Marketing music via the Internet, an ongoing evolution

My friend and I spent our Friday evening this past week at a Straight No Chaser concert in Houston, TX.  Their performance opened with a video of how to enjoy the concert. During that video, they made a point, at least twice, to encourage people to take photos and videos of the performance and post them online (tagging, hashtagging, etc. them of course).  Then, during the performance, they took photos of the crowd and asked us to go on their Facebook page and tag ourselves They explained that they had a limited marketing budget and social media was an effective way to get their message out.

Considering that the popularity of Straight No Chaser began when one of their members posted a video of them on YouTube and it went viral (see video above), it’s not shocking that this group has embraced social media and the online world as they have, but it is quite unusual.  Over the years, I’ve watched with great interest as the music world struggles to find the perfect balance with the online world. As it stands now, most musicians seem to tolerate online videos and photos of their concerts and some will even ask you to tweet your experience using a hashtag. But Straight No Chaser has taken it a step further by asking fans to actively post videos of their performances online.

Do I think it’s a good idea? Yes. People go to the concerts for the experience and to hear the music live. No video is going to overcome that thirst for the experience.  But is it good for all musicians? I’d say yes, but would love to hear your thoughts.

On another note, I chose NOT to take photos and videos during the concert because I wanted to just sit back and enjoy the experience. For more on my thoughts about this, read: Put down the camera and enjoy the moment.

Creating incentives that are mutually beneficial

If you are like the majority of marketers, your first thought is some sort of financial compensation such as money or a gift card. Although this is a good incentive and will usually do the trick, the example above reminds us all that, if we think creatively, we can find an incentive that is mutually beneficial to both us and our customers.

Keys to developing a mutually beneficial

On Sunday I drove up to Grand Rapids to slide down the giant waterslide created by Rob Bliss.  Along with a sunburn (whoops!), I came home with a renewed appreciation for the power of creativity that goes into creating incentives that are mutually beneficial to clients and an organization.

I arrived on Grand Rapids Community College’s campus to find a very long line to go down the 500 foot long waterslide.  I eagerly jumped into the snaking line that surrounded the slide, but not really realizing the impact that the line would have on the wait time.  After 1 ½ hours of waiting in line, I hadn’t moved nearly as far as I thought I would and it finally dawned on me that the line was probably about 4 hours long. Not too long after that realization struck me, a volunteer on the other side of the barrier was going up and down the line talking with people. He came near me and I leaned in to listen.

According to the volunteer, the original plan was for people to go down the waterslide just laying flat on their back, but they quickly realized that, in order for the slide to work, everyone had to go down it on inner tubes. That presented a problem because they then had to devise a way to get the tubes back up the hill.  Their solution was to go up and down the line and ask for volunteers to create a human chain and throw the tubes back up the hill.  The payment for one hour of volunteering to do this was you got to move to the front of the line.

I may not be the best at math, but it didn’t take me long to realize that this was a good deal and meant  waiting in line a grand total of 2 hours vs. 4 hours. Besides, I hate sitting still watching other people work, so I volunteered.  The work was easy, fun, and the hour flew by. Before I knew it, I was at the front of the line and had a fun ride down the slide.

People throwing water tubes up the hill next to the slide
The throwing of the tubes

The experience made me think about how we typically go about incentivizing our customers. If you are like the majority of marketers, your first thought is some sort of financial compensation such as money or a gift card.  Although this is a good incentive and will usually do the trick, the example above reminds us all that, if we think creatively, we can find an incentive that is mutually beneficial to both us and our customers.   

Keys to developing a mutually beneficial incentive

The first key to developing a mutually beneficial incentive is to truly understand what will motivate your target audience.  In the example above, my key motivation was to spend less time waiting in line. For a volunteer for a political campaign, maybe the person would care more about a photo op with an important political figure than a gift card.

The second key is to think creatively about what would most benefit your organization.  In the majority of cases, it’s probably not going to involve giving away money.  For example, if a college has a student that is motivated to publicly speak, this could be a huge mutual benefit. By having the student go out and speak for the college, the college gains positive publicity and the student gets to do what he  or she loves.  It’s a win-win!

So what will motivate your customers and how can you utilize that to create mutually beneficial incentives?

Viral marketing means taking risks and reaping unexpected rewards

There is a misconception in academe, and I dare say in most organizations, that community leaders and esteemed donors don’t have a sense of humor like the rest of the population. Therefore, any sort of comedy should be avoided. Macalester, however, took the opposite approach and challenged us all, no matter who we are, to have a laugh with them and it paid off through increased alumni contacts and donations.

In February 2010, Macalester College, a small private liberal arts college in Minnesota, published a YouTube video titled President’s Day at Macalester College “to entertain and engage people and capture something of the spirit of the college” (Rosenburg, 2010).  This hilarious video shows the President performing various tasks around the campus, including chasing a squirrel, directing a choral group in a rendition of Jay Sean’s Down, and wearing a sandwich sign to try to solicit donations for the college. The video, currently up to 52,000 views, went viral quickly, with 10,000 views within the first 72 hours, reposts on a wide variety of blogs (Rosenburg, 2010), and a nod from the Chronicle of Higher Education in a Tweed titled, We Love These College Videos. Later, the President of Macalester, Brian Rosenburg, wrote an article about the experience on the Chronicle of Higher Education, discussing how the experience truly made him a believer in the power of social media. According to the article, not only did the video entertain, engage, and capture the spirit of the college, but it heightened awareness, resulted in contacts from fans and alumni from across the world, and spiked contributions to the college.
 
The video engaged its audience through an unexpected sense of humor. Traditionally private liberal colleges are, well, traditional; there is little room for humor and poking fun at the college or the president would never be tolerated. There is a misconception in academe, and I dare say in most organizations, that community leaders and esteemed donors don’t have a sense of humor like the rest of the population. Therefore, any sort of comedy should be avoided. Macalester, however, took the opposite approach and challenged us all, no matter who we are, to have a laugh with them and it paid off through increased alumni contacts and donations. Perhaps this will inspire other higher education institutions to do the same. Perhaps its time we joined the students in being able to poke fun at our college and ourselves.