Yesterday, I bought the xx’s latest album, Coexist, in its limited edition deluxe vinyl version. Being a college kid, that was quite a big expense — in case you’re wondering, yes, it cost more than my weekly grocery budget — especially considering that I was only a casual fan of their first album. So why’d I make the jump? Part of it is the fact that I fell for this impeccable pop album. (Seriously, Angels is achingly gorgeous.) But I’m also a sucker for creative marketing campaigns and I just couldn’t resist supporting a band with that kind of innovation.
As it so happens, yesterday, we also spent some time going over inventive online campaigns from the past few years, from Kyle Andrew’s record-breaking “You Always Make Me Smile” video and Imogen Heap’s “Heapsong1/Lifeline” project to Radiohead’s pay-what-you-want In Rainbows release and Dan Deacon’s Light + Sound App. Which got me to thinking, what makes a marketing campaign stick (besides the fact that you can like it on Facebook)? What do they all have in common?
About four things.
1. They’re simple
At any given time, there are hundreds of campaigns going on to promote an artist or an album or a song. So which one is a potential fan going to pay attention to? The one that required the least work. Take Civil Twilight, for example. They’ve got a simple but cool splash page up on their website. You can stream their entire album on a virtual vinyl record. (You can even flip the record!) It’s interactive and shareable, subtly links to their Topspin packages, looks great– and all you have to do is press play.
2. They’re consistent
Music publicist and social media strategist Ariel Hyatt said that “When a PR effort lacks consistency, it will also lack results.” If your campaign doesn’t match your image, don’t bother. It’s just gonna waste your time and money. But if you’re, say, Willie Nelson recording a cheeky song called “Roll Me Up” with Snoop Dogg and Jamey Johnson, then by all means, make a Soundcloud skin in the shape of a joint that “smokes” as the listener plays your song. That makes damn good sense.
3. They’re image-based
One band that really knows how to run a cool campaign is Jukebox the Ghost. After last year’s College Application tour, they upped the ante with an Instagram campaign to promote their new album, Safe Travels. Fans were asked to hashtag their Instagram photos with #jukeboxtheghost and any appropriately-hashtagged pics were fed straight to a mini-site called “Home Is Where The Fans Are,” where they were framed and displayed for the world to see. As more pictures were posted, more “rooms” were unlocked in this digital house. In the final room was an exclusive video of an acoustic session. BONUS: the boys’ 12 favorite pictures were raffled off in limited edition copies of the album.
It’s no secret that we’re attracted to images. Think about it: what do you look at on your Facebook feed? On your Tumblr dash? On your Twitter timeline? Yet, bands and labels continue to underestimate the valid of graphics, of bold images. Text-heavy websites and blogs may be educational, but they sure ain’t entertaining– and remember, entertainer is in your job description.
4. They respect the superfans
The team behind the xx (the band is on XL Recordings) concocted one of the most brilliant social campaigns since Arcade Fire’s interactive “We Used To Wait” video. They leaked Coexist, the band’s latest album, to one superfan and let him/her do what fans do best: share. Then, the xx’s website was turned into a world map, which showed the path of the shared album from September 3rd to its official release on September 11th in slow, beautiful beams of light. This is a perfect example of appropriating natural fan behavior for your own use. It’s one thing to ask a fan to do something (even something small like hashtagging a picture or tweeting a link to your single). It’s quite another to encourage and foster what a fan naturally does. In fact, let this whole campaign be a little lesson: always know who your superfans are, always understand that they believe in you, and always believe in them too.