The New OK Go Video Is a Brilliant Co-Brand

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I’ll bet you’ve never heard of S7 Airlines. But you’ll be hearing more about the Russia-based airline now that OK Go released a new video, “Upside Down & Inside Out.”

“Upside Down & Inside Out” is the latest crazy video from OK Go, a band that long ago set the standard for sharing music through viral videos. During “Upside Down & Inside Out,” OK Go band members float, careen, and summersault in a zero-gravity airplane, creating a madcap moment that is typical of OK Go’s work. Oh, and the video is also a product placement for Russian-based S7 Airlines, which made available the plane and receives prominent acknowledgment at the end of the video.

OK Go and S7 Airlines have created a brilliant co-brand that demonstrates the power of content marketing. Musicians and brands have co-branded for decades, with companies acting as sponsors for concerts, concert venues, and musicians themselves, and musicians endorsing products through advertisements. In the 2000s, those relationships have become more sophisticated and content-driven, a trend that has always fascinated me. (In 2012, I created a content-driven co-brand between agency iCrossing and music mogul Jermaine Dupri.)

Back in 2004, Apple and U2 provided one of the landmark moments of music/corporate co-branding through 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. Alas, years later, Apple and U2 showed us how not to do content co-creation by trying to force consumers to download U2’s album Songs of Innocence, an ironic stumble given how Apple and U2 had succeeded years before.

As OK Go demonstrates, content-based co-branding is not just for A-list musicians and brands. OK Go has famously collaborated with State Farm in the creation of music videos, as has Deerhunter and Intel. With “Upside Down & Inside Out,” OK Go and a lesser-known brand (to American audiences) are demonstrating how to do content co-creation the right way:

  • The video is fun, and the song is catchy.
  • The branding feels organic: although S7 Airlines receives a thank-you at the end of the video, the real branding occurs throughout the video itself, in which the content (the song and the video of OK Go having a rip-roaring good time) positions S7 as a playful, forward-thinking brand. After all, it’s an S7 Airlines zero-gravity plane that acts as the content-sharing platform.
  • OK Go earns your attention. Unlike Apple and U2, which tried to force their ways on to our radar screens with the Songs of Innocence download fiasco, OK Go uses social media (debuting the video on Facebook) and earned media to spread the word (Gizmodo, Rolling Stone, and ABC News are among the news media jumping all over the story.)

Everyone wins. Fans win because we get great content. OK Go wins by promoting new music. And S7 Airlines has just expanded its reach to a global audience.

Rihanna and Samsung Create an “Anti” Moment

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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).

But Rihanna rolls differently. In 2015, she signed a $25 million deal with Samsung, through which Samsung sponsors her album and tour, and Rihanna promotes Samsung’s Galaxy line of products. As part of their relationship, Rihanna and Samsung have been creating digital content together including video, website, and social media posts. Oh, and Samsung agreed to buy 1 million copies of Anti.

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.

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Jay-Z Writes New Rules for Music Millionaires

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Jay-Z says he’s writing new rules. But for whom?

The multi-millionaire rapper created a firestorm of PR by launching an innovative deal with Samsung to distribute 1 million copies of his new Magna Carta Holy Grail album through a special app exclusively on Samsung phones before the album went on sale publicly July 9. 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. And the Recording Industry Association of America was inspired to change the way it tracks the sale of digital albums to account for the 1 million units sold instantly.  It’s no wonder Jay-Z has been tweeting about creating #newrules, and Billboard has gushed about “Jay-Z’s New Blueprint.”

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Essentially, two big brands, Jay-Z and Samsung, are distributing music together as Jay-Z and Nokia did 10 years ago. But how repeatable is the Jay-Z model for the entire music industry? The example of Radiohead is instructive. Radiohead, another Continue reading