Have you ever seen something so clever that you instantly started Googling the brand? How about an ad that caught your attention when you least expected it and caused you to do a double take? Maybe you’ve been at a concert where you weren’t really there to see the opening band but they put on such a compelling performance that you find yourself following them online after.
These are all examples of marketing at its finest. When marketing is done really well, you don’t think you’re being sold to, or at least, you don’t really mind because you’re interested. That’s the key. Selling isn’t a bad thing. Marketing isn’t a dirty word. Most of us are just doing it wrong, or experiencing other people doing it wrong.
But, successful musicians are those that know how to market. It’s a key piece of the job. After all, it doesn’t really matter how talented you are if no one knows you exist. So, to inspire your creativity we’ve collected 5 examples of marketing genius that you can steal for your next release. Enjoy!
Arkells & The Great Vancouver Scavenger Hunt
Arkells are always at the top of their game when it comes to marketing. One look at their social media feeds and it’s obvious. A few past moves that deserve recognition include the time they partnered with the local television station to promote their release, titled ‘Morning Report’—where the news anchor spoke only in song titles of the release. It was as amusing as it was clever.
Or there was the time they collaborated with a basketball court in their hometown to restore it just ahead of a big hometown show (titled “The Rally”) and then invited fans to play on the court with them. You’ll notice the court holds the same name as their annual show.
But the one I want to highlight here is accessible no matter the band or budget, and it’s a scavenger hunt around the city. For their Vancouver show they recorded a Reel of them putting a pair of tickets in 3 different locations across town, and then shared it with their fans so they could score free tickets.
Not only was this incredibly clever for its simplicity and the fact that it was giving fans something they wanted (free tickets) but the post gained a ton of views with fans sharing, tagging their friends, and commenting. What would a scavenger hunt ahead of one of your shows look like?
Downupright’s 60 Songs in 60 Minutes
In a one-of-a-kind release, Downupright launched a Kickstarter for his new project ‘We’re Doomed, We’re Dancing’ which changes genres and vocalists every 60 seconds. That alone would be enough to make it stand out, but it also includes over 40 collaborators and the album is mixed so that no matter what order you play it, there’s a continuous flow. But I haven’t even gotten to the good part.
Not only did Downupright create a completely unique album, but he made it a Kickstarter so that fans could actually be a part of the process. For a small donation they get to choose the titles, the order of tracks, the genres that make the cut—they get to be part of this living, breathing experiment, which when you think about it, is key to any good marketing campaign. Allowing fans to be a part of the process and inviting them into your world.
Crock-Pot & the Resurrection of Milo Ventimiglia
Spoiler Alert if you’re still watching NBC’s This Is Us, this does contain spoilers.
It seems safe to say since the episode aired several years ago, but the tragic end to the beloved character played by Milo Ventimiglia came from a defective slow-cooker, causing the character to die after a fire. Naturally, Crock-Pot couldn’t just sit by and let this become their legacy.
So, they launched a #CrockPotIsInnocent campaign that featured Ventimiglia himself serving food from a Crock-Pot.
This is brilliant for a few reasons: First, it’s funny. It takes the seriousness off what’s an otherwise pretty tragic character death that people were upset about. Second, it gets ahead of people being afraid of their particular brand of slow-cooker. Third, it features the beloved actor.
So how do you steal it? Think about how you can add humor, insight, or timeliness to the things that are happening in pop-culture right now. Stay on brand and stay true to who you are, but think about how to mesh that brand with what’s happening around you. What commentary can you add? How can you ride the trend?
Madame Daley & the Rock N’ Roll Circus
I’m just going to say it. Most live shows are terribly boring. Putting on a compelling live show that drags me out of my house and gets me to spend $10 on entry and another $20 on alcohol is going to take some convincing. If I finally get there and the band is stiff, or uninterested, or bored, then I’m going to be bored too.
That’s where Madame Daley stands out—her shows are full on experience. Every set is full of colorful costumes, boisterous songs, and loads of high-energy entertainment from start to finish. It’s the kind of show you want to share on social media and tell your friends about. That’s why it works. That’s why it sticks.
How can you replicate this? Don’t be boring on stage! Seriously. You don’t have to dress up or throw glitter like Madame Daley, (but you totally can) However, you do need to have energy and do something to make people remember you.
Maybe it’s the way you dress, maybe it’s the stories you tell on stage, or the go-to covers you mix into your set to pump things up. Maybe it’s pulling fans on stage to dance along to one of your popular covers. But you want everything you do—from shows, to social media posts, to networking—to feel like a full experience with you. Be memorable.
Cards Against Humanity & the Prongles Mystery
No, I didn’t mistyle Pringles, and that’s the point. In 2017 a mysteriously labeled Prongles potato chip started popping up on Target shelves everywhere. It had a familiar but not quite right tagline of “Once you pop…that’s great.” People were mystified. What were these Prongles? What did the tagline mean? The mystery and social excitement that flooded them meant the chips sold out. People were buying these even though they had no idea what they were or where they came from.
Later it was revealed that it was a publicity stunt that was years in the making, and it had nothing to do with Pringles. In fact, it was Cards Against Humanity that had created it.
The whole thing was meant to be a joke for Black Friday, and a play on making the worst business decision on the most important business day of the year (which is right in line with Cards Against Humanity’s branding). Everything from the packaging, to the mascot, to the design followed suit in being a little bonkers.
So, how can you replicate this without spending years and tens of thousands of dollars? It doesn’t always have to be something outlandish or absurd, but you should have something up your sleeve that helps you and your release stand out. It could be an exclusive run of merch, a wild themed show, or a crazy social media post to capture attention. Think about the core of your brand—what it is you’re all about and think about what the wildest thing to represent that.
It’s ok to then work backwards to something that works for where you’re at, but by dreaming as big as possible, you start to unlock all kinds of unique ideas. And really, that’s where the fun is.