“UNCOLLECTABLE” Shines Spotlight on Middle Eastern Indie Music

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+Aziz seeks to do for Middle Eastern indie music what the Velvet Underground did for rock and roll: create performance art. On June 21-22 at New York’s Hotel Particulier, +Aziz and a group of musicians will draw upon music, ambient sounds, and theater to take his audience on a journey through Middle Eastern culture. In doing so, they’ll share in a tradition established by artists such as the Velvets, Laurie Anderson, Brian Eno, and Peter Gabriel: daring an audience instead of entertaining them.

In fact, the Kuwaiti songwriter and indie musician revels in the prospect of liberating music from what he perceives to be the strictures of entertainment. He rejects music glorified on mainstream Arab media, which he derisively refers to as “plastic surgery pop.” Instead, he seeks to synthesize natural sounds with music and cultural flourishes from the Middle East, such as the use of incense to enrich a performance. He will also perform three songs in Arabic (and provide translations). Also, catering will be provided by taïm, a falafel food truck.

The performance, titled UNCOLLECTABLE, is part of a larger project developed by +Aziz alongside ArteEast, an arts nonprofit focusing on contemporary Middle Eastern art. Those interested in a discussion of Middle Eastern sound art can find a published eMagazine on ArteEast’s website.  Part Two consists of the June performance. And then Part Three will consist of an art exhibit from June 20-July 10 at Hotel Particulier in Soho.

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+Aziz will draw upon his passion for music and cultural trend spotting (he works at brand strategy firm FATHOM + HATCH and is a regular contributor to PSFK) to fulfill his vision for synthesizing culture and music.

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Guy Kawasaki: The Catalyst for Good

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Many of us think of Guy Kawasaki as the master of evangelism marketing, but he actually answers to a higher calling: to inspire you and me to be better people. Guy Kawasaki is what I call a market maker. Market makers are not satisfied with simply selling products and services more effectively. They think like artists and aspire to change the way people think, act, and believe.

Guy Kawasaki influenced others by teaching everyday people how to become marketers. And now he’s emerged as a Stephen Covey for the digital era by showing us how your personal values influence your professional success. Today’s re-introduction of Guy Kawasaki completes a recently launched blog series that profiles four famous market makers (including Steve Jobs, Body Shop Founder Anita Roddick, and Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun) who formed the foundation of my recently published point of view, How to Be a Market Maker. I hope you are inspired to act like a market maker, too.

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If you’ve ever Liked a Facebook page to support a brand, contributed to a program like My Starbucks Idea, or given a shout-out to your favorite restaurant on Yelp out of your sheer love for the place, you’re practicing the kind of consumer evangelism that Kawasaki helped popularize.

Kawasaki cut his teeth in the business world at a jewelry company “counting diamonds and schlepping gold jewelry around the world,” as he told the New York Times. In the jewelry industry, he learned how to sell and “how to take care of your customers.” He would really make his mark from 1983 to 1987 when he joined Apple as a software evangelist for the Macintosh computer, a role that entailed him convincing companies to write software for Mac products and to convince others to start using Macs.

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His mandate from Steve Jobs was, “Get me the best collection of software in the personal computer business,” as he would write in Selling the Dream: How to Promote Your Product, Company, or Ideas — and Make a Difference — Using Everyday Evangelism in 1991. After Apple introduced the Macintosh via an iconic Super Bowl ad in January 1984, “Initially many people condemned Macintosh and Apple as losers,” he wrote. “Macintosh didn’t have software. It was cute and easy to use but flaccid. It was a joke computer from a joke company.” Kawasaki’s job (and that of the evangelists who preceded him) was to popularize the Macintosh. Here’s how he did it:

The software evangelists did more than convince developers to write Macintosh software. They sold the Macintosh Dream. The software developers who bought into the Dream (and only some did) created products that changed Macintosh’s principal weakness — a lack of software — into its greatest strength — the best collection of software for any personal computer.

When IBM attempted to unseat Apple with its PCjr personal computer, IBM failed miserably.  According to Kawasaki, IBM failed because it sold a product, whereas Apple “evangelized a dream of improving people’s productivity and creativity.”

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Kawasaki is the first to tell you that he did not create the title of marketing evangelist. (The title existed before he joined Apple.) But he certainly defined evangelism through practical application, and in doing so he learned the difference between evangelism and sales. He would later make the distinction this way: “Sales is rooted in what’s good for me. Evangelism is rooted in what’s good for you.” And Apple’s success, rooted in a loyal following among passionate user groups, was a testament to his work.

Kawasaki became a public figure after he started teaching others about the art of evangelism by speaking, and writing best-selling books such as the aforementioned Selling the Dream, in which he put a stake in the ground by defining evangelism in ambitious terms:

Evangelism is the process of convincing people to believe in your product or idea as much as you do. It means selling your dream by using fervor, zeal, guts, and cunning.

He was an early adopter of digital, using his popular blog, How to Change the World, as a launching pad to build a brand via social media.

Throughout his career, Kawasaki has epitomized the role of idea curator. As a founding member of Garage Ventures, he’s seeded start-ups. He launched Alltop, an online newsstand that curates best social media and news on the web. If idea curators are “the new superheros of the Web” in the words of Fast Company, then surely he’s the first of the great superheroes. Here’s how he describes his role in his ebook, What the Plus: Google+ for the Rest of Us:

By necessity I became a curator, which means that I find good stuff and point people to it. Curating is a valuable skill because there is an abundance of good content but many people don’t have the time to find it. The best curators find things before anyone else does.

He applies what he calls “the NPR model” when he acts as curator. “My role is to curate good stories that entertain, enlighten, and inspire people 365 days a year,” he writes in a May 13 guest blog post for HubSpot (a post that demonstrates Kawasaki’s astonishing penchant for helping people by sharing valuable information and asking nothing in return). “My goal is to earn the right to promote my books, companies, or causes to them just as NPR earns the right to run fundraising telethons from time to time.”

This is not to say that as a curator, Kawasaki lacks a personal vision. In his book Enchantment, he articulates a clear vision for how marketers can build enduring relationships through our personal values and behavior. As I wrote when I reviewed Enchantment in 2011, Kawasaki wants marketers and entrepreneurs to aspire for something more ambitious: changing the world one person at a time through behavioral attributes such as trustworthiness and likability. In other words, being an evangelist starts with building personal trust and treating other people with respect. Focus on values and the great marketing and communication skills will follow. For instance, communicating with clarity and brevity is not just good marketing but also reflects deeper values of respecting other people and their time.

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In Enchantment he writes, “This book is for people who see life for what it can be rather than what it can’t. They are bringing to market a cause – that is, a product, service, organization, or idea – that can make the world a better place. They realize that in a world of mass media, social media, and advertising media, it takes more than instant, shallow, and temporary relationships to get the job done.”

Kawasaki’s appeal to personal behavior influences his two most recent books What the Plus and APE: How to Publish a Book.

What the Plus is ostensibly an in-depth look at the Google Plus social media platform, and to be sure, the book offers plenty of practical tips about utilizing the social media platform for sharing content, especially through visual storytelling. But when you read What the Plus carefully, you find a manifesto for acting with good behavior in the digital world revealing itself.  For instance, repeatedly, Kawasaki urges people to treat their social sites as their homes and respect the sites of others as well.

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“Stay positive. Stay uplifting. Or stay silent,” he writes. Don’t act like a troll when you comment on someone else’s social space. And don’t tolerate jerky behavior on yours, either. “Remember: you’re a guest in someone’s home,” he writes. “Show some class.”

Elsewhere he asserts, “Your posts are like your swimming pool. You can do anything that you want. If you don’t like profanity, delete. If you don’t like bigotry, delete. If you don’t like sexism, delete. The goal is building and maintaining an enchanting presence – not exemplifying free speech.”

APE, published in December 2012, is a guide to self-publishing, and as you might expect, the book contains in-depth tips for how to write, edit, design, and market a book. But whereas some pundits might focus on the mechanics of self-publishing and marketing, Kawasaki also discusses the importance of an author’s personal behavior as a factor in helping a book succeed. In a chapter that describes how to build a personal brand, he and co-author Shawn Welch write, “Likeability is the second pillar of a personal brand. Jerks seldom build great brands.”

He goes on to write, “If you want people to like you, you have to like them first. This means accepting people no matter their race, creed, net worth, religion, gender, politics, sexual orientation, or your perception of their level of intelligence. It means not imposing your values on others.”

And true to his role as catalyst, he has launched a Google+ community, APE, for writers to share best practices and ideas for becoming successful publishers and entrepreneurs. So far the APE community has 2,200 members who have agreed to live by the rules of the road: help members learn how to write, publish, and market a book. Promoting your own services and book will earn you a ban from the community.

Kawasaki is like a Trojan Horse: you read his ideas expecting to become a better marketer, and then he slips in thoughtful advice about how to be a better person — typically by sharing and being gracious. He does so with credibility because he links personal likeability and values to successful marketing.

My research into the lives of market makers like Guy Kawasaki reveals that these extraordinary people are willing to take risks, surround themselves with talent, possess passion in abundance, and live full, eclectic lives. Guy Kawasaki definitely exemplifies the trait of surrounding oneself with talent. Consider Enchantment: in each chapter, he invites guest authors to provide their own personal stories of enchanted marketing, which makes his book more collaborative and genuine. Similarly, What the Plus! relies on guest authors for some key chapters.

And according to his HubSpot guest post, he takes the same collaborative approach managing his social spaces. For instance, Peg Fitzpatrick manages his Pinterest page. Why? “There are two reasons,” he writes. “First, I don’t have enough time to do a good job with more than three services (my priority, in order, is Google+, then Twitter, then Facebook). Second, I don’t have Peg’s magic sauce to manage Pinterest as well as the Pinterest community deserves. Part of doing social media well is knowing what you don’t know and what you can’t do well, and then finding someone who does.”

Similarly, Steve Jobs was surrounded by enormous talent, people who became famous in their own right — superstars like John Lasseter at Pixar, Jonathan Ive at Apple, and Guy Kawasaki himself. Atlantic Records succeeded not because of Ahmet Ertegun alone, but because of Ertegun and visionaries like Jerry Wexler, Tom Dowd, and Herb Abramson. Anita Roddick might have been the face of the Body Shop, but the brand would not have succeeded without the talents of its anonymous network of franchise operators.

His approach of collaborating with others and inspiring us to become better people is rubbing off on other prominent leaders. Porter Gale, the former CMO of Virgin America and now a thought leader and marketing consultant, embraces the ethos of Enchantment in her new book, Your Network Is Your Net Worth. As I wrote in a May 13 post, Gale’s book argues the case for building networks with other people to enrich the world, not to be a career opportunist.

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“A key to unlocking the hidden power of connections is helping others when you don’t expect anything in return,” she writes, using words that would do Kawasaki proud (he contributes a foreword to the book). Your Network Is Your Net Worth, being published on June 4, relies on several examples of successful people who build their happiness quotient — for themselves and for others — by giving.

By celebrating and promoting the talents of those around him, Guy Kawasaki is an evangelist in more ways than one.

Porter Gale’s “Your Network Is Your Net Worth”: A Manifesto for Succeeding by Sharing

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Sharing is the new like.

That’s the ethos of Porter Gale’s Your Networking Is Your Net Worth, a new book that guides you through the world of networking in the digital age, where relationships can be launched in seconds on Twitter and then cultivated in a high-tech co-working space like Grind, one of the many innovative locations that provide a space for people to work and expand their network. Available June 4, Your Network Is Your Net Worth has been described as an update to Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. But Porter Gale has more in common with Stephen Covey than Dale Carnegie. Like Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and Guy Kawasaki’s Enchantment, Your Network Is Your Net Worth argues the case for achieving success by living your life selflessly.

Your Network Is Your Net Worth is not about being a better marketer or building a successful career. Your Network Is Your Net Worth is a manifesto for 21st Century living. Follow the principles of building authentic, personal Continue reading

The Innovative Sound of AM & Shawn Lee

The rock and pop music industry is alive and well. The business of music as we once knew it might be dead, but musicians continue to thrive and innovate — if you’ll let them. Case in point: today AM & Shawn Lee released La Musique Numerique, a striking blend of rock and electronica that received a four-star (out of five) rating on Allmusic. Their new single (“Two Times”) and video were featured USA Today, which describes La Musique Numerique as “a blissful experience from start to finish.” I met AM at a concert in 2010, and we ended up creating an innovative co-branding relationship for AM and agency Razorfish, where I was vice president of marketing at the time. I’ve maintained a relationship with AM in my current role as senior vice president of marketing at iCrossing. I continue to be impressed not only by his music but by how he works. For instance, as Billboard and Mashable have noted, AM & Shawn Lee typically build tracks by sharing their music online across multiple studios (AM is based in Los Angeles; Lee in London) without collaborating face to face. Moreover, they boldly combine retro moog-synth sounds with contemporary dance and rock.
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So here’s my challenge: check them out. Give them a fair listen. If you don’t like them on first listen, try them again — remember, sometimes your ears need time to get accustomed to fresh music. See them on tour (here’s where you can find them — and you won’t need to fork over hundreds of dollars to experience their music as you would with the Rolling Stones). Their future is in your hands.

The Art of Co-Branding

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On May 7, music mogul Jermaine Dupri and I were fortunate to have a byline published in Fast Company concerning four tips for successful co-branding. Co-branding  — or sharing your own brand with an outside brand — is an increasingly popular way for celebrities like Justin Timberlake and major corporations such as Budweiser to generate awareness and to promote launches of products and services. The following post contains the unabridged version of our byline in case you’d like to have a bit more context about how my employer iCrossing has successfully built a co-brand with Dupri. Our bottom line: don’t co-brand to create hype. Focus on co-creating value.

To build your brand, sometimes you have to share your brand. And increasingly, big companies like Budweiser and Harley-Davidson choosing to co-brand with celebrities like Justin Timberlake and Kid Rock through relationships that range from sponsoring each other’s activities to the celebrity taking on quasi-roles such as strategic counselor or creative director.

But for co-brands to endure beyond the superficial level of a one-off press release, both parties need to stipulate realistic goals and co-create value. Those are among the lessons iCrossing and Jermaine Dupri have learned through an unusual co-branding relationship that has helped reinvent Dupri’s image as a technology leader, increased membership for his Global 14 social media community, and developed iCrossing’s image as a creative, socially savvy agency.

After forming our relationship in February 2012, within 10 months we boosted membership for Dupri’s Global 14 community by 43 percent, improved Dupri’s Twitter following from 381,000 to 620,000, increased iCrossing’s own Twitter following by more than 40 percent, and, most importantly, gave both iCrossing and Dupri recognition among mainstream influencers.

Here’s what we’ve learned along the way.

Define Realistic Goals

A co-brand starts with an understanding of what you both want out of the relationship before you start working together. And your expectations need to be realistic. In 2011, Madonna and Smirnoff formed the Nightlife Exchange with goals of building digital reach for Smirnoff and generating business for both Madonna and Smirnoff.

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According to Christopher Swope of Live Nation, the relationship (which featured a special global dance talent search in 2011) has helped Smirnoff achieve double-digit sales growth in key markets (with the help of a specially branded Madonna VIP Access Smirnoff Limited Edition pack) and generate 1.8 billion media impressions. The relationship also helped Madonna make her MDNA tour the highest grossing of 2012. Not bad at all.

The relationship between iCrossing and Jermaine Dupri also started with agreed upon goals and a plan to achieve them. Dupri wanted iCrossing help to drive membership for his Global 14 community, which he launched in 2011 as a platform for young entrepreneurs and musicians to share common interests with himself and each other. He was already a music legend. He also wanted to develop his reputation as a technology and business leader.

iCrossing wanted build our reputation for thought leadership, creativity and social media by tapping into the convergence of entertainment and technology.

But our goals needed to complement each other, too. Had Dupri aspired to increase his visibility among the hip-hop community, he didn’t need iCrossing’s help. But iCrossing could definitely help him drive Global 14 membership through social media and content marketing. Conversely, iCrossing needed to define goals that Dupri was in a position to help iCrossing achieve, such as increasing awareness for our own social media and thought leadership expertise.

Co-Create Value

Co-creating means co-developing products, services, and ideas. U2 and Apple ignited the flame of celebrity/corporate co-creation in 2004, when they collaborated on the launch of the iPod U2 Special Edition, housed in a special black case, and laser-engraved with the signatures of each band member on the back.

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As part of their co-brand, Apple and U2 also made U2’s single “Vertigo” exclusively available on iTunes as well as a first-of-its kind digital box set of U2’s catalog. What made the arrangement special was that two icons were sharing their most prized assets to create specially branded products, a model that we’ve often seen emulated, a recent example being Kid Rock and Harley-Davidson agreeing to offer limited-edition, co-branded Rebel Soul merchandise featuring a line coined by Kid Rock: “I can’t hear you over the rumble of my freedom.

Co-creation is at the heart of the iCrossing/Jermaine Dupri partnership, but we’ve taken co-creating a step further by creating original content such as thought leadership about social media, audience insight, and creativity. For instance, we’ve created blog posts together on topics such as business lessons for start-ups and video interviews on creativity and social media. We published a point of view about the secrets of creating engagement on your own social community based on Dupri’s experiences with Global 14. We have also co-written a byline for Fast Company and co-presented about social media and audience intimacy at the 2012 PSFK Conference San Francisco. This thought leadership provides valuable insight to iCrossing clients and helps us meet the goals we defined.

Jermaine Dupri, David Deal: Injecting Community Back Into Social Media from Piers Fawkes on Vimeo.

By co-creating content, we are both developing a product to support our goals — akin to Justin Timberlake and Budweiser actually making a beer together. Co-created thought leadership is important because content consist of iCrossing’s product given the work we do as an agency.

iCrossing also acts as a co-publisher, relying on our own social spaces to disseminate our ideas and Dupri’s among Fortune 500 influencers — our own clients.

Find Natural Areas of Interest

A hip-hop mogul and a digital agency. The mogul runs a record label. The agency helps companies like Coca-Cola build connected brands. What do they have in common? Well, it didn’t take long to find out. Dupri loves social media and technology; so does iCrossing. Dupri hustles content ranging from his blog posts to Instagram photos. So does iCrossing. We’ve defined a credible intersection of our shared pursuits that makes sense for our brands.

Finding common passions makes for a more authentic relationship. For instance, Dodge Ram and country musician Zac Brown have successfully joined forces around a common interest: community goodwill. In 2010, Ram and Zac Brown launched the Letters for Lyrics partnership to deliver 1 million letters to U.S. soldiers, and in March Brown and Ram joined forces to put up for auction his own Ram truck in order to benefit Camp Southern Ground, which provides programs for children including those with learning disabilities and behavioral disorders. The relationship is no gimmick — Ram has a history of working with country artists to support charitable causes, and Brown founded Camp Southern Ground. Theirs is a relationship centered on a true passion for both brands.

Defining common areas of interest also helps you rule out activities that don’t help us meet our goals. For instance, it does not make a whole lot of sense for iCrossing to promote Dupri’s gigs as a DJ. We are not in the music and artist promotion business. Nor will you find Dupri collaborating with iCrossing on a paid search campaign anytime soon. We’re focused only on the activities that make sense for us both.

Be Committed

One announcement does not make a relationship. A co-brand, like a garden, needs to be nurtured to grow.

Certainly Nike and Michael Jordan created the gold standard for a committed relationship between a company and a superstar individual brand. After launching their relationship in 1984, the two brands embarked on a journey that helped change the way brands and celebrities work together — and a journey that has endured highs (six NBA championships for Jordan) and unexpected turns (such as Jordan’s shocking but temporary retirement from basketball to play professional baseball). Jordan did more than collaborate with Nike on the launch of a line of shoe wear; he literally became a business partner. The Jordan Brand, a division of Nike, helps Jordan earn $80 million annually in retirement. And Nike has obviously benefitted, releasing its 28th shoe in the Jordan franchise in 2013 and commanding 58 percent of the shoe market in the United States according to SportsOneSource.

Jordan and Nike have provided a model for anyone who aspires to create a long-term relationship, including iCrossing and Jermaine Dupri. We have also stayed committed to achieving our goals for more than a year, investing our time and effort to brainstorm on ideas, adjusting our approaches when needed, and refining our messaging as Global 14 has evolved. We focused first on creating content on social media and then more actively brought event appearances into the mix, and we’ve also adapted our story to bring in fresh thinking, such as how a CEO like Jermaine Dupri can become more effective thanks to social media.

Relationships are going to experience occasional hiccups, such as the awkward moment that occurred when it was reported that Alicia Keys uses an iPhone after she signed a co-brand with Blackberry. No relationship is perfect, and you’re both going to need to be open to learning and growing together in order to succeed.

We believe that iCrossing and Jermaine Dupri are creating a model for co-branding because of our focus on creating content together. Stay tuned. We’re just getting warmed up.