Is Kanye West a Genius?

My greatest pain in life is that I’ll never be able to see myself perform live,” Kanye West, the genius?

Out of context, most people jump to the conclusion that this is an arrogant, egotistical thing to say. Assuming that Kanye is asserting that he is the greatest performer alive and therefore he’s missing out on sharing this experience with his fans… Now, I don’t know the context of this statement. But, I also don’t really care. Because, out of context, this is a moment of brilliant thought; humbly admitting that he may never be able to truly fulfill his potential.

Sure, you may be thinking that it’s a stretch to conclude there is a connotation of humility accompanying this statement. But, think about it. Kanye West will never know what it feels like to be a fan of Kanye West. He will never know what it’s like to get a group of friends together to commit to going to a Kanye performance. He will never know what it’s like to make sure he’s online and ready to check out as soon as tickets go on sale. He won’t know the anticipation of waiting for the tickets to arrive in the mail and the anticipation of waiting for the day of the performance to arrive. He won’t know what his pre-show ritual would have been before the show and he will never know what it’s like to have all of that anticipation build and build until Kanye West steps foot on that stage and the crowd goes wild. And most importantly, he will never know whether or not Kanye West put on a mind-blowing performance. Did he just meet expectations, or did he go above and beyond? Kanye West will never know.

I know what you’re thinking, “Yeah, but he has a production team there to help him exceed expectations.” Well, the problem with that is that his team has the same problem as Kanye. They will never know what it’s like to watch that performance as someone other than a member of the production crew. This inserts a bias that differs from that of the fan. You’re right though, the team can step outside of their bias and witness the moment. None the less, Kanye the performer and entertainer will never be able to really understand the emotional impact he has on a fan.

If you’re an entrepreneur or a marketer, you need to think more like Kanye. Your opinion really doesn’t mean shit. Your customer’s opinion matters. You need to withdraw from the ego you’ve created and try to see your offering from the perspective of your customer. Obviously, there is a large spectrum of differing preferences, opinions, and demographics. Your job is to discover the commonalities that are consistent in the largest pool of your potential customer base and cater to their needs, desires and wants. This is simple segmentation… But many times segmentation can result in an attitude of “my way or the highway.” This is a recipe for failure. You are but one person and your job as a marketer is to serve the many. You cannot – should not – disregard the spectrum of possibilities.

The spectrum that people label as Kanye West spans from delusion to genius. All too often do I hear – and this is especially true in the craft CPG industries – small business owners and marketers taking the perspective of the delusional Kanye. The delusion is that your product is best because you say so. The genius is that you should always push to understand your customer better. Here we find genius in Kanye West. Remember this quote as inspiration: “Your biggest pain point is that you will never be your customer.” Stop making decisions based on your bias. Make decisions that put the customer first.