Twitter should ask Kanye West to be its CEO — or at least a member of its board.
In 72 hours, Kanye has done more to make Twitter relevant and compelling than anything its beleaguered executive team has done during the past year.
First came the #SWISH moment on January 24, when he tweeted a hand-scrawled image of the track list for his forthcoming album, Swish, with the words “So happy to be finished with the best album of all time.”
Rock concerts for causes have come a long way since George Harrison and Ravi Shankar organized the Concert for Bangladesh in 1971 and raised $250,000 to help refugees in war-torn Bangladesh. The Concert for Bangladesh was an untelevised rock show (actually two of them) witnessed by 40,000 people in Madison Square Garden. By contrast, last week’s 121212 Concert for Sandy Reliefwas a multimedia experience accessible to 2 billion people globally, earning $35 million in one night (with millions more to come). Here are five marketing lessons from the 121212 Concert:
1. Extend Your Reach
The 121212 Concert, which supported Robin Hood Relief (a highly regarded organization assisting Hurricane Sandy victims), made it virtually impossible for you to miss the show. The concert was broadcast on 39 television stations, streamed to 25 websites, and aired on 50 radio stations, creating “the most widely distributed live musical event in history,” according to Nielsen. By contrast, even the highly successful 2001 Concert for New York City (which also benefited Robin Hood Relief) was broadcast on VH1 exclusively. If you wanted to watch the concert, they gave you no reason to miss it.
Being sexy ain’t the same as being skanky. Just ask Leah LaBelle, who sings about all the ways she turns on a guy in her hook-filled song, “Sexify.”
This song really moves with a hard beat, and the word play lives up to the title. “I just want some hanky-panky,” she sings, “Sexy vs Skanky/Dancing in my bra and panties/Instincts to master/Thank me, thank me.”
I happened to witness the star-making process through a Billboard meeting that I attended on April. LaBelle did an impromptu concert in a conference room, singing bits of songs like “Sexify” and discussing her creative inspirations. She explained that the playful lyrics for “Sexify” were actually inspired by Cosmopolitan magazine cover titles. But whereas Cosmo title lines often throw sexuality in your face (like “Sizzling Sex Positions That Won’t Give you Boob Sweat”) LaBelle’s lyrics are more suggestive and sensual.
From left to right: Pharrell, Leah LaBelle, Joe Levy of Billboard, and Jermaine Dupri
And the playful video features cameos from Jermaine and Pharrell, who have both joined forces to develop her musical career. Dupri took time out of his hectic schedule to answer a few questions about “Sexify” and Leah LaBelle:
How did you discover Leah LaBelle?
Pharrell showed me a video of her sing someone else’s material on YouTube. We noticed her swag and style. The way she sang the song gave us the idea we could make her something special. You could see it in her eyes and demeanor. She looked like someone to be reckoned with.
The voice you hear on “Sexify” is not the same I heard on YouTube. When we first started working together, I thought, “Wow her voice is much, much better than what she’s got on YouTube.” You just could not appreciate her voice from YouTube.
What was it like being in the video?
It was easy! I liked my role playing a landlord of the apartment where the video is set. You know, in a way, I do feel like I am her landlord, big brother, and protector – so me being a landlord in the video was a natural for me. [For more insight, check out this video Dupri shot on the set of the video.]
Leah LaBelle and Jermaine Dupri in “Sexify”
Do you consider “Sexify” to be hip-hop?
I don’t label the song at all. You can call it pop, hip-hop, or R&B if you like. But the moment you call it pop, someone else is going to come along and call it R&B. It crosses all lines of music.
What’s next for Leah LaBelle?
Right now we are focused on taking her record as far as we can.
“Sexify” is currently charting in the Billboard Hot 100 for R&B/Hip-Hop
If you’re not a Major League Baseball fan and don’t follow its rich history, the reference to “pine tar above the knuckles” is meaningless and perhaps confusing. But Major League Baseball trusts its fans to get the inside joke without needing to explain it. The 2 million baseball fans who follow MLB understand inherently that MLB is referring to the controversial 1983 “Pine Tar Game,” when Brett slugged a crucial home run against the New York Yankees – only to have the home run nullified by an umpire who ruled that Brett’s bat was coated with an excessive amount of pine tar. Brett’s angry reaction — charging from the dugout like a crazed bull — was captured for history (and would become a viral smash had the incident occurred now):
The Major League Baseball Twitter account informs, entertains, and celebrates baseball with a sense of humor, even with its About section (“We don’t understand the infield fly rule, either”). But most importantly, Major League Baseball trusts its fans by sharing content without overexplaining it. Do you?
Have you photobombed your brand lately? At the recently conducted Social Media Strategies Summit in Chicago, social media superstars Ramon De Leon, the marketing mind of a six-store Domino’s Pizza franchise in Chicago, and Jessica Gioglio of Dunkin’ Donuts both showed how and why you should photobomb – or share your brand visually in unexpected places. Their approaches are tailor made for marketing in the age of Pinterest. For instance, recently Gioglio and the Dunkin’ Donuts Chicago social media team spent a day snapping images of the iconic Dunkin’ Donuts coffee cup juxtaposed against famous Chicago landmarks like the Art Institute of Chicago and the John Hancock Tower. Dunkin’ Donuts then shared the images via the Dunkin’ Donuts Chicago Twitter accountand Pinterest board – a brilliant way to build brand love locally.
On the other hand, De Leon showed how photobombing can build excitement among employees and involve your fans. Especially because De Leon is known as an enthusiastic Domino’s Pizza brand ambassador, Domino’s Pizza employees are fond of sharing their photobombs with him, such as the delivery driver who sent to De Leon this photobomb at the statue of Michael Jordan outside of the United Center in Chicago:
De Leon creates his own photobombs on the job by involving Domino’s Pizza fans. For instance, as he explained to me, “I love to walk around campus with a Dominos Pizza flag. People either want to wave it for me or take pictures with it,” as shown in this image:
He also creates photo-ops with the Domino’s logo, such as the time he fashioned an “I Heart Domino’s Pizza” ad by creatively positioning Domino’s Pizza boxes while he was making a delivery at a college campus:
And Domino’s Pizza fans inspire De Leon with their own photobombs, such as this image submitted by two fans in New York:
“These user generated photos are incredible,” he told me. “This is when people see your logo and remember you. They take a photo and either tag (If Facebook) or cc you on Twitter usually with a saying, ‘Ramon, look at me.'”
De Leon shares all these photobombs through a massively popular channel: himself. He speaks at events ranging from the Disney Social Moms Celebration to Click 6.0 in Dubai. He sprinkles his talks with Domino’s Pizza photobombs and the stories behind him, which makes for lively presentations, shout-outs to fans and employees, and compelling advertising for Domino’s Pizza.
I experienced the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival from my living room along with tens of thousands of others around the world who tweeted, blogged, and otherwise hustled content about the annual music festival as artists ranging from Bon Iver to the resurrectedTupac Shakur lit up the California desert. My experience and others like mine suggest that social TV really means the social screen. And consumer participation in social TV can mean a lot more than TV viewers taking interactive pools and responding to trivia contests. Rather, advertisers should pay closer attention to our consumers’ roles as content hustlers.
So far, advertisers have associated social TV with viewers tweeting and Facebooking about the content they’re watching. But for me the real fun of Coachella occurred when I went beyond tweeting the predictable “OMG Tupac is back!” and started capturing high-resolution screen shots of the live stream and posted them on my Facebook wall and Twitter account in real time. I became a real-time Coachella photo essayist, entertaining night owls like Vanessa Franko, who included one of my screen grabs in her Coachella Storify: sfy.co/o8O
Brands can join the fun easily in real time, too, sponsoring social participants as we report on major events from our living rooms (“This Coachella livestream sponsored by PepsiCo”). The big-name bloggers probably don’t need to co-brand with advertisers. But a savvy brand would do well to build a network of lesser known influencers who together can create a ripple effect, as the research of Duncan Watts suggests.
Content hustlers like me are happy to accommodate, as we share content from major events like Coachella and the Grammy Awards across our digital living rooms.
My experience at SXSW Interactive this week was marked by catching up with friends, a massive amount of networking, very little sleep, and some inspirational content, most notably theBilly Corgan/Brian Solis sessionabout Corgan’s uneasy relationship with a music-buying public that (in Corgan’s view) uses social media to attack artists rather than support them. I provided real-time coverage of the session from my Twitter account, @davidjdeal; you can see how the discussion unfolded by following hashtag #EndofUsual on Twitter. Amid Corgan’s f-bombs and rants, a compelling theme emerged: artists need their audiences, but in order to prosper and grow, they cannot allow themselves to be led around the nose by the same people who call themselves their fans. As Corgan said to a recalcitrant SXSW audience member, “I can’t survive by accommodating your Twitter feed with my music.” The Corgan/Solis session brings to mind a post I wrote in 2010, “Would ‘Exile on Main St.’ have survived Twitter?” in which I questioned whether the seminal but initially misunderstood Rolling Stones album would have held up amid the withering glare of Twitter had social media been around in 1972.
I was also struck by the convergence of branding, entertainment, and technology that increasingly defines not only SXSW but also the future of marketing. The most obvious example of this convergence from SXSW Interactive was the March 11 Jay-Z concert held to promote the launch of a new American Express service offered through Twitter. I discuss this phenomenon more fully in an iCrossing Great Finds blog post, “SXSW and the Rise of the Co-Branding Economy.”
The personal connections were, as usual, incredibly fulfilling, whether comparing notes about music and writing with my iCrossing colleague Todd Pruzan, laughing at life’s absurdities with Kristen Deye (a rock star who managed iCrossing’s presence at the event), reuniting with some of my former Razorfish colleagues and friends like Margaret Francis and Heather Gately, meeting Brian Solis and Scott Monty, hanging out with Jeremiah Owyang, seeing David Armano, meeting with Allen Weiner, or finding some time to relax over drinks with Cortney Harding and her husband Jeff Stokvis.
People always trump interactive technology in my book.
Look at the headlines Facebook has generated lately: the company files for a multi-billion dollar initial public offering. Mark Zuckerberg spends $700,000 flying private planes in one year. Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg begins building a new mansion in Menlo Park, California. There’s one important element missing from these stories: community. That’s one of the reasons I’m excited about Global 14, a social community that music mogul Jermaine Dupri launched in 2011 – and the catalyst for a co-branding relationship that Dupri and my employer iCrossing announced on February 8. As a community of shared interests, Global 14 offers a model for brands and advertisers who might seek an alternative to the sprawling 850-million member country known as Facebook.
Hip-hop artist Symon G. Seyz lives not for record sales but for the passion of making music. The 28-year-old rapper is a member of the hip-hop underground – where unsigned musicians find audiences by giving away their own mixtapes on the streets, performing at clubs and private parties, and using Twitter as their de facto booking agents and PR support.
You won’t find the hip-hip underground in the pages of Hip Hop Weekly but on social community Global 14, where many hip-hop artists are connecting with audiences and others like them. In fact, Global 14 is where I met Symon G. Seyz, a resident of Hammond, Indiana, an industrial town just south of Chicago.
In the following interview, Symon G. Seyz, a teacher by day and rapper by night, provides an open assessment of what it’s like to create and share your music in the hip-hip underground. And he has a lot on his mind. He believes hip-hop has an image problem, and he worries that maybe he’s too clean to be cool for hip-hop – or at least what middle-class America wants to hear from the art form.
What publication do you read for in-depth coverage of the Super Bowl? Sports Illustrated or ESPN online, perhaps? If the National Football League has its way, your future choice will be NFL magazine, a recently launched publication covering all things NFL. By issuing its own official magazine, the NFL becomes the latest high-profile brand turned publisher. NFL magazine faces some obstacles, one of which is sports media saturation and a low profile in the digital world. The publication can succeed by becoming more digitally savvy and catering to content-hungry fantasy football enthusiasts.