Rob Fields: 6 Lessons From Samsung’s Jay Z Partnership

Can a brand, even one with billions in its marketing budget, afford to only do “statement” marketing with its most visible partner?

$20 million doesn’t seem to get a global brand much these days.  At least, not yet.

That’s the amount electronics manufacturer Samsung paid to get into business with rapper-turned-businessman-turned-global-cultural-icon Jay Z.  Tying launch of his new album, Magna Carta. . .Holy Grail, to the company’s new S4 handset is an impressive feat of statement marketing–Hey, Apple. We’re coming for you!–but beyond that, what did Samsung really get? Both the album launch and the “Picasso Baby” video came and went, and I can’t get “99 Problems” out of my head:  Samsung, I feel bad for you, son. With no insider knowledge of the relationship, here’s what I’ve seen thus far:

For his part, Jay Z got

  • An arresting 3-minute commercial that seemed to come out of nowhere during the NBA finals.
  • An album that was, immediately upon release, certified platinum.
  • His 13th number 1 album, surpassing even The Beatles.
  • The chance to style on everybody in his best genius marketer swag.

On the other hand, Samsung got props and buzz that they could play on a global cultural stage.  Unfortunately, they also got:

Who got the better end of that deal?

And less than a week after the album launch, Jay heads to a New York’s Pace Gallery and creates a sensation by doing a 6-hour performance of “Picasso Baby” that includes guest appearances by VIPs in the art world, music industry and Hollywood. The result was that 11-minute film that premiered on HBO August 1st.  Samsung was nowhere to be seen.

Since most of us won’t have the luxury of spending a lot of money for “statement marketing,” expect to have to show some results beyond increases in brand health measures. So the next time your brand contemplates a partnership like this, keep the following in mind:

  1. Stop being so grateful to be in business with talent.  You have a checkbook and a distribution platform. Stop acting as if talent’s doing you a favor. Think of it, at least, as a marriage of equals. Most of all, protect your brand.
  2. Bake in your activation strategy upfront.  It’s great to generate a lot of awareness and buzz. But it’s even better to have a plan to 1) drive your audience to buy your product or service; and 2)keep them engaged post-purchase. Doing so moves those important metrics that keeps agencies on rosters, CMOs from finding themselves out on the street, and CEOs armed with great results to share with boards and Wall Street.
  3. The downside of any such deals will always accrue to the brand, never the artist.  See my bullets above as to what Samsung seems to have gotten out of this deal. To be fair, as the Wall Street Journal pointed out, time was always against the brand for the album launch.
  4. Have a second-screen strategy. This is one big content play that should continuously highlight the S4′s capabilities and coolness. As I pointed out to Y&R’s Rick Liebling, Jay-Z performed for 6 hours at the gallery, which means there’s a ton of content that didn’t make the 11-minute cut. What’s it being used for? What about a more immersive and informational experience for those not in the room who aren’t that familiar with the VIPs and their work? What about exclusive content that could be pushed through the app on the S4′s?
  5. Make it clear that your brand is a long-term marketing partner, but one that has sales goals.  It’s incumbent on the brand to know about all of the artist’s marketing activities so that the partnership can be maximized. Today’s record business is a singles business. The run-up to video events like “Picasso Baby” are build-ups of attention waves that a smart brand will figure out how to surf.
  6. Activate against everything.  “Picasso Baby” seems like a missed opportunity for Samsung. For example, why didn’t the brand reinforce its association by underwriting the video, i.e, “brought to you by Samsung”? That would’ve ensured that the brand made its way onto the HBO platform. Where was the opportunity for new S4 owners to attend the live event? Was there a plan to target all the influencers and VIPs who attended and get an S4 into their hands?

If Samsung is a brand where you can spend freely without worrying about ROI, then sign me up! But remember: The most powerful statement a brand can make is a change in sales and share in its favor.

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