Purple Cows, Old Spice, and What This All Means for Your Music

Seth Godin’s book, Purple Cow, is based off the premise that the way to succeed is to stand out. If you saw a purple cow on the side of the road, you’d probably do a double-take. That’s what you want people to do when they see your music videos or hear your music! You’re music needs to be good no matter what, but it helps to go the extra mile to stand out and be seen in any way possible (short of breaking the law). Lady Gaga didn’t get where she is just because her songs are catchy. She also has music videos that stand out in the same way Madonna did in the eighties. She has that unique persona that puts the media in a frenzy, who drool over the next headline featuring the iconoclastic figure.

What could be YOUR purple cow?: 

1) Personalized Song 

Let’s say you’ve built up your fanbase to the point where you don’t remember all your diehard fans’ names, you have a growing email list, and long lines outside your concerts. What would make your fans feel closer to you? Meet-and-greets have long lines and often offer little time to actually chat and interact with the artist. VIP tickets and backstage passes seem like normal fare to gain access to artists these days, but they often cost some extra cash in addition to the normal concert ticket price. What if the artist created a contest offering one lucky fan a personalized song? The fan with the best fan-made video post would win a personalized song based on the theme of their choice and the song would be dedicated to them. Only one fan would ultimately win the contest, but if fans participate, it would create extra buzz around the artist for the duration of the contest. Once the song is made, one superfan would have a special memento from one of their favorite artists and the rest of the artist’s fanbase would know how much the artist cares about the fans.

I started writing this blog yesterday, not knowing that an Old Spice campaign was starting on Twitter (@OldSpice). Old Spice was a promoted trend on Twitter and the guy from the commercial started posting personalized videos on the Old Spice Youtube channel in response to what many Twitter users and bloggers were writing about him and the commercial. Kevin Rose of Digg and Ashton Kutcher both were surprised and delighted to get personalized responses from the Old Spice man. The personalized ads were not only created for celebrities but also regular folks. One guy even proposed through the man in the Old Spice commercial (supposedly the woman said ‘yes’). This is marketing at its best because everyone is in on the fun. In music, artists are responsible to make their fans feel closer to them, which is way easier to do than it is when brands try to do it through commercials. If Old Spice can do it, you should too!

2) Music Video

A unique music video and something that has viral potential can be a catalyst for recognition, especially if you’re seeking some momentum outside of your core music community and fanbase. Remember that Ok Go music video with the guys on the treadmills doing a choreographed dance? That music video got millions of hits, mostly from people who never heard the band’s other songs. I don’t have all the stats, but you can assume they got a certain percentage of the Youtube audience to click on the videos for their other songs and then converted a certain percentage of that crowd into true fans. While you should be concentrating on songwriting and production for your music, don’t underestimate the visual aspect of your portfolio. Visuals are important to make a live show experience, so why not put the same emphasis on video and images online? 

3) Get eclectic! Get Weird! Mix it up!

Every artist has, or should have, a signature sound that their fanbase recognizes and loves. Even if you are a new artist who hasn’t been in the game too long, you are probably beginning to hone your craft and find your own voice. Once you’ve found yourself in a comfort zone with people who like your particularly sound, you should add a little variety. If you can create just one track that deviates from your normal sound and mixes genres and styles in a way that stands out from the other artists in your genre and community, you will develop interest from people you never knew you were targeting. If you’re a band like Slayer, you’re known for staying true to your style and playing the same lightening speed thrash metal over and over for decades. That might be Slayer’s cup of tea, but unless you have a diehard fanbase like Slayer who chants your name at every concert, then a little variety won’t hurt. “Slayer” is the metal community’s equivalent of screaming “Freebird”. There aren’t many artists who get rewarded for being the same for 20+ years, so don’t pigeonhole yourself into one specific sound.

Run DMC broke into the mainstream after their collaboration with Aerosmith on “Walk This Way”. They were able to incorporate their hip-hop sound with rock n’ roll. These days mashups are the norm, so sticking out in that scene might be more difficult. What you can do is create an original production that uses many different styles to create something that sounds entirely new and not forced. Some mashups are very interesting and some just seem like someone is trying too hard. If you create something entirely new, your creativity will not seem forced.

4) ???

What’s your purple cow idea? Put them down in the comments if you’ve got one.