What Justin Timberlake Can Teach B2B Marketers
My article of a few days ago touched on the fact that those in the B2B marketing space seem to have a growing affinity for social media in general but still lack confidence in any social network not named LinkedIn.
Today, calling upon my tried-and-true and well-documented affinity for pop culture and the infusion thereof to drive home a point or message as it relates to marketing, advertising and branding - I give you What Justin Timberlake Can Teach B2B Marketers. Well, technically it is not I that will deliver this pop culture/B2B marketing message but rather will come from a gentleman named Anthony Kennada, who is the the head of marketing at Gainsight, a leading customer success management platform provider.
As I mentioned my use of pop culture as a means to convey a message is nothing new. Just a few weeks ago I delivered A Marketing Message From A Large Talking Rooster (AKA Foghorn Leghorn.) Last month I told you What Laurel And Hardy Have In Common With Digital Marketing. And way back in 2011, I let you in on the little secret re: What Schoolhouse Rock And Integration Have In Common.
Ok, enough about me and my perhaps unhealthy attraction to and use of pop culture references.
Time to hear from someone else who shares my unique ability, shall we say, to integrate the world of the trivial with the world of marketing and advertising.
Steve Olenski: Where were you when you realized the relationship between Justin Timberlake and B2B marketers?
Anthony Kennada: I hate to admit this, but I may actually be a Justin Timberlake fan. You have to acknowledge that the guy is having a phenomenal 2013 so far, marking his long-awaited return to music in grand gesture. As a marketer, there have been many points this year where I’ve envied his ability to manage the hype cycle around his product launch—whether album downloads, ticket sales or YouTube views—using a mixed bag of marketing tactics to drive both awareness and revenue.
The catalyst to “do something” about the observation came while in San Francisco traffic driving down to the Gainsight offices in Mountain View. Having been fully caffeinated, the song “Mirrors” came on the radio and sent me down a path of researching just how JT and team executed this phenomenal playbook. I opened the Notes app on my iPhone and began to chart out all of his 2013 milestones (with a little help from Wikipedia) and noticed some interesting trends that I thought I could apply in my role running a B2B marketing organization.
Olenski: How would you say Justin set new rules for B2B marketing?
Kennada: Justin and his team have executed a new marketing playbook that has changed the way brands are developed and products are released in the connected and digital age. We’ll call it the 20/20 model… at least until the “cease and desist” letters arrive.
- Progressive leaking of new content. The JT marketing machine released a new single every month in the weeks prior to his album release using his dedicated social media following to distribute the content to the masses. He even announced his summer co-headlining tour with Jay-Z before his album was released and when only two songs had ever been heard. He mastered the science of social timing to drive product awareness to the peak of the hype cycle before granting fans the ability to buy.
- Leveraging partners for launch programs. Justin is a triple threat—singer, actor and entrepreneur. He leveraged his acting prowess by appearing on Jimmy Fallon’s late night television show on the week before his album was released. The aptly named “Timberweek” produced multiple viral video hits that resulted in millions of impressions worldwide, making the Timberlake brand the subject of conversation across fan and hater alike. Justin launched his comeback single ‘Suit & Tie’ exclusively on MySpace, which is interesting since he has taken an ownership stake in the pioneering social network’s renaissance.
- Taking the message on the road early. Justin’s month-long US summer tour with rap legend Jay-Z began recognizing revenue before a dollar of album sales hit the books. Tickets were purchased on a promise of future value as perceived by the value delivered in his first two singles. That, and a clever partnership with an adjacent market’s top icon ensured a successful turnout of the loyal. History repeated itself as Justin announced his world tour in the same breath of his follow up album… only two months after the first album had been released. The world tour would build on the success of the summer tenure here in the US, and would bring the JT brand into new cities across the globe, and to those who might have missed their chance the first time around.
Olenski: What did he do specifically that B2B marketers can learn from and apply?
Kennada: There’s a lesson here for B2B marketers who are looking to launch new products or services in a big way. Justin has proven that the old way of doing things won’t be competitive in the connected economy. Rather, businesses need to embrace a new marketing playbook that leverages social channels and new content tactics to drive market awareness and convert demand into revenue.
- Drive feature “micro-launches” prior to full product announcement. While most companies may plan 1-2 launches per quarter, consider breaking down each launch to a series of micro-launches that point towards to the full announcement. A practical application of this could be a feature per month before a major product announcement at the end of the quarter. The consistent drumbeat will keep your brand in the news, while you hint towards a compelling event to come. Leverage social media to create the viral distribution channels that help build the hype cycle. Be sure to make the call-to-action clear during the major launch, which if done correctly, gives context to the build up.
- Make partner marketing core to each launch. The single question that matters most to launch marketers is “how can I get my message in the right form, to the right buyer at the right time.” Experiment with different tactics—especially video—to create dynamic content you’re your audience will consume and share. Leverage partners and customers to help drive clicks, views and downloads of your content. We found that asking partners to share our news grew our engagement exponentially. Make sure that all links track back to your marketing automation systems and can be attributed on a program-basis to the sales pipeline, otherwise you’re flying blind.
- Think beyond Silicon Valley. We tend to get comfortable living in the technology capital of the world, where terms like ‘big data’ and ‘cloud’ are uttered as often as ‘hello’ and ‘how are you?’ elsewhere. Use our technophile ecosystem as a proof of concept for launch programs, and then when ready, turn your marketing cannons outside the 650. Invest in roadshows, local meet-ups and other activities to take your message on the road and meet prospects in new markets. You’ll likely find your messaging tested, as some markets may bear demographic and behavioral biases.
Ok what do you all think?
Is there a message/lesson here? Can B2B marketers or any marketer for that matter, glean anything from Justin Timberlake?
Photo credit: Wikipedia
Named one of the Top 100 Influencers In Social Media (#41) by Social Technology Review and a Top 50 Social Media Blogger by Kred, Steve Olenski is a senior creative content strategist at Responsys, a leading marketing cloud software and services company, and a member of the Editorial Board for the Journal of Digital & Social Media Marketing. He can be reached via Twitter, LinkedIn or See complete profile
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