Lessons From a Flash Mob

Hallelujah! I sang in a flash mob this holiday season. It was a blast, but more mob than flash.

Organized by Nordstrom and the LA Master Chorale, it was a fun outing for 300 singers in the LA area and their friends who gathered for the experience. It was a surprise only for a few who were trying to finish their Christmas shopping on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

It’s hard to slip 300 people into a mid-sized department store, or ask them to keep a secret. But was it really supposed to be a secret? Didn’t Nordstrom want more people to show up?

It’s a secret?
A couple days before, we got an e-mail saying no posting on Facebook or Twitter or the secret would be out. By then I’d already told many friends, but had resisted the temptation to post it.

To me, part of the PR value was getting people into the store for the experience. Why not be at the Santa Anita Mall Nordstrom for your Christmas shopping instead of some other store or some other mall? That, of course, is also what made it more mob than flash. A half hour before, people were standing around the piano, waiting.

We lack speed.
A bit of flash was also lost in the post-event viral seeding. Speed vs quality is always a challenge in this digital age. For high-level brands like the Master Chorale and Nordstrom, quality matters. But if you’re going to use a viral-event tactic, so does speed. It’s a challenge, just like blogging.

We sang on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

A friend of mine posted the unofficial video on Facebook 13 hours later, created by someone who likes to make videos, I guess.

I got the link to the official Master Chorale video on Monday.

One clearly represents both Nordstrom and the Master Chorale better. It’s impossible to beat smart-phone video, which is posted almost instantly, but that doesn’t have the likelihood of going viral for an event like this.

Here’s the official video, posted 48 hours after the event:

Here’s the unofficial video, posted the same day as the event:

The definitive Hallelujah Chorus brand example is the Philadelphia Opera Chorus. Most likely, you’ve already seen this one:

At any rate, I now have the Hallelujah Chorus memorized, including the tricky bits that I never before sang correctly. This came in handy the following night when I sang it three times at Disney Hall. For this rendition, I was with 2,000 other people at the annual Messiah Sing-Along.

More than 250 years since its premiere, and people are still performing Handel’s Messiah. You can’t really go entirely wrong with a masterpiece.