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You, Too, Can Learn Content Marketing from U2

Amid all the buzz over the new iWatch and iPhones as well as a massive iCloud security breach, many did not realize they were a part of the largest album release in history last week. After performing their new song at the Apple event, U2 announced they’d be giving away up to 500 million copies their new album for free through iTunes. U2 has strived to stay relevant through the new millennium with multiple partnerships with Apple. Managing a band and a brand require similar skills. There’s a lot we can learn as marketers from U2’s latest attempt at content marketing (with the help of some other musicians):

  1. “Give it away” –  Red Hot Chili Peppers

    The release of their album to half a billion people made Songs of Innocence the largest album release in history. No other album has had such a wide distribution, especially on its first day of release. Although Universal Music Group and the band received an undisclosed lump sum from Apple to distribute the album, it is free for consumers; this very act has introduced a new generation to U2 for the first time. Their last two albums sold 1.1 and 3.3 million copies, respectively, in the U.S., making 500 million a considerable leap forward. Bono summarized the struggle of most marketers during an interview for U2’s recent album. “The question is how do we get to as many people as possible, because that’s what our band is about.” The same should be said about brand; as marketers, your content should be desired, but never hoarded.    

  2. “Life without knowledge is death in disguise” – Talib Kweli

    When U2 released “The Boy” in 1980, the highest-selling album sold 22 million copies that year; compare that with 2.43 million Justin Timberlake brought in for “The 20/20 Experience” in 2013.

    Music veterans understand that they are not in the same business as 30 years ago; the same is true for marketers. With their last tour bringing in U2’s highest numbers in history, upwards of $736 million, the band clearly knows where the money is. By expanding their listener base through the mass release of their album, U2 has a greater chance of filling venues during their upcoming tour. Your company should be aware of current trends. This is to ensure, for example, that 500 million people actually want your album automatically on their computer. Consumers are increasingly open to the use of technology to give them instant access to the products they want. However, the issue lies with consent. With the recent security breach on iCloud, many became skeptical of Apple’s security. This automatic album did not quell consumer concerns. Apple ended up having to post instructions on how to remove the album. UPDATE: Apple/U2 partnership causes a 41% decline in social sentiment. adweek.it/1qOix1O


  3. “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business man.” – Jay Z

    Your brand should have its own distinct voice and positioning within your industry. All content should have its own way of strengthening your brand message. Everything Jay Z is a part of, whether it’s his own music, clothing line, or sporting venture, looks and feels like a Jay Z affair. He has a distinct voice that, like U2, has resonated with multiple generations. They’ve accomplished this through never settling on what every one else in the industry was doing.

    You have to know what your competitors are doing in order to do something completely different. Jay Z also released his most recent album for free to millions on the Samsung network. No matter what tactic your brand is using, make sure it aligns with the brand message. Your brand should strive to sound as unique as a Jay Z or U2 album. 

  4. “The Times they are a changin’” – Bob Dylan 

This is not U2’s first business deal with Apple; the band previously released their own customized iPod pre-loaded with their album on it. What U2 and other notable brands have in common is simple: staying power. That comes with knowing that times will not always be the same, and thinking ahead of the crowd in order to stick out. This is similar to U2’s previous partnership with Apple; in 2004, the band released its own iPod, which had the band’s signatures on the back. Surround yourself with those willing to innovate and try something new. This momentum has kept a strong alliance between Apple and U2. 

Perhaps that traditional press release isn’t the best way to reach your audience. Don’t be afraid to embrace new channels of distribution!