its audience in a fresh way.

Most people today will point to Variation №18 as the piece that most typifies Rachmaninoff. He himself recognized the appeal of this variation and sensing it would become a commercial hit, said “This one, is for my agent.” He knew he had created something special that would get attention.

Let’s create dental marketing that’s special and gets attention.

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