Marketing Lessons We’ve Learned from Weird Al
Unless you’ve been under a rock the last week, you’ve probably heard that ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic recently released his new album, Mandatory Fun, simultaneously kicking off a campaign to release eight music videos from the new album over the course of eight days. Now that all of the videos have been released, I’d like to review just how brilliant this marketing plan was and what we can take away from that. The impact is real and thanks to great design, essentially the whole campaign went viral. Search trends are way up for Weird Al, meaning that the masses are hearing about his campaign on one level or another and searching for him by name. Take a look at the search trends:
I’m simply going to point out a few of the key elements which helped drive a campaign of this magnitude.
Know Your Audience
First, I’d like to point out that Weird Al seems to have a very clear picture of exactly who his target audience is. Clearly he goes after a young, often nerdy/tech savvy fanbase who of course, enjoy humor. If you listen carefully to the lyrics of his songs, it’s almost as if he took the advice of many major SEO pundits and picked out a persona or member of his target audience, and wrote as if he were that person. In the song “Tacky,” he belts out, “I Instagram every meal I’ve had,” and “wrote a resume, printed in comic sans.” Heck, these are all jokes that seem like they came from our office here at COCG, a group of young, nerdy/tech savvy folks…hmmm.
The song “Word Crimes” depicts improper english being written via text messages, emails and other mediums. This picking on the grammatically challenged is most definitely a trend among his fanbase. Reddit is a site consisting of Weird Al’s demographic that is notorious for mercilessly picking out spelling and grammar errors among its own commenters and posters.
— Al Yankovic (@alyankovic) July 15, 2014
The popular online comic series, “The Oatmeal” (again, same audience segment) has already come out with at least seven comics centered around spelling and grammatical errors frequent in society today.
Last point on audience, he picks songs that his target audience will recognize (and likely want to hear a parody of). Weird Al chose to parody Pharrell Williams’ “Happy,” as well as Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”, which are both overplayed pop culture hits of the last six months. He also wrote the songs “Mission Statement,” a jab at corporate mission statements and the buzz words that surround them, and “First World Problems,” depicting the woes and silliness surrounding common first world issues. These choices (running jokes) all resonate with and were born from Weird Al’s target audience.
Pick the Right Channels
Each day that passed with the #8videos8days campaign, a video was released on a new website. Weird Al chose to release his new videos on The Nerdist, College Humor, Funny or Die, Vevo and Yahoo!. He then released the Vevo video via Popsugar and other pop-culture magazine/websites. Each channel contains his target demographic, so instead of funneling through just one, he negotiated agreements with each and lined them up back to back to back.
During the first day of the campaign, Weird Al hosted a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA), allowing the community to ask him anything they want, as so goes the popular impromptu interviews. This shed more light on the #8videos8days campaign and effectively launched it into the stratosphere. That day forward, each video made it to the front page of Reddit, further sending the campaign viral.
Looking back, I’m not so sure Weird Al wasn’t performing a test on these sites against each other for the next round of business, or if he was really just blanketing his target audience. Either way, I think the approach to this was just plain smart, and it reminds me a lot of how we try to run campaigns here at COCG: using a highly integrated mix of marketing that targets the right channels for our clientele. It appears to have worked for Al, as his record sales topped the billboard charts, and he’s obviously enjoying the fruits of his labor.
— Al Yankovic (@alyankovic) July 20, 2014
In conclusion, this all seems quite simple, but from starting with lyrics and songwriting and executing through delivery, it’s apparent that Weird Al is like an orchestrator of his own symphony of goofy, viral weirdness.