In what sounds like the opening line of a joke, one has to ask: “Which is harder to accomplish – flying to the moon and back, or putting on a Woodstock 50thAnniversary concert?

Incredibly, while The Eaglelanded on the moon, “Woodstock 50” failed to get off the ground.

Plenty of finger-pointing and paperwork filed in court, but no “Peace Love & Music.”

A missed opportunity to “reinforce the values of compassion, human dignity, and the beauty of our differences embraced by Woodstock,” said Michael Lang, a cofounder of the original three-day concert near Bethel, NY.

It’s interesting to reexamine Tranquility Base vs. “An Aquarian Exposition.”

Back in 1969, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were in a 21-day quarantine, in case they brought back a “lunar virus” to earth.

Meanwhile, Woodstock was going viral.

August 15, 1969.  The social platforms and digital spaces that marketers and brands use to connect people didn’t exist.  No Internet. No cellphones.  

Oddly, the primordial soup of a viral campaign managed to emerge from the mud and muck of Woodstock’s rain-soaked grounds without any of the accoutrements of today’s digital world.

So how in the heck did Woodstock go viral? Because the basics of passing along content (or a message) simply boils down to people sharing original content that connects with them on an emotional level.

Sounds like a Creative Brief from 2019, doesn’t it?

All it takes is engaging with that coveted demographic (18-24 year olds).  It helps that they keenly feel passionately about social and political ideals.  

But whether it’s today, or 50-years ago, brilliant plans still soar, and poorly executed plans still crater.

So why did “Woodstock 50” fail to achieve lift-off?  The original was organic, human, genuine, and compelling.  The ersatz re-boot was seen as corporate and manufactured.  Even the original investor said it wouldn’t be “an event worthy of the Woodstock Brand name.”  When trust is in question, the show is over.

Authenticity means honesty, and it’s the key to customer engagement.  Your audience can spot a phony message or a brand attempting to cash in on a trend, from a mile away.  Joe Cocker had the right idea back in 1969.  Gotta stay relevant, and keep it real, if you want to go viral . . . with a little help from my friends.

Mark Smith is the Chief Creative Officer and Chief Storyteller for Upstream 360, as well as the father of a teenage daughter.  He stays motivated by the twin powers of doubt and insecurity, while his approach to the work is making it legitimately interesting, shareable, and something people can connect with. 

Mark is also an author of the book Innovation Myths and Mythstakes, available in hardcover, paperback, Kindle and coming soon on Audible.