The impact of directness
A view from Sue Unerman

The impact of directness

One cold dark night, in the closing years of the last century, a few brave colleagues (including Matt Mee, then an outdoor expert, now our global chief strategy officer) and I took an unconventional approach to the marketing of the Converse All Star.

We projected the advertising, guerrilla-style, on to the exterior walls of major indie clubs across London. It was a first, it was a great talking point and it delivered good sales on a tiny budget. We also had to switch venues quite quickly when the owner of the Forum came out and told us off – someone having neglected to obtain permission for the show.

I see that Kanye West has at last followed our lead. The debut of his new single was on the walls of city buildings worldwide. And it was announced on Twitter, where Kanye has roughly nine-and-a-half million followers. The single Tweet received 19,000-plus retweets, and it was one of these that I picked up, although I will admit to missing the première at the Camden Stables Market, less than a mile from our All Star projection all those years ago. 

(Kanye’s projection also ran at other venues in London including the Royal Opera House, on Brick Lane and in Chinatown, as well as in Paris, Berlin and, of course, all over the US). To quote one of my colleagues, an expert in entertainment comms: "The Twitter reaction has been phenomenal."

A successful example of the artist’s – or, indeed, the brand’s – voice as the main communication channel. The idea that we used in a small way for Converse is now a real actionable and accountable communication route for Kanye to enlist his fans as advocates and use them as a media channel. Here’s another example from the singer Demi Lovato.

On 6 May, Lovato asked her Twitter followers to "unlock" the entire album by putting song titles in hashtags. A special website, lovaticsspeeduptime.com, was launched, displaying all the songs next to a clock that would turn as Tweets would be sent. Once a song became a trending topic, its YouTube video was made available on Vevo. All the songs were unlocked within a couple of hours. Once again, the brand speaks directly to its audience. In fact, the audience and the brand couldn’t be closer in these two cases. 

The point isn't that Kanye and Demi's marketing campaigns got them "earned" or "shared" media. The point is that they were absolutely honest and open with their audiences about what they wanted from them and why. Kanye invites everyone to his première. Demi asks fans to promote her songs. The objectives of the campaigns are completely transparent to the audience. As are the benefits of getting involved. No subtlety, it’s all out in the open – and it has amazing impact.

Sue Unerman is the chief strategy officer at MediaCom
@SueU

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