How Dippin’ Dots Mastered the Real-Time News Arc

How ’bout them Dippin’ Dots?

One moment it’s a challenger brand with a niche following, just minding its own business and selling flash-frozen ice cream at places like amusement parks, sports stadiums, and convenience stores. The next thing you know, Dippin’ Dots becomes a national trending topic after its name gets sucked into a political maelstrom involving White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. And Dippin’ Dots came out smelling like a rose by capitalizing on a phenomenon I call the real-time news arc, which speaks volumes about how people and brands consume and create content triggered by news events.

The real-time news arc looks like this:

1. Random News Event Thrusts Brand into the Limelight

In the case of Dippin’ Dots, the fun started January 21 when Spicer sparred with the news media in his first official press conference as White House press secretary. Spicer’s behavior — angrily scolding reporters while making brash and dubious claims about the size of the crowd attending President Donald Trump’s inauguration — cast a spotlight on the political strategist and member of the U.S. Navy Reserve. What kind of press secretary would create a spectacle in his first news conference with the White House press corps?

That spotlight uncovered something very weird. As William Hughes of the A.V. Club reported on January 22, it turns out that on Twitter Spicer had been waging a one-sided war against Dippin’ Dots, the self-proclaimed “the ice cream of the future.” For instance, in 2010, Spicer tweeted, “Dippin Dots is NOT the ice cream of the future.” A year later, he added for emphasis, “I think I have said this before but Dippin Dots are notthe [sic] ice cream of the future.” Then he picked on Dippin’ Dots when the company declared bankruptcy. For added measure, he tweeted a complaint that vanilla-flavored Dippin’ Dots had not been available at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.

Just what was Spicer’s problem with the ice cream served as a mound of happy little flash-frozen dots in plastic cups?

2. News Media and Social Media Start a Flash Fire

The A.V. Club story was just too good to resist, especially with Spicer’s name trending after his press conference tirade. The story went viral on social media spaces such as Twitter and Facebook, especially with highly influential people like Guy Kawasaki sharing it. Quickly news media such as the Mashable and The New York Daily News carried their own accounts, which fed a social media frenzy.

As reported in Digiday, Dippin’ Dots saw a spike in awareness, with close to 7,200 mentions occurring within a three-day period, per social analytics firm Brandwatch. But its social sentiment, as measured by negative or positive mentions, was mostly negative because of people commenting on the strange nature of Spicer’s hatred of Dippin’ Dots (which says something about how to interpret social sentiment — in this case, the brand wasn’t getting dissed by people talking about Sean Spicer, but its name was being associated with negative language).

Dippin’ Dots also saw a spike in search activity on Google:

Within hours, a company that had done absolutely nothing over the weekend to earn a spike in awareness was a topic of conversation.

3. People Create Their Own Content

It didn’t take long for enterprising content hustlers (including Courtney Love Cobain) to capitalize on the story, including Twitter jokes and memes like these, which are common elements of the real-time news arc:

Two business people, Andrew Cafourek and Nick Trusty, created a more elaborate form of content in a website, senddippindots.com, which makes it easy for people to send Sean Spicer a package of Dippin’ Dots at a cost of $6 “mainly because he’s going to be really annoyed by it.” Cafourek and Trusty told Mashable they created the site as a form of civil protest. The gesture also kept the real-time news arc moving, creating more news coverage for Dippin’ Dots.

The creation of memes is a popular form of having fun with news stories. In the era of Snapchat and Instagram, everyday people are visual storytellers. One of my favorite meme outbreaks occurred during the 2015 Major League Playoffs, when a bizarre incident involving a Pittsburgh Pirates short stop assaulting a Gatorade cooler inspired an explosion of amusing memes. Even Gatorade joined in the fun. Dippin’ Dots, however, held back.

4. The Brand Responds

Dippin’ Dots seemed to passively ride the wave of attention, avoiding any commentary. But as Digiday reported, behind the scenes, Dippin’ Dots’ marketing agency, Marketing Zen, was meeting with Dippin’ Dots CEO Scott Fischer and his marketing/communications team to discuss a possible response to the story. At first, Dippin’ Dots wanted to avoid inserting itself into a politically charged story. But the company decided that its silence was also a response and inconsistent with Fischer’s belief in transparency.

So on January 23, Fischer published an open letter to Spicer on the Dippin’ Dots’ website, which Dippin’ Dots posted on its social spaces. In the letter, Fischer professed that Dippin’ Dots “would like to be friends rather than foes.” He went on to point out that Dippin’ Dots “are made in Kentucky by hundreds of hard working Americans in the heartland of our great country,” an obvious nod to Donald Trump’s “America First” stance. Fischer then offered to treat the White House and press corps to an ice cream social.

The letter turned out to be a masterstroke, earning favorable coverage in news media such as CNN, Forbes, Fortune, The New York Times, and Washington Post — not bad for a business that was generating the wrong kind of news for declaring bankruptcy in 2011. Late in the evening of January 23, Spicer replied to Dippin’ Dots on Twitter by suggesting, “How about we do something great for the those who have served out nation & 1st responders.” Dippin’ Dots agreed and has proposed a Presidents’ Day event.

Lessons Learned

Dippin’ Dots came out ahead as a result of the real-time news arc. Here are some lessons to learn from its experience:

1. There’s a difference between creating a real-time news opportunity and responding to one

Dippin’ Dots didn’t ask for the publicity. The business capitalized on it. Because Dippin’ Dots had its name dragged into the limelight, I believe news media and everyday folk on social were more inclined to welcome a Dippin’ Dots response. By contrast, brands are held to a different standard when they try to create publicity by capitalizing on news that has nothing to do with them. When a brand creates real-time commentary on a news event, consumers correctly perceive its efforts as self-serving and hold the brand to tougher scrutiny. For instance, a number of brands were criticized for posting ads and commentary about Prince in the wake of his untimely death in 2016.

2. Act swiftly, but not recklessly

Capitalizing on the real-time news arc requires quick action before the story dies down. Tide, for instance, found itself a topic of discussion during the 2012 Daytona 500 when TV cameras captured footage of workers using Tide to clean up the track after a crash. Tide capitalized on the unexpected attention by quickly creating an advertisement using footage of the track cleanup. The rapid response was key.

But acting quickly doesn’t mean acting foolishly. Dippin’ Dots was wise to think through how it wanted to respond. As noted, getting involved in the story carried risk. Dippin’ Dots did not want to alienate its customers by being perceived as taking sides in politics. Striking back at Spicer with a knee-jerk snarky tweet might have backfired. Dippin’ Dots did not allow the pressure to act quickly to compromise its judgment.

3. Humanize your message

Dippin’ Dots did not issue an anonymous corporate response. The message came from Scott Fischer himself. By having the open letter come from Dippin’ Dots’ CEO, the brand showed the humanity behind the company. And he upped the ante. Sean Spicer had already taken shots at a company. How was he going to handle a heartfelt message from a person with a name and a face?

4. Be mindful of your tone and message

The Dippin’ Dots letter struck the right tone. Fischer was neither bland nor snarky. He showed a sense of humor (“We understand that ice cream is a serious matter. And running out of your favorite flavor can feel like a national emergency!”). He deftly commented on current events (“we’re creating jobs and opportunities. We hear that’s on your agenda too”). And managed to slip in a reference to his own company’s success without being obnoxious about it. The letter sent an effective message: we’re not going to laugh at you. We’re going to take the high road and extend an olive branch in this one-sided fight. But we’re not going to take your attack on a cup full of creamy, flash-frozen ice cream too seriously.

5. Create an opportunity for goodwill

The best part of the letter was the closing, where Fischer proposed treating the White House and press corps to an ice cream social. He transitioned the message way from the negative story and created a new narrative about honoring the White House and the press corps. This classy move demonstrated the wisdom of turning the other cheek and doing good. He also kept the story alive with a more noble purpose. And Spicer’s reply to honor the military and first responders built upon the goodwill that Fischer created.

The Dippin’ Dots/Sean Spicer story will slip from public consciousness soon, surfacing briefly again if and when the ice cream social materializes. But for 48 hours, the Dippin’ Dots saga created highly engaging entertainment and moments of inspired content creation, especially from the brand itself.

So how ‘about them Dippin’ Dots?

Why Sprint and Tidal Are Hustling Music Together

Tidal needs a financial partner. Sprint needs new customers. The two businesses just took a step toward addressing each other’s needs. Sprint has announced a 33-percent stake in Tidal, which will “give Sprint’s 45 million retail customers unlimited access to exclusive artist content not available anywhere else,” according to a press release. In other words, the relationship promises to deliver content from Tidal artists only to Sprint’s current and new customers. Sprint’s chief executive officer, Marcelo Claure, will also join Tidal’s board of directors.

The Sprint/Tidal partnership is another example of artists and brands joining forces to distribute content. The premise of these co-brands is simple: artists provide content that the brands can hustle to acquire and retain customers or to generate awareness for a brand and its products or services. The brands give the artists a distribution platform for their music. (When a business uses an artist’s song in an advertisement, a similar principal applies: the business uses the artist’s music as a hook to get the attention of consumers, and the artist gets exposure). The Sprint/Tidal relationship contains two important elements:

  • Exclusivity: Sprint will rely on Tidal to provide content available only to Sprint customers. That content could potentially assume a variety of forms, including the release of exclusive songs, concerts, video, and experiences involving augmented reality and mixed reality.
  • Commitment: as noted in the press release, the relationship will “include the establishment of a dedicated marketing fund specifically for artists. The fund will allow artists the flexibility to create and share their work with and for their fans.” According to Billboard, the fund will consist of $75 million annually.

Jay Z, the major owner and founder of Tidal, has a well-established track record for forming distribution deals with brands. He created the template for the Sprint/Tidal deal in 2014 when he and Samsung agreed to distribute one million copies of his Magna Carta Holy Grail album through a special app exclusively on Samsung phones before the album went on sale publicly. Samsung reportedly paid $5 for every album, meaning Magna Carta Holy Grail sold $5 million before a consumer purchased a single copy. Samsung became a music distributor overnight (a model that Samsung later repeated with Rihanna).

Jay Z rebooted Tidal amid considerable fanfare after buying the company in 2015 with the promise of high-quality streaming content from an artist-owned business. (At the time, Sprint was exploring but did not commit to a relationship with Tidal.) But Tidal’s journey since then has been problematic, with the company losing millions and suffering some high-profile PR problems. Tidal said it enjoyed an increase in users after Beyoncé launched Lemonade exclusively on the streaming service before making the album widely available, and, overall, Tidal claims more than three million subscribers — but the company has been accused of inflating its numbers.

Meanwhile, Sprint is looking for leverage in its war with AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon to acquire and retain wireless customers. Verizon Wireless leads the pack, with nearly 144 million U.S. subscribers, while Sprint ranks a distant fourth, with 60.2 million subscribers. T-Mobile, with 71.5 million subscribers, claims that the carrier stole nearly a million subscribers from its rivals in the third quarter of 2016, including 300,000 from Sprint.

For Sprint, one answer to fighting back is to provide exclusive content and customer experiences. For years, telecom carriers have tried to out-do each other by offering so many combinations of services and billing options that the industry has become a bewildering experience for consumers. There are only so many ways a telecommunications carrier can continue to offer service packages. Providing interesting content and customer experiences is a way to differentiate, which is why Sprint recently signed a relationship with Niantic to offer branded Pokemon GO experiences.

Sprint has been offering music content for quite some time. In 2005, Sprint launched the Sprint Music Store, a partnership with labels such as EMI and Sony BMG Music Entertainment to sell songs. Sprint learned early on how to hustle music to acquire customers, for instance giving away five free songs to customers at launch. In 2007, Sprint was the official wireless sponsor of the MTV Music Awards. Sprint was more than a sponsor, though — it distributed content, offering a free live simulcast to Sprint Power Vision customers. In 2011, Sprint launched Sprint Music Plus, a free app for Android users to organize their music libraries and purchase songs and ringtones.

Sprint’s efforts to date have largely centered on song downloading. With the Tidal relationship, Sprint has updated its music distribution model for the age of song streaming. And for all its operational problems, Tidal possesses a brand name and the backing of not only Jay Z but also founding artists such as Beyoncé, J. Cole, Nicki Minaj, and Rihanna. (J. Cole recently released a surprise documentary, Eyez, on Tidal).

The Tidal deal gives Sprint a wellspring of music content that will target younger consumers with the powerful lure of new music — so long as Tidal continues to develop fresh artists, which is why I am especially intrigued by Sprint and Tidal earmarking funds to market artists. The fund could be a boon especially for developing emerging artists who need the money far more than Rihanna does.

Here is a golden opportunity for Sprint to develop its image as a forward thinking lifestyle brand of the future by developing up-and-coming artists, as many other brands have done so through an association with music. For instance, Converse operates the Rubber Tracks recording studio to give emerging artists free studio time. Coca-Cola has given exposure to new artists around the world through initiatives such as “52 Songs of Happiness.” Potentially, Sprint could offer its customers a first-look at emerging artists on Tidal, thus providing its customers a sense of hipness that comes with being the first in the know.

The proof of the pudding will be how well Tidal helps Sprint acquire and retain customers, which is a measurable number. If Tidal helps Sprint create momentum, Sprint’s shareholders will sing a happy song. If not, Sprint will inherit a bit more than 99 problems. Stay tuned.

Amazon Dashes to the On-Demand Economy

Sometimes change wears an awkward smile. When Amazon launched Dash buttons for instant re-ordering of products in 2015, the idea seemed so goofy that some considered the announcement to be an April Fool’s Day joke. Amazon actually expected people to affix WiFi-enabled hardware devices to any object in our homes so that we could restock on diapers and detergent with the simple touch of a button?

But Amazon was deadly serious. The Dash buttons, available to Amazon Prime members, have taken off. According to Amazon, Dash button orders occur over twice a minute, and for many popular items, more than half of orders are done via Dash buttons. The list of brands signing up for the program include Campbell’s Soup, Cascade, Clif Bar, Mentos, and Quilted Northern, to name but a few. All told, more than 200 Dash buttons exist. They give consumers convenience; and for brands, revenue and access to consumer purchase data.

As it turns out, people find it useful to turn their appliances into smart objects. For instance, if you place a Tide Dash button on your laundry machine, you make it easier to restock on detergent at the precise moment when you realize you are running low, presumably when you are doing laundry with the machine nearby. All you need to do is click on the Dash button, which triggers the instant order. No muss, no fuss, no online shopping cart.

On January 20, Amazon officially expanded the use of Dash buttons on the Amazon home page. (Note the irony here: a business that started as an online retailer launched a physical product and brings it to the online world). You can create your virtual Dash button by choosing an “Add to Your Dash buttons” option on a product’s detail page — but Amazon is also creating them automatically for products you order often or have ordered recently. The buttons are available for both desktop and (more importantly) mobile use — thus turning your mobile phone into an all-purpose dash button.

The Dash buttons are succeeding because Amazon has tapped into a broader trend toward on-demand shopping and living. Uber famously triggered the advent of the on-demand economy with its convenient app that made traditional taxi services look antiquated. Now businesses ranging from Nordstrom to Walmart have been incorporating apps, drones, ride-sharing services, and other forms of on-demand ordering and delivering. According to the Harvard Business Review, the on-demand economy generates $57.6 billion and attracts 22 million consumers annually.

And mobile is crucial to the uptake of on-demand living.  Since 2013, consumers have preferred using their mobile devices over laptops and desktops to interact with retailers online. As Google has reported, we are increasingly using our mobile devices to decide what to do, where to go, and what to buy — and in on-demand fashion. For instance, half of consumers who conduct a local search on their smartphones visit a store within 24 hours.

Google calls these moments of instant decision making “micro-moments.” Amazon intends to capture its share of those micro-moments by making it easier to order products with our phones, which is where Dash buttons on our mobile phones come into play.

Apps such as Instagram and Pinterest have incorporated their own equivalent of Dash buttons, but none of succeeded like Amazon has. Why? Because Amazon had already established itself first as a strong product discovery shopping platform long before incorporating the Dash buttons. And it took years for Amazon to ingratiate itself into our buying habits. The Dash buttons would come later.

Amazon patiently embedded itself into our everyday routines by becoming a user-friendly platform for finding and buying things on our own terms. Dash buttons are just part of its strategy for making shopping an even more natural part of our lives:

  • Dash buttons on our laptops and home appliances for ordering via touch.
  • Alexa in Amazon Echo, automobiles, and phones for ordering via voice.

With Dash — and the much bigger Alexa — Amazon is leading the uptake of the on-demand economy everywhere through natural actions such as clicking and talking. No longer is Amazon a retail engine. It’s a lifestyle brand for the on-demand economy.

Related:

Why Voice Search Is the Future of the On-Demand Economy,” June 14, 2016.

This Is the World Uber Has Made,” June 7, 2016.

Welcome to a New Era of Convenience Shopping,” June 29, 2015.

 

Spin Creative Gold with “Yes, And . . .”

Photo credit: Brian Schultz

If you want to inspire people to do great work, try the “Yes, and . . .” approach.

“Yes, and . . .” is a popular expression in theater, especially in improvisational comedy. You might have encountered the idea in Tina Fey’s book, Bossypants. The concept refers to accepting someone else’s idea (“yes”) and building on it (“and . . . “). Improv theater absolutely depends on “Yes, and . . . ” because the actors create scenes by building off each other’s improvised ideas and running with them. One actor might start a scene by, say, spontaneously portraying William Shakespeare getting time warped to a modern-day Beyoncé concert. The “Yes, and . . .” occurs when their acting partner onstage builds upon the idea — perhaps improvising as Beyoncé and inviting Shakespeare for a duet of “Drunk in Love.”

By contrast, replying to Shakespeare with an unhelpful “But, Shakespeare, how did you get here?” or improvising with a scene that ignores the presence of Shakespeare shuts down the actor who came up with the idea of the time-warped Shakespeare and kills the improvised moment — the equivalent of a “No, but . . .” that alienates everyone, including the audience.

At the Bristol Renaissance Faire, an outdoor theater where I act on summer weekends, “Yes, and . . .” shapes how the cast collaborates, whether we’re developing new bits of improvisational comedy or ideas for enriching the characters we portray. The principle behind “Yes, and . . . ” is that people become more effective when you affirm them with positive reinforcement and when you apply the power of collaboration to make their ideas better.

The power of “Yes, and . . .” is an important theme in my recent appearance on Allison Pettengill’s Helping History Happen podcast, which focuses on how history inspires people. I hope you will give it a listen. The first part of my conversation with Allison focuses on how I fell in love with history and how historical figures such as T.E. Lawrence and Queen Elizabeth I have inspired me. The second half focuses on how I overcame my self-doubts to successfully audition for the Bristol Renaissance Faire and then built a popular character named Nicolas Wright even though I had zero acting experience when I joined the cast in 2014.

About Bristol

The Bristol Renaissance Faire is a recreation of Bristol, England, on a day in 1574 when Queen Elizabeth came to town (which did in fact happen in history to celebrate the Queen’s signing of the Treaty of Bristol). Each summer, patrons pay to walk through the gates and immerse themselves in a Continue reading

When Artists Lead an Audience

“Are there any paranoids in the audience tonight?”

With those caustic words, Roger Waters introduced “Run Like Hell” in concert in 1980. Waters continues to taunt and provoke his audience 37 years later when he performs music from his Pink Floyd catalog and solo career, often by injecting venomous statements against President Elect Donald Trump from the stage.

When he taunts an audience and redefines his music in a political context, he leads them into a different relationship between performer and audience, one characterized by confrontation, stimulation, and discussion. I live in a family of artists. We often have conversations about the role of the artist to make an audience uncomfortable — to confront, to reveal, and to invoke anger even. It’s sometimes necessary to create discomfort if you’re going to lead an audience.

There is a time and place for leading an audience by challenging them, and consequences to be paid for doing so (as Jim Morrison demonstrated in 1969 at the infamous Miami concert that led to his arrest for public indecency). And, there is a time and place to make an audience feel warm, uplifted, and comfortable. I want to uplift people and make them feel comfortable when I act each year in the Bristol Renaissance Faire. But I don’t want to uplift necessarily when I write fiction, and neither does my wife, Janice Deal, in her short stories. We both want to lead an audience in our writing, as does our daughter, Marion Deal, in her writing and public speaking. Leading an audience means looking deep inside yourself and taking a risk. You know you’re succeeding when you evoke a reaction. It just might not be a happy reaction.

Case in point: back in the 1970s, Alice Cooper made popular shock rock by putting on concerts that featured imagery and theater that some might consider grotesque, such as a decapitated baby dolls and guillotines. Critics hated Alice Cooper and thought his concerts to be stupid and gimmicky. And even their audience sometimes recoiled in horror. But Vincent Furnier, who headed the band and adopted the name Alice Cooper for himself as a solo act, knew what they were doing.

The band’s onstage behavior was intended to create an audience reaction by synthesizing forms of horror and fantasy, burlesque and rock and roll, shaped by Furnier’s own passion for movies and visual storytelling. He satirized the then-noble notion of rock star as poet and social change agent by creating a villain who sang hit songs only to be executed onstage. He made an artistic statement and was leading the audience in another direction toward a glam rock movement would propel artists such as David Bowie to fame.

In the book What You Want Is in the Limo, an excellent narrative about rock and roll in 1973, Michael Walker discusses Alice Cooper’s rise to fame. Alice Cooper tells Walker, “We never went onstage with the attitude of, ‘Gosh, I hope you like us tonight.’ We’d take them by the throat and shake them and never, ever give them a chance to breathe.”

During one concert in 1969, the band’s in-your-face style so offended an auditorium full of 3,000 people that they all fled the show within about 15 minutes. But one man in the crowd, Shep Gordon, stuck around, mesmerized by Alice Cooper’s ability to move an audience. He went on to manage the band. As Alice Cooper told Michael Walker in What You Want Is in the Limo, Gordon was “clapping like a seal. ‘You cleared the auditorium in fifteen minutes!” he marveled. “Three thousand people in fifteen minutes . . . I don’t care if they fucking hated you. It’s mass movement. There’s power and money in that.'”

Gordon also recalled, “I had never seen such a strong negative reaction. People hated Alice, and I knew that anyone who could generate such a strong negative energy had the potential to be a star, if the handling of the situation was right.”

Continue reading

Snapchat and Ed Sheeran: 21st Century Radio

The phrase “music distribution” sounds boring. And yet music distribution is where brands inside and outside music can learn about innovation, as Ed Sheeran and Snapchat have demonstrated.

A new Snapchat lens makes you appear as though you’re wearing a pair of blue sunglasses while listening to a clip of one of Sheeran’s new singles, “Shape of You.” Lenses are one of Snapchat’s addicting features. They allow you to transform your face into, say, a zombie, or adorn your appearance with cute little stickers. The latest lens, while simple in appearance, adds the sonic touch of Sheeran’s song. This is a brilliant piece of marketing that gave Sheeran exposure for the single before it was released January 6 — and an example of how artists need to hustle their content.

Anyone can publish music now, thanks to platforms such as Bandcamp, Reverbnation, or Soundcloud, or social media platforms such as Global 14. The proliferation of music discovery platforms is good for creators and listeners. But publishing your music on Soundcloud isn’t the same as reaching an audience. Few artists succeed by simply being found. Here is where distribution comes into play.

The days of relying on record labels and radio to expose your music to the record listening public are long gone. Nowadays, an indie artist such as AM getting his music played in a Victoria’s Secret ad is a major distribution coup, and OK Go collaborates with brands on content creation and distribution. A brand can act as a content amplifier as well or better as radio can. And an AM, who appeals to a more narrowly defined audience of aficionados, needs a brand to break through to a larger audience. AM also licenses his songs for television and movies, which act as media platforms for his music.

But distribution has become even more sophisticated than getting your music played in an ad or piped into a hotel lobby. These days artists are collaborating with apps, games, and devices to find a lane for their songs. In 2013, Jay Z and launched an innovative deal with Samsung to distribute one million copies of his Magna Carta Holy Grail album through a special app exclusively on Samsung phones before the album went on sale publicly. In 2016, Rihanna and Samsung repeated the model for her album Anti.

Jay Z, Rihanna, and Ed Sheeran are all big-time artists, but they also understand the reality that the music industry has a short-term memory. You can’t rest off the laurels of your last hit. You have to hustle your music widely, then keep it in the public eye through heavy touring, merchandising, and relationships with brands. Ed Sheeran has not released a single since 2015, which is an eternity. Even Ed Sheeran can’t drop new songs and expect anyone to listen. He has to work at finding his audience, and Snapchat is an excellent music distribution channel for millennials. The app has reinvented itself from a messaging app into content storytelling platform for users and brands, ranging from the NFL to musicians — and not just Ed Sheeran. In 2015, musician Goldroom shared an EP of four songs on Snapchat, with each song clip forming a larger story.

The Ed Sheeran example is instructive to anyone who creates content, whether you’re a musician, podcaster, or blogger:

  • Find the right platform for your audience. Snapchat is perfect for Sheeran’s millennial-friendly music. It’s like Snapchat is the radio station with the right format. An app like Musical.ly, on the other hand, is ideal for younger digital natives.
  • Be ubiquitous. Snapchat has 60 million total installs. It’s on every millennial mobile phone across the United States. In effect, his song transforms each mobile device into an Ed Sheeran streaming device. Covering his bases, Sheeran also released a snippet of his song on Instagram, but not to the level he did through Snapchat.
  • Be natural. Embedding the song into a Snapchat lens works because playing with lenses is a natural Snapchat behavior. So the song does not feel intrusive.

Apps are where music distribution will explode. As I blogged recently, I believe that soon artists will debut new songs on Uber — another ubiquitous platform with the data tracking capability to deliver a well defined audience to a musician. I believe the same will happen with wearables. Wearables, especially used for exercise, are perfect especially because music is a natural companion to exercise. Wearables are already headed in this direction. The lesson is clear: if you want to find an audience, hustle your content to places where your audience lives. Snapchat and Ed Sheeran get it.