How Smirnoff and Madonna Inspired the World to Dance


Co-brands between artists and celebrities are all the rage, as evidenced recently by the launch of Justin Timberlake’s relationship with Budweiser and Alicia Keys’s co-brand with Blackberry. At the Forrester Research Marketing Forum April 19, Christopher Swope of Live Nation provided a case study on how artists and brands can work together to deliver results. His discussion focused on how Madonna and Smirnoff, by tapping into shared passions such as dancing and music, generated 1.8 billion media impressions for Smirnoff and helped Madonna undertake the highest grossing tour of 2012.

As Swope pointed out, brands and musicians actually have a long history of working together, examples being Microsoft using the Rolling Stones’s “Start Me Up” to launch Windows 95 and the collaboration between Apple and U2 to cross-promote U2’s “Vertigo” with a special edition iPod. In the best cases, co-brands meet mutually defined goals, and the relationship between Smirnoff and Madonna was one such success.


The relationship began with a business challenge for Smirnoff:  accelerate consumer engagement with the Smirnoff brand on a global level.

“We wanted to find a way to accelerate the growth of the Smirnoff brand and generate engagement,” Swope said. “We wanted to take the brand to the next level and deepen engagement and participation.”

Smirnoff knew its fans are socially savvy. So for Smirnoff, building a brand was less about “let’s sponsor and put our name on it” but rather to generate engagement and deepen relationships with fans.


“When you are giving a dinner party, you worry about the right ingredients — mix of cocktails and people,” he said. “You want to create an experience that deepens relationships. That’s how to think about social.”

Continue reading

Why We Can’t Stop Talking about Steve Jobs

Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduces the new mini iPod in San Francisco in 2004

If Steve Jobs were alive today, he would be the first to tell you he was not the only person responsible for making Apple succeed. But let’s face it: Steve Jobs defined the Apple brand, a reality that has been underscored lately by grumbling among the pundits that Apple is in danger of losing its swagger and cool (examples here and here). Maybe Jobs defined Apple too well. But the reason we can’t stop talking about him today is that he transcended the Apple brand and did more than sell products. He was a market maker. I recently introduced the term market maker to describe business people who act like artists and change the world with their personal visions. Successful marketers sell things; but market makers inspire people to act, to believe, and to live their lives differently. Jobs is one of four market makers, including Ahmet Ertegun, Anita Roddick, and Guy Kawasaki, whom I profile in my recently published white paper, How to Be a Market Maker.  Jobs influenced entire industries, ranging from consumer products to music. But is he so extraordinary that everyday people cannot relate to his achievements? I think not. I believe we can adopt a little of Steve Jobs at his best by living our lives with passion no matter what we do.


Steve Jobs is the kind of market maker we might call a creator. Creators are directly involved in the development of products and services for a company. Creators have a vision for how the world should work and are bold enough to impose that vision on those around them through the products and services they develop.

By now Jobs’s life is so well known it plays like the plot of a movie we’ve all seen hundreds of times (and, of course, we’ll soon be able to see a real movie about him): his explosive early years at Apple, when his company introduced a new vision for fusing design, user experience, and computing; the exile from Apple, when he founded the revolutionary Pixar Animation; and his glorious second act as CEO of Apple, when the company completely disrupted industries ranging from music to telecommunications by introducing wave upon wave of innovative mobile devices that changed how we consume content.

Time Feb 15 1982

Throughout his storied career, Jobs, more than anyone, humanized technology. So great was his impact on popular culture, that upon his death, his image graced the covers of publications ranging from The New Yorker to Rolling Stone. Macs came along when personal computers were widely perceived as the province of a nerdy few. Apple did something that still seems astounding: turned an impersonal computing device into something warm and desirable.(My family still owns our clamshell iMac from the late 1990s — even though we don’t use it anymore, we just love having it around because with its sleek cover and aqua green finish, it looks like a piece of art.)


With the iPad, Apple essentially made a computing device a natural extension of our sense of touch. The iPhone transformed the mobile phone from a boring utility to a playful toy that we can’t do without. In fact, half of all Americans now say we sleep next to our mobile phones.


And of course Apple helped disrupt the entire music industry through iTunes and the iPod — liberating music from the limits of analog and empowering consumers to make music part of their mobile lifestyles. As Randy Lewis of the Los Angeles Times wrote, “With Apple’s iTunes and iPod, [Steve Jobs] revived the single, put music libraries in fans’ pockets and posed a challenge to brick-and-mortar record stores and radio.” Record companies, betting on the long-term success of the compact disc, failed to respond to how Apple was helping to turn consumers from album aficionados to snackers of individual digital downloads. The music industry is still trying to catch up.


Jobs’s legacy at Apple is so astonishing that it’s easy to overlook what he accomplished by founding and developing Pixar. Pixar would eventually do far more than create high-quality blockbuster entertainment. Pixar changed movie making. Pixar movies taught Hollywood how to gracefully fuse technology, humanity, and storytelling. The Pixar team created movies that somehow turned animated objects like toy cowboys into fully realized characters injected with humanity.


In doing so, Pixar made it cool for anyone to enjoy a family film: single gay male urbanites, suburban parents, children, teens too self-consciously hip for Bambi — to name but a few demographics. Pixar has touched. Pixar launched animated movies that children can enjoy again as fully-grown adults — and that adults can enjoy for the first time without children in tow. By contrast, even Disney classics like Snow White and Pinocchio are forever remembered as animated family movies that children appreciate the most.

As Brent Schlender wrote in a Fast Company recollection of Steve Jobs, Pixar upended the entire business model of animation. Although Jobs’ contributions to Pixar were more financial than creative, the company succeeded because Jobs recognized that at its core, Pixar is a content company, not a creator of computer animation.

Steve Jobs best exemplifies a trait common to all market marketers: a burning passion. Steve Jobs “put passion into products,” noted James B. Stewart in one of the many heart-felt tributes to Jobs written in the aftermath of his death in 2011. In his acclaimed biography, Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson describes the moment when unveiled iTunes to jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, who turned out to be an indifferent audience:

“Watch what it can do!” Jobs kept insisting when Marsalis’s attention would wander. “See how the interface works.” Marsalis later recalled, “I don’t care much about computers, and kept telling him so, but he goes on for two hours. He was a man possessed. After a while, I started looking at him and not the computer, because I was so fascinated with his passion.”

Isaacson also recounts the time Jobs decided to make a major overhaul to the design of the iPhone as the project neared completion, telling designer Jonathan Ive that “‘I didn’t sleep last night because I realized that I just don’t love it’ . . . Ive, to his dismay, instantly realized Jobs was right.”


In fact, Jobs expressed his passion for design in every aspect of his life. He personally supervised the construction of an old-fashioned brick factory-style building for Pixar, and according to Brent Schlender, if the colors of the custom-made bricks were not distributed evenly enough, Jobs made the bricklayers tear apart the bricks and start over. (But those exacting standards also had a down side. When people failed to live up to what he wanted, he could be brutal and insufferable, as you can read in Ben Austin’s Wired August 2012 cover piece, “Do You Really Want to Be Like Steve Jobs?”)


All the market makers profiled in this white paper demonstrate passion.

Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop, was passionate about human rights, and, in particular, women’s rights. The entire premise behind the Body Shop was selling cosmetics without sexism and eschewing the cult of youth. Guy Kawasaki is passionate about injecting enchanting values and practices in the work place — and if you’ve ever worked with him, you know he has an equally strong zeal for clear, simple communication. Ahmet Ertegun, co-founder of Atlantic Records, was so passionate about music that he sometimes lived in the studio with the artists on his label.

It doesn’t matter whether you work for a pet food store or write for a living: you can be a market maker by acting with passion.

The Musician and the Brand


This is a tale of two artists: a rock legend and a musician who has probably been off your radar screen for years. The legend wants your money. The musician wants your ear.

First, consider the musician: Boz Scaggs. Remember Boz Scaggs? You know — the guy who gave us radio-friendly hits like “Lowdown” in the 1970s? He’s not the most high-profile musician in history. Although he’s been a critic’s darling for years, he’s never been a massive star. After enjoying commercial success with hits like “Lido Shuffle” in the 1970s, he went into semi-retirement (co-owning a nightclub) before re-emerging in 1988 with a series of critically acclaimed albums. Last month, at age 68, Boz Scaggs released Memphis, a gorgeous set of soul music as good as anything he recorded when at the height of his fame in his early 30s.

Memphis has earned a positive reception, with Rolling Stone giving the album a three-and-a-half-star rating and All Music proclaiming, “This set is a stunner.” You can download Memphis from Amazon for $5, and for about $50-60 you can buy a ticket to see him in concert.

And now, the legend: the Rolling Stones, whose history is so well known that I’ll stick to the recent past. At about the time Boz Scaggs was at the height of his fame in 1976, the Stones were muddling through a creative trough before re-establishing themselves with Some Girls in 1978. The Stones continued to release new music after Some Girls, but since 2000, the band’s creative output has practically come to a halt with the exception of the album A Bigger Bang in 2005. The band’s latest album, Grrr!, consists of yet another greatest hits collection (the band’s 11th) with nothing new to offer but two songs that I’ll bet you will forget.


A download of Grrr! will set you back $22 (yes, the album contains more songs, but seriously, don’t you own these already?). You can also opt for a 5-disc super deluxe box set with some merchandise tossed in if you don’t mind paying $140. Oh, and seeing the Stones will typically cost anywhere from $150 to $600 a ticket (unless you very lucky and snag the limited-run $85 tickets), which means if you take a date, pay for parking, and indulge in some merchandise, you’re making a serious financial decision.

Two artists of the same generation: one producing vibrant new music receiving positive notice and the other resting on its laurels. But you’ll pay a heavy premium for the Stones. Why? Simple:

  • Boz Scaggs is a musician. The Rolling Stones are a brand.
  • Boz Scaggs tours to support new music. The Rolling Stones take care of business — period.
  • Boz Scaggs explores new sounds instead of coasting on his hits from yesteryear. The Rolling Stones sell living history.

Has Boz Scaggs ever recorded anything as breathtaking as the best music the Stones created during their glory years? No. There’s just no comparing their legacies. But Boz Scaggs is creating great new music that stands up to any soul and R&B on the market today. The Stones are not.

You can really sense the difference between the two artists in the way they talk about their music now. Check out Scaggs’s interview with Mike Ragogna of The Huffington Post, which is an informative examination of his music — his influences, how he chooses material, and how he records. Now read Mick Jagger’s conversation with Greg Kot of The Chicago Tribune, which is all about the business of touring, including the cost of tickets. On the topic of recording new music, the best Jagger can offer is, “I have a lot of songs and I’d love to do some more recording with the band. But we’re going to get through the tour first and then see what happens.”

If you want to see living legends, enjoy the Rolling Stones if you have the budget. The band puts on an excellent show. My wife and I would have wanted to give our 11-year-old daughter a chance to see them had we been able to afford the tickets (which we can’t). But if you have $5 to spare, please reward the musician.

Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon”: How an Album Cover Became an Icon

Pink Floyd would have been a perfect match for the visually oriented era of Pinterest and Tumblr had the band emerged today.

At the height of Pink Floyd’s popularity in the 1970s, the Floyd’s visually arresting album covers and iconography complemented the artistry of the its music and generated buzz that would make the Word of Mouth Marketing Association proud. Nowhere is the power of Pink Floyd’s visual appeal more apparent than the cover for the album The Dark Side of the Moon, released 40 years ago in March. The Dark Side of the Moon is not only one of the greatest albums ever made, its cover became an visual icon for Pink Floyd itself — a quiet, mysterious team of four musicians who let their music and visual stories speak for them. For its ability to create mystery and intrigue for four decades, The Dark Side of the Moon joins my hall of fame of memorable album covers.


The Dark Side of the Moon cover art created intrigue when the album landed in record stores in March 1973. At the time, Pink Floyd was on the cusp of becoming a mainstream success with a growing fan base. The cover, depicting white light passing through a prism to form the bright colors of the spectrum against a stunning black field, invited listeners to Continue reading

Four Lessons from “Harlem Shake”

Now that “Harlem Shake” fever has finally subsided, I think it’s instructive to ask what lessons are to be learned from the wildly popular song that created a cultural sensation. Was “Harlem Shake” just a fluke? Can its success be duplicated by someone else? As we’ve seen with just about every viral phenomenon, there is no sure-fire formula for success. But I believe “Harlem Shake” does show what can happen when an artist creates engaging content that taps into essential human wants and needs, such as our joy of dancing and social sharing.

1. There Are No Overnight Successes

The history of “Harlem Shake” is as intriguing as the phenomenon the song unleashed. For instance, did you know “Harlem Shake” had been a riding a tide of success for nearly a year before it exploded across the world?

Indeed, “Harlem Shake” began as a song recorded by American DJ Baauer and released for free by Mad Decent nearly one year ago.


Baauer never created a video for the song nor encouraged anyone to do so. The 23-year-old Baauer posted the song itself online in 2012 “just to show people.” Throughout 2012, though, without the benefit of video airplay, the song gained a popular following in the dance world. Scottish DJ Rustie featured the song for BBC Radio 1 a year ago. Diplo and Skrillex played the song in their concerts. Through months of hard work and PR representation, Baauer was creating a steady success. Of course, in February 2013, when fan-created 30-second videos of “Harlem Shake” exploded across YouTube, the song became the Internet meme we all know today, literally all over the world — which is how “Harlem Shake” immediately became more than a dance hit.

Continue reading