The French Revolution as seen through the eyes of a Marketer

I gather most of you have seen Les Miserables by now, right?

I gotta tell you, cuz, had they cast me in the role of Javert, I would have belted out one heck of a singing inspector… or constable, or whatever he was called in the 1800s.  I know I’m no Russel Crowe, but hey, I am one Andy Jenkins, movie mogul and singer extraordinaire.

See? It’s all in the marketing, really.  By now, some of you are probably wondering what this has to do with what I’m good at, or how this connects to the stuff I typically share, right?

Well, good for you that you think that way, since I aim to do all my cuzins a favor by showing that most of the stuff I share here is actually tried-and-tested. Some of it even dates back to the French Revolution as portrayed in Les Miserables.  Don’t believe me? Allow your ever humble and helpful cuzin Andy to elucidate.

The events in Les Miserables will show that marketing is, sometimes, everything.  Seriously.  Back then, a group of idealistic youngsters with burning patriotic passion thought France had had enough of the Royalty, and that it was time for a new form of government where the working class would be treated better.  Excellent idea.  Only thing was, it was done on the down low, mainly because if the authorities were to get wind of it, the revolution would be a very, very short one.  This meant that they would not be able to make use of one of the most powerful tools society has ever had: information dissemination.  They were not able to sway more to their cause because they didn’t get their message across to the people they needed.

In other words, they didn’t practice marketing.

So, what happened?

Well, they became martyrs for the cause, because they were sadly outnumbered by the authorities.  Thankfully, there was still someone there who knew a bit about marketing and used it to their best advantage.

His name was Jean Valjean, or prisoner 24601, as Javert, the cop who wouldn’t stop, was more inclined to call him.

Valjean believed in engagement. Despite his spotty past as a thief, he turned over a new leaf and helped whenever he could. For example, he tried to save the life of Fantine, the poor mother of Cosette. Then again, successfully, when he saved the life of a man named Fauchelevent.  In helping these people, he effectively created an engagement which would pay off later on, in a big way.

Engagement came from helping Fantine

Those who saw the movie, or the original musical, know the spotty circumstances of Valjean’s past. He was a man who needed a huge reason to walk the straight and narrow.  In helping Fantine, he earned the greatest incentive to turn over a new leaf: Cosette.  He became a foster father to Cosette, and an upright man because of it, eventually liberating himself from his past.

Engagement came from Fauchelevent

Fauchelevent had an accident and was trapped beneath a cart. Only Valjean was willing to help him.  Valjean lifted the cart, freeing Fauchelevent, but also endangering himself as Javert began to recognize him.  Still, because of this, Fauchelevent helped Valjean while he was on the run and needed a place to hide out.  This scene was probably the best example that any form of help, freely shared, is remembered and appreciated.

Engagement came from Javert

In one of the most surprising turns in the story, Valjean even gets help from the main antagonist himself.  A bit of a spoiler alert here. I won’t divulge much, so don’t worry.  Because of a giant favor that Valjean did for him, Javert ended up helping him become free.  Another excellent example of the power of engagement.  What’s more is that the actions of Valjean had a great effect on how Javert viewed his own life.  Again, a great example of the changing power of marketing, where Valjean displayed his actions to Javert, making Javert question his personal convictions.

Engagement came from Marius

Along the way, Valjean was a little like your cuzin Andy… extremely helpful.  He even helped a young revolutionary named Marius, who was wounded in a shootout between the very few revolutionary forces and French authorities.  In so doing, he inspired an otherwise suicidal, but patriotic, young man to seek change in a more peaceful manner, ensuring the future of Valjean’s adopted daughter, Cosette.  Oh, and he even helped look for Valjean after he left, which was no small feat during that time.

The entire point of me comparing Les Miserables to marketing and engagement is to show just how far reaching, effective, and long lasting these practices are.  What you do for your market or followers, if done well, will be remembered and appreciated. What’s more, it won’t be seen as you marketing to them, but rather you reaching out to them to help.

So, remember cuz. Grab every opportunity you can see to create engagement. It is the best form of marketing one can ever hope to do today, where competition is absolutely cut throat, and trends are almost impossible to predict.  At the end of the day, the best customers you can hope to have are those who trust you, and those whose lives you have managed to become part of.




Andy “24601″ Jenkins