Can anyone really measure the quality of any art?
The artist who gives birth to the art in a moment of sheer, unquantifiable inspiration may not like to think so. The hundreds of free thinkers sitting in a European cafe who likes to put an end to endless capitalism in this world may not like to think so. But the hundreds of people who pay a fixed amount of money in auction houses for a piece of art seems to think so. The Academy who always votes to choose a Best Motion Picture Oscar Winner every year definitely likes to think so.
This is not to debate about who is right and who is wrong; as both schools of thought have merits. The interesting observation is how the general people seem to rely more and more on some kind of quantification from an authoritative source to understand what kind of art to consume. And the even more interesting learning is when people cannot label something simplistically as black and white, right and wrong, yes and no; they generally look sideways for a solution. And that’s where word of mouth kicks in.
Nothing captures the essence of this trend than the world of movies and a little story involving two thumbs. Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert were two pioneering, dominant figures in the early days of film critics who did much to bring movie criticism mainstream. In their popular TV show by ABC-Disney called “At the Movies”, which ran from 1986 to 2010, Siskel and Ebert deployed this system called “thumbs up/thumbs down” to give their overall rating of the movie. Needless to say, “Two Thumbs Up” became the catchphrase for high-quality movies, and this trademarked phrase was used heavily by all movies in their posters, trailers, and DVD covers to promote the film, much like a “Seal of approval”.
The continuation of such quantified endorsement can still be seen in many other places in the film industry. Today audience checks the 3 most credible sources – an IMDB score (more than 7 is good), a Rottentomato score (more than 60% means “Certified Fresh” and hence good), and a Metacritic score – before deciding which movie to watch or stream.
As we get sucked into this whirlwind ride of capitalism where none has time to spend on things that we don’t like or mediocre, reliance on such kind of external, easy to grasp reviews will increase even more.
And it’s not limited to the world of movies only. For books also, we check the review scores in “Goodread” and check how much time it is spent on a best-seller list. So while the larger debate on how to judge the quality of art remains, the mass clearly has moved on and wants more simple solutions to guide them to remove subjectivity and failure from this process as much as possible.
Interestingly, what has already happened in the world of art has not really caught up in the world of commerce and for once business world is lagging behind. There have always been talks about the importance of “Word of Mouth” in business, but when it comes to generating word of mouth, calibrate them and use them in a clever way to promote business, much is still needed to be accomplished.
Maybe the brand managers should spend less time making presentations and more time going to theaters.