by Virginia Ginsburg
Here is a man who launched his career in the 70s and 80s and somehow broke through the clutter of the online marketplace to establish relevancy 40 years later. And not only relevant to the pop music community but to business as well. Who knew Weird Al was a secret internet marketing genius, educating all of us in our quest to hone and control the power of the Internet to market our businesses and brands?
Weird Al’s parodies of Lorde’s “Royals,” Pharrell Williams “Happy,” and my personal favorite, “Word Crimes” set to the tune of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,”took the Internet by storm, proving that it’s never too late to try something new; he seamlessly transitioned from MTV to YouTube and everywhere in between.
3 Things Weird Al Can Teach Us About Internet Marketing
1. Stay True
Weird Al Yankovic didn’t try to rebrand himself as something different. In fact, he maintained many of the 80s fashions so familiar to those of us who were children when he first hit it big (the hair! the shirts!) Nor did he decide that what he really wanted to be was a “serious” singer and abandon his strength in parodies. Weird Al knows that his entire history is visible to us online, and a quick check of Wikipedia can tell us everything about him, from his hits and flops to his LASIK eye surgery. Instead of trying to change his image, he maximized his opportunity by reflecting his existing online profile rather than trying to reinvent it.
In business, it is all too tempting to want to “reinvent” your brand – make it sexier, more relevant, or just plain better. For entrepreneurs, this temptation can easily take over, making the excitement of something new incredibly enticing. But take a cue from Weird Al, and make sure you stay true to your core strengths as a company.
In the early 2000s, McDonald’s tried to market Mexican food. You probably don’t remember, and that’s a good thing, because it was a terrible example of a brand trying to reinvent itself rather than look at its strengths and market from there. McDonald’s learned its lesson, and instead of continuing with its Mexican line, it invested heavily in the Chipotle brand, which has been a huge success mainly because most people don’t realize it is associated with McDonald’s.
2. Stay Relevant
It might seem counter-intuitive to what I just wrote, but Weird Al did not get stuck in a time warp. On this album, he stays relevant by choosing current songs and high-trending social topics. In this way, he caught the attention of a variety of people on the Internet. If he focused on only current Billboard Top 5 songs or chose only be the grammar police, he would have failed. Offering a variety of content kept him relevant to a broader audience.
The tech industry is littered with giant brands who have fallen off the steep cliff of irrelevancy. When Weird Al came out, there were loads of computer brands that were HUGE then, but have since folded, including Atari, Commodore and Osborne. More recently, one has only to look at the drastic decline of Blackberry to see the danger in failing to adapt to a constantly-evolving marketplace.
3. Get Professional Help
When we see a performer, it’s common to attribute everything to the person on the stage (or in the video), but Weird Al Yankovic obviously knows where and when to seek professional help. He may be the originator of his parodies, but accompanying videos weren’t produced without an army of writers, directors, producers, graphic artists and musicians to create the the perfect accompaniment to the song. Even his post-production team had to be top notch to strategize the perfect marketing campaign to roll out the release and go “viral.”
Some of the largest tech brands today are led by a brand superstar, to whom we tend to attribute the company’s success. For example, many people associate Apple with Steve Jobs. In fact, there is a huge contingent of Apple fans who have turned lukewarm on the brand since Steve Wozniak took over as CEO. Even though Apple has had multiple leaders, and maintains a huge team from technology to design to marketing, and even though Wozniak and Jobs co-founded the company together in 1976, the Apple brand is intrinsically tied to Jobs.
No performer, and no company, succeeds based on one person alone. Every great achievement is somehow tied to a team effort. Make sure you get a great team behind your brand, even if your brand is yourself.
As someone who was a Weird Al fan from the start, owning his first album, “‘Weird Al’ Yankovic in 3D,” I knew Weird Al was funny, but with his latest internet marketing achievement, he’s impressed me in a whole new way.
Virginia Ginsburg, founder and chief consultant at Swell Strategies, supports small business owners and entrepreneurs in growing their businesses. She has worked with more than 100 entrepreneurs over the last 10 years from start-ups to businesses more than 30 years old. Virginia’s clients are highly creative and passionate, and have built excellent businesses in diverse industries including technology, consumer goods, and business-to-business services. She supports them in the areas of finance, hiring & managing employees, marketing & sales, and organizational structure. Virginia holds an MBA from the University of Southern California. Find her: Website; Blog; LinkedIn; Twitter.
Global Panorama | Courtesy of Author