Rihanna’s Anti went platinum in 15 hours. But before you think, “albums are back!” bear in mind a big caveat: Samsung bought one million copies of the album and gave them away. For Rihanna and Samsung, Anti going platinum is not about record sales — it’s about creating a moment that earns attention for two giant brands at a time when attention is currency, as Brian Solis has noted. There are many more moments to come, as prepares to launch her Anti World Tour, where the real money will be made.
What $25 Million Will Buy a Brand
A platinum album is certified by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) as selling at least one million copies — a difficult feat to achieve in the digital age. Only three albums released in 2015 went platinum: Adele’s 25; Drake’s If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late; and Justin Bieber’s Purpose. Adele, Drake, and Justin Bieber all earned their sales the traditional way: by releasing and promoting music for consumers to buy, stream, and download (with the exception of 25).
Samsung, in turn, gave away 1 million free download codes to its customers. Each of those downloads came with a 60-day free trial to Tidal, the high-end streaming service that counts Rihanna as one of its owners. The entire album was available on Tidal before any other streaming service could have access to it.
Joe Pulizziof the Content Marketing Institute recently took companies to task in an assessment of branded content that he published on LinkedIn. “The majority of content produced by brands through blog posts, enewsletters, social media posts, print magazines and webinars is flat out awful,” he wrote, noting that nine out of 10 companies produce content like media companies to attract and retain customers. He indicated that one of the problems with branded content is that the vast majority of brands lack an actual strategy. Enter Dr. Liz Alexander and Craig Badingsof Leading Thought, who have published a new online course to help brands get grounded in a form of content marketing known as thought leadership, or the creation of ideas that advance the state of the art in any given field. And I’m happy to report that Liz and Craig devoted a chapter of the curriculum the thought leadership strategy I created for digital agency iCrossing (where I managed thought leadership, social media, and influencer outreach for more than two years). My key take-away for Liz and Craig: an effective thought leadership strategy must flow from the needs of your own brand.
The contents of my interview with Craig, conducted earlier in 2013, are available for purchase as part of the course, which also includes insights from the likes of thought leader Jeff Bullas. However, I’ve been granted permission to cite a few of the highlights of my interview. Here are three questions you should always ask when you create a thought leadership strategy, based on my experiences at iCrossing and the ideas I shared with Craig:
1. What does your brand stand for?
You can create interesting thought leadership if you don’t understand your brand — but your ideas will be off topic, off tone, and off strategy, thus confusing your audience rather than attracting potential clients. That’s why it’s essential that you connect your thought leadership to your brand personality, messages, and Continue reading →
A journalist recently asked me whether all brands should be on Pinterest. My reply: brands need visual storytelling strategies — which may indeed involve a presence on Pinterest. I recently created for agency iCrossing a visual storytelling strategy that focuses on bringing to life iCrossing’s corporate culture. You may find a presentation about that strategy on SlideShare:
Visual storytelling has transformed how iCrossing creates brand love with its clients, influencers, and its own people. Visual stories have helped iCrossing improve its reach, visibility, and engagement. What’s your visual storytelling strategy?
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.
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.
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-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.
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.
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.
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.
Musician Daria Musk has famously built a career through Google+. She’s part of the emerging generation of artists whose success hinges on social media. Instead of simply building brand awareness with social media (which is standard operating procedure for savvy artists now), she’s cannily relied on Google+ to perform concerts, generate a global following of fans, find ideas for songs, and build relationships with brands. If you caught her February 14 Valentine’s Day Hangout Concert, you know what I’m talking about. Days before the performance, she adroitly used her Google Plus pageto promote the concert and then during showtime, she charmed a global audience with her warmth and her gift of song — essentially lighting up the digital world for one evening, as shown in this rebroadcast:
Her use of Google+ has also been a godsend for Google, helping to legitimize the fledgling social media community during Google Plus’s first critical months of existence and leading to improvements in Google+. On February 20, at Social Media Week New York, I will interview Musk and Caroline McCarthy of Google at the Hearst Tower in order to uncover lessons learned from their collaboration, including how brands can build closer relationships with their audiences. The session occurs at 2:30 p.m. EST at the Hearst Tower. If you are at Social Media Week New York, please register here. Meantime, to give you a sense of the ground we will cover, I posted a brief Q&A with McCarthy on the iCrossing Great Finds blog, available here. Check it out for Google’s perspective on the Daria Musk story, and come see us in New York.
Where does the hype end and the analysis begin with Facebook Graph Search? One answer:The CMO’s Guide to Facebook Graph Search, published January 24 by three of my iCrossing colleagues, Ashmi Dang, Amanda Peters, and Doug Platts.
According to the PoV, marketers need to get more focused on generating closer connections with audiences by sharing compelling content on Facebook. The rationale: because Graph Search indexes results (in order of relevancy) based on the strength of the relationship with one’s social network connections. Brands that forge closer connections with people will have more visibility across consumers’ networks when people use Graph Search.
As the point of view discusses, employing a holistic social strategy and active community management are increasingly essential to succeeding on Facebook under the new world of Graph Search.
The book covers every aspect of employing mobile marketing, such as location-based marketing via destinations like Foursquare and Yelp or managing a mobile commerce site.
According to Rachel, the book represents a distinct shift in the way marketers are talking about mobile. “Brand aren’t just fixated on mobile apps anymore,” she told me as I prepared this blog post. “Marketers have shifted the conversation about mobile to strategy. They want to figure out how to connect mobile to broader campaigns and social conversations that create sustainable value for their brands. And our answer comes down to this: audience.”
Hence, Mobile Marketer: An Hour a Dayfocuses on the importance of audience and strategy first, and devices second. For example, the first two chapters discuss mapping the mobile opportunity and creating a mobile strategy. Subsequent chapters show how various aspects of mobile marketing, such as the development of mobile websites and apps, tie back to strategy.
On November 1, I was honored to appear onstage with Jermaine Dupriat the PSFK Conference San Francisco 2012, where we discussed how Dupri’s Global 14 social networking site brings community back to social media. The entire conference featured designers, creative thinkers, and marketers who shared innovative ways to operate businesses and build brands. The underlying theme was that brands should seize the opportunity to do good, not just make money.
Global 14 helps emerging musicians develop their careers and creates an environment for all members to share ideas, not just social updates. (“We have lost communication on social networks and have become a social notifying world,” Dupri said.)
Regina Ellis of the Children’s Cancer Associationdelivered the most powerful presentation, which concerned the business of spreading joy. She opened her talk by describing the loss of her own daughter to cancer — an experience that Continue reading →