Sunday, June 30, 2013

Jay-Z & Samsung Usher In New App Promotional Strategies

"A CEOs mind, that marketing plan was me" - Jay-Z, 'What More Can I Say'

The Announcement

A few weeks ago on June 16th, I was watching the NBA finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat when the game reached the midway point. During halftime, something came on the screen which I thought was a commercial. I clearly saw that Jay-Z was the focus of whatever this ad was for. It could have been anything - clothes, shoes, electronics, the NBA - Jay has his hands in a lot of different things. Nothing would surprise me at this point.

But, this did surprise me. The spot continued past the traditional 30-second ad mark at a slow pace, seemingly in no rush to reveal the notion behind what was being presented. What was being presented? As Jay-Z begins to talk, the shot changes to one of him with long-time collaborator Timbaland in the foreground. Another cut, and the unmistakable Rick Rubin stands in front, listening intently to the treatment being delivered.

As slivers of music start and stop, the revelation of a July 4th release date makes it apparent that we are all witnessing the creation of the next Jay-Z album as an ad for said album. Other well-known producers Pharrell Williams and Swizz Beatz are seen collaborating as Jay mans the director's chair, conducting the creation of each piece of music, his own voice over the instruments, and even the album artwork being laid out in front for his approval.

Anticipation builds for the 3 minutes this is on screen and finally the point is made. Jay tells Rubin, stretching out his arms for emphasis "[the idea is] giving it to the world at one time, and then letting them share it...". With that, the slogan for Samsung Galaxy products appears on screen, clearly echoing the branding for the album and the strategy as a whole: The Next Big Thing is Here. It's the perfect partnership.

The App

Last to appear on the screen is a web address: followed by the Samsung Galaxy logo and hashtag #MagnaCarta to get the word spreading right away.

Immediately, I did what many others were doing - I went to my computer and typed in the address. I spent halftime looking into this dual marketing campaign to see how the idea of sharing would manifest itself. The website was simple and straightforward in delivering its message - on June 24th, be one of the first million Samsung Galaxy owners to download the exclusive app and receive the album for free on July 4th, 3 days before the rest of the world. In fact, you as the early bird get to be the one to share it with them.

I wanted to talk about what I had seen both as a Jay-Z fan, and as a marketer. I pulled the 3 minute announcement/album teaser up on YouTube and shared it on my Google+ page with a headline focused on the strategy being employed. The post was well received, collecting 53 +1's and 15 shares. The word was out, and people were clearly interested.

I downloaded the app at 4am EST on June 24th (hey, I needed to see how this thing worked), and got started. The social aspect begins right off the bat. You must sign-in with either Facebook or Twitter. Once signed-in, you are required to share a message with your network that you're using the app in order to view the content. The material that had been released publicly up to that point was available along with a ticker counting down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds until the July 4th early release.

Above the most recent content is a teaser for the following day with the title of what's to be revealed blacked out with a thick line. Each day's post has a 'share to unlock' requirement. The post populates with a link and hashtag #magnacarta, which will conceivably allow the term to continue trending on both social networks up until the release date. Little by little the album's makeup is being revealed to the most interested and engaged fans, allowing them to be spokespersons for this project.

Impressions of the Campaign  

Overall, I think this campaign is brilliant. It's a win for everyone. Samsung gets exclusivity for their brand on a major music project in 2013. Jay-Z gets early confirmed sales for his album (even if they are not officially counted, the extra $5 million in his bank account sure is official), and prime ad space from a major brand. Fans get access to exclusive content in a fun and shareable way plus a free album a few days early.

Having said that, the app is a little clunky and leaves a bit to be desired. It almost always requires a restart every time it's opened. Several updates have come through the Google Play store without any noticeable front-end changes, and everything exists, more or less, on one page with very little color. I also expected a little more in the way of exclusives. The daily post is great. But, it's mostly printed lyrics, whereas users would likely prefer an audio snippet, and some more behind-the-scenes video.

Samsung is not only promoting an album here. They are promoting their technology, and at best, even a lifestyle. An app specifically designed by them must be the best of the best. But, it's not. It's very basic, and even with all of its simplicity it still crashes consistently. I am a believer in Samsung's hardware. But, what does this say about their software capabilities?  Now is their time to shine, and they shouldn't allow Jay-Z to cast a shadow over them.

Final Thoughts

The Magna Carta Holy Grail campaign works because it embraces digital and social technology, and encourages sharing rather than railing (in vain) against it. The app brings fans into the fold, making them feel like a part of the process, and encouraging the most powerful marketing of all - word-of-mouth. It will be interesting to see what the reception is like for the album once it is released, and what kind of sales numbers Jay-Z will ultimately see.

But, regardless of album sales, he and Samsung have started a conversation and created an enormous amount of buzz around a music project, opening the door to many opportunities to sell other items regardless of how many people actually buy the album itself.