More Than an Earworm: Three Lessons From “Let it Go”

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As parents of a 5-year-old girl, my wife and I weren’t surprised when “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen won the Oscar for Best Original Song. If we still bought music on vinyl, my daughter would have worn a groove in the “Let It Go” record weeks ago. I hear it about 15 times a day. My wife hears it even more. Parental sanity aside, as a piece of “content,” this song is a blockbuster.

With one song, Disney made a real connection with my daughter, and countless others. As a technologist, I tend to think a lot about how organizations are “going digital” to deliver a great customer experience, a great product, and a great brand. But there are three lessons from the impact of “Let it Go” that point to truths that go beyond the how and why of digitization. The speed and connectivity of the digital world just makes them more essential.

  • Everyone loves a good story. The song “Let It Go” is essential to the story of Frozen. Musical theater people often refer to this as an “I Wish…” or an “I am…” song: a song where a character reveals who they are and what they want to the audience, the world and themselves. “Let It Go” is a turning point for Elsa, one of Frozen’s heroines. The song propels her story forward. And as humans we are wired to connect with and remember great stories. Great brands tell great stories—and then make their customers a part of those stories.
  • The most powerful connections are emotional. My daughter couldn’t tell you why she likes this song so much. I doubt her friends could either. They just like the way they feel when they sing along. Great brands and great customer experiences create this kind of bond with their customer. They do so by making things easy, by thinking beyond a single transaction, by bringing joy to their customer’s lives. 
  • Customers want you to be genuine. Disney released two versions of “Let It Go.” The second was by Demi Lovato, an established Disney Channel star with a history of pop hits. But the movie version, sung by Broadway veteran Idina Menzel, was the big hit. No surprise, since not only was Menzel’s version more tightly coupled to the emotion and story of the film, but it was also more alive. Audiences connected with the soaring, powerful, natural vocal more than the breathy, engineered, poppy one. Great companies let the personality of their brand and their customer-facing employees shine through. Technology should empower engagement, not build a wall between people.

Is this too much to read into a song from a cartoon? Maybe, but my daughter will probably listen to it again tonight. And tomorrow. That devotion is about more than a devilishly sing-able tune. It’s about a story well told, an emotional bond made and a genuine human connection established.


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