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Bands & Brands What Brands can learn from Bands (and their fans)

Putting the pop back into marketing. If you are active in marketing, communication or sales the thought must have crossed your mind at some point: ‘What are celebrities doing that I’m not?

Indeed, one cannot but notice that Katy Perry has exponentially more followers than the biggest brands on twitter like MTV, NewYorkTimes and Samsung  (5 to 1), that Justin Bieber’s Instagram account is – relatively speaking- intergalactically bigger than that of Apple (14M to 7K) and that Rihanna scores singlehandedly more likes than the biggest brand on Facebook, Coca-Cola  (85M+ to 80M+).

Ok. So you might think ‘a Facebook-like never paid a sandwich’ and you couldn’t be more right but if we’d add up the gross revenue of La Perry, Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian, Jay Z & Beyoncé to name but a few of these megastars, you know they beat hands down any club of top CEO’s in their revenue-per-employee ratio.

It can be widely disputed if these mega-celebs are talented enough to be as famous and successful as they are, you might even think some of them have no talent or skill at all, but we all have to admit that they know what they are doing when it comes to marketing and selling themselves!

The question we are trying to address in this #bandsnbrands series is simple, really: What can Brands learn from Celebs in order to be more successful? What can marketing learn from celebrity marketing?

Hot tweetawayHot tweetaway: What can marketers learn from celebrities? insit.es/VCyZEK by @hakimzemni #coolbrands #bandsnbrands via @CoolBrands

The pressure is on

Compared to the 20th century, musical icons are under a lot more pressure today than back then. First of all there’s this thing called the music industry which has crashed and was forced to reinvent itself in the course of 10 years. You can imagine that changing a business model shakes up the reality of these black visa cardholding celebrities thoroughly. One of the most salient consequences is musicians earning more money by selling other things than music in the past 10 years. Even more remarkably: musicians earning millions of dollars in a year where they release 0 kilobytes of music. Of course, this comes at a price. A price the celebrity pays in time, effort and sweat.

Then there’s this thing called social media. Never before in history of mankind have public and idol been so close to each other. Albeit virtually, the fans demand constant updates and entertainment from their favorite one. If not, you’re out. It’s as simple as that in today’s hyper social reality. Fact is, social media is probably 5% inspiration and 95% perspiration for celebs. But oh so important in this fan-arazzi era.

Fan-arazzi era

And then there’s the competition. In the previous century signing a contract and actually recording the stuff you were writing in your garage was a bigger deal than landing on the moon. Today any 12 year old from literally anywhere in the world can record, remix, upload and share his or her creative take on music accompanied by a cool self-made video. Chances are that that video looks better than most of what we got exposed to in, say… 1985. The democratization of music and its video’s means the heat is on for any big idol. In the end, you’re only as good as the last thing you do, ‘cause you can lose your credits any day.

Hot tweetawayHot tweetaway: You’re only as good as the last thing you do insit.es/VCyZEK by @hakimzemni #coolbrands #bandsnbrands via @coolbrands

I could mention the economic crisis here too, eating away large chunks of the budget of what is considered today the ‘luxurious self-enhancement piece of the existential pie’ of people. With household budgets being under pressure, less money becomes available for music and cultural experiences in general. But let’s not go too macro-economic, yet.

Let’s put it this way: if in the past 10 years your brand’s industry crashed and reinvented its revenue streams, your customer demanded constant availability and 12 year olds could copy and improve your offering from the comfort of their own home, chances are your brand wouldn’t have survived half the decade. And that’s exactly the kind of pressure these idols are under.

With my mind on my money

Remarkably, in times of extreme strain on the music market, the music celebrities are doing great. They’re ceo’s in their own right surviving every possible and fierce attack from any corner. They’re multi-tasking, multi-faceted, they’re multi-everything, really. They re-invent themselves and the rules every 2 years or so, constantly experimenting, constantly on the verge of a nervous breakdown but always trying to grow as a cultural (and economic) icon in the process. And the results are, and this is not a secret, impressive. Consider ‘old-world’ but still-active eighties pop icons Madonna, Bono & Prince for instance owning respectively a whopping 700, 600 and 300 million dollars (check out this website devoted to celebrities’ earnings, if you want to know the earnings of your idol).

But then consider more ‘recent’ celebrities with less years in the pop-industry: Beyoncé’s net worth is estimated today (spring 2014) at 350 million dollars, mainly collected through singing, acting & fashion designing. You must have heard about her marriage to rapper-extraordinaire Jay Z, well… his earnings amount to a staggering 550 million dollars according to recent calculations. Oh, and what about the 20 year old Justin Bieber? Well, his net worth already amounts to roughly 190 million dollars with a yearly income of roundabout 40 million dollars added every year! These recent examples show you what kind of success these 00’s celebrities are talking about. But what’s the secret of this success, then?

Why Gen Y worships its idols…

I think it’s safe to argue that celebrity worshipping is a thing of all times. Throughout the history of mankind large herds of following masses have looked up to pharaohs, Greek drama actors, Roman gladiators, medieval knights, opera singers, etc… And it seems especially youngsters get caught in this game of extreme fanship. Today is not different. Big masses of adolescents flock around idols like there’s no tomorrow, while spending huge portions of their restricted monthly budgets on everything related to the idols. And this even in times of crisis. We know for a fact that the majority of the celebrity’s revenue comes from tweens.

Why Gen Y worships its idols…

So what’s in it for Gen Y and Gen Z? Well, 4 powerful things really:

  1. Status-seeking: Learning what high-status individuals do so you might more effectively be perceived as one is a typical coming-of-age phenomenon.
  2. Social navigation: Knowing what is going on in the lives of high-status individuals, helps you better navigate your own social scene and show off personality & trendiness. Knowing the details about celebs is being cool in a way.
  3. Me-marketing: Being social media me-marketers; millennials are constantly on the look out for inspiration and guidance to become a local (or school) celebrity themselves
  4. Escape boredom: Celebrities and stars stand for a world of never-ending exhilaration and entertainment: the perfect remedy for ‘thaasophobia’ or the fear of being bored and/or boring is one of the biggest fears of the current tweenager generation.

Hot tweetawayHot tweetaway: 4 reasons why #geny #genz worship their idols insit.es/VCyZEK by @hakimzemni #coolbrands #bandsnbrands via @coolbrands

So it seems that pop idols not only are successful, they are successful with the most difficult and volatile target group where a lot of brands lose connection with as it’s a moving target: millennials. So, they must be doing something right. Or, better: they must be doing stuff marketers can do too. So, what is it then that they do?

The X-factor and the myth of talent

Celebrities come in different types, genres, gender, age and size, but they all have the magical X-factor in common. Trying to come up with a definition of this X-factor is, although seductive for brands & marketing, downright stupid. Because that’s why it’s called the X-factor, of course. The X obviously refers to the symbol of the unknown in mathematics. So, no attempt from me either to define this mysterious je-ne-sais-quoi these superstars all possess effortlessly.

Effortlessly. Really? Of course not. If there’s one misconception about superstars, even the most discussed ones, is that their talent makes all effort redundant. This myth of talent, implying the talented person does stuff way better, spending way less time&energy than any other mortal, is a dangerous shortcut: it results in inertia from people that consider themselves lacking talent to break through and believing in themselves.

The 20th century romanticized sex & drugs & rock ‘n roll-lifestyle is a thing of the past. Actually, the binge drinking and heroin shooting days of musicians relying on talent and a catchy verse-chorus-verse only, are definitively over.

Sex, drugs and rock 'n roll

Most of the celebrities re-iterate it over & over again: it’s damn’ hard work. Nobody got there for free. Ever. We’re talking early morning wake-up calls to shoot that last shot of the video in a bikini in the freezing cold, super healthy but tasteless power-breakfasts, heavy duty workouts a few hours a day, multiple business meetings in the office managing musical and other products (from fashion to technology and fragrances, oh and the new single too of course), talking to the over-critical press, connecting online in an always-on mode with the public and the fans, leading boring and ever-lasting sound checks, doing the same gig with the same setlist & ‘surprise’ special effects over & over again and hitting the sack straight afterwards. This on endless repeat with the occasional break on a remote paradisiac island and -thank god for that- decadent parties every fortnight or so. No, all that glitters ain’t gold, folks.

Tips & tricks from Brands N Bands: introducing the series

It’s time to learn from these insanely successful so-called ‘lucky’ few. Yes they might be lucky, but let’s first acknowledge their biggest strength: marketing themselves.

I will dispense these celebrity-inspired tips, tricks & ideas one by one in the following months. And I will systematically use #bandsnbrands when doing so. I’d appreciate it a lot if you react, co-write, feedback, question, remark, dislike, like, follow, tag, untag, add, delete, well … you get it, I guess.

As far as I’m concerned it’s a bottomless pit of inspiration so I’m looking forward to what’s next. We’re not trying to define the X in X-factor, we’re trying to establish where most of the work of the contemporary celebrity goes to in order to be successful, and learn from that. And as you’ll see, the resemblance with what brands or marketers should be and are working on is striking.

Posted in BandsnBrands, Music

One Response to “What Brands can learn from Bands (and their fans)”

  1. Kortjes: back to school, minder vrijheid, meer schermen, YouTube-sterren, en veel meer (week 32 t/m 35, 2014) - Trends in Kids- & Jongerenmarketing

    […] target group where a lot of brands lose connection with as it’s a moving target: millennials — they must be doing stuff marketers can do too (Cool […]