I’ll fess-up: I think Robin Thicke is a total dreamboat, but truth be told, I’m a bit fed-up with all the hubbub around his summer smash hit, “Blurred Lines.” Still, every time that snappy tune hits the airwaves in my car, I can’t help but turn it up and jam out.
Which got me to thinking: Is there a marketing lesson or two we could learn from the pop hits that get massive airplay and won't leave your head once you hear them? They stay at the top of the charts, and these days, that’s no easy feat. And they each have seemingly mastered what every business craves: being memorable, recognizable and talked about.
So what can we glean from the awesome earworms that hit the charts this summer that we can apply to our marketing and branding practices? Might I suggest you ...
Get A Personality
Plain vanilla? Pshaw. A distinct style is always memorable and reminds us that there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re down with the chill, semi-dubstep style of “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons or the contagious, foot stomping, arm-waving energy fueling “Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, pop music’s top hits show us that there’s something for every mood. There’s an audience for every brand, too.
Your audience wants to identify with your brand’s tune—your personality. If you’ve got a more laid-back brand, that’s cool. If yours is more amped up and high energy, that’s cool, too. But plain vanilla isn’t going to make you memorable.
Your customers need something—a personality and a feeling—to hold on to. When I think of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, I think smart lyrics with a crazy hip-hop, can’t-hold-me-back vibe. And while their other chart-topping hit “Same Love” has a completely different vibe, it’s still fueled with that signature personality. Personality is contagious, which is why…
Pop Stars Can Get People Talking
So I mentioned “Blurred Lines.” From a jaw-dropping performance at the VMAs that included Miley Cyrus and some questionable teddy bears to the raging gender debate that’s cropped up over the song’s lyrics, you can’t say people aren’t talking. And since we’re on the topic of Miley Cyrus, she doesn’t have the No. 1 hit on the Billboard charts with her new single “Wrecking Ball” for nothing. While I’m not a fan and can’t imagine what would provoke anyone to think that a naked tryst with heavy construction equipment is anything but unsanitary, people are talking.
People talk about brands with personality, and these two summer smash singles are chock full of personality. Heck, even the critics of “Wrecking Ball” are making the song an even bigger hit. Personality is memorable, and brands (and pop hits) stay memorable because their audience wants to talk about them and spread the word.
And it doesn’t matter if folks actually like “Blurred Lines” or “Wrecking Ball.” Wouldn’t you like your brand to be part of the conversation du jour that drives sales, brings new fans to your doorstep and keeps up the love/hate debate? Love me, hate me, just don’t be indifferent. And that’s why…
Distinct Style = Brand Asset
Katy Perry released “Roar,” and it soared to the top of the charts. Eminem has gone a long time between singles, but his latest release, “Berzerk,” is in the Billboard’s Top 10. Why? Because when a Katy Perry or Eminem song comes on the radio, you know it’s a Katy Perry or Eminem song.
And while neither of those songs might be their best work (I’m more of an “I Kissed a Girl” and “I’m Not Afraid” kind of gal), that’s okay. Great brands build equity with their audiences by having a distinct and recognizable style. That equity gives brands permission to try new things, to have new successes that are even more successful, to even fail on occasion.
But without a distinct personality, you’ll never find the audience who'll love you for everything you are (and everything you’re not). And without that audience, folks won’t talk, and you sure won’t have any leeway to spread your wings or have less than perfect days.
Great brands, just like people, have a distinct style. When dating, you never call back the guy or gal who can best be described as meh. And just like Katy Perry and Eminem, it’s okay to be who you are—a flashy, teenage dream kind of pop icon or an edgy, hip-hop legend. Not everyone will like you, but you’re not building your brand for everyone. There’s no wrong direction, as long as it’s true to your brand. So maybe it's time for …
We’ve got Macklemore & Ryan Lewis singing about shopping at thrift stores (ahem—425 million views on YouTube) and bands like Daft Punk mixing it up with Pharrell Williams (cough—125 million views) with a song more at home in the discos of the '70s than the airwaves of 2013.
But with a certain something that only each of these artists could provide, they made something old new again. Pop stars know that everything under the sun has already been done in some iteration or another, so it’s not always necessary to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes you just need to look at the things you love—whether it’s a music style, a color, a texture or a feeling—and ask, “How can we make that happen again?”
These two summer chart toppers knew how to make their audiences feel. Maybe it’s about remembering the smell of your granddad’s clothes or being a cash-strapped student just out of college. Maybe it was how you felt when you heard your first Earth, Wind & Fire album.
Your brand can do the same for your audience, because after it’s all stripped down to the basics, we’re just people marketing to people. Maybe a throwback or some sort of reminder is just what your audience needs to look at your brand and think, “That’s just what I needed.” Because feelings never go out of style.
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