Tag Archives: agile innovation

Why Kanye West is the ultimate Modern Marketer?

kids see ghosts

Even the cover art is causing hype. Superflat art piece by Takashi Murakami

As I am writing this, I am listening to “Kids See Ghosts”. It is a collaborative effort by Kanye West and Kid Cudi and in its short 7 song glory one of the best albums of the year. Before that Kanye West´s G.O.O.D. Music label released Pusha-T´s Daytona, album that is even better. Kanye West also has released his own solo (not too big of a fan) and there are additional two albums (from Nas and Teyana Taylor) coming in next two weeks.

We are seeing unleash of new music quite unprecedented in music history with combination of scandalous headlines. No matter what are your views about Kanye, it is very hard to dispute his mastery in creating art and also making people talk about that art.

  1. Understand the new economy

The age of traditional record industry with physical sales is over and now it is all about streaming. Kanye West´s Ye has had 180 million streams and Kanye West ties with Eminem and Beatles as an artist with eight consecutive Bilboard Number 1s. The hype machine around the five week flurry of G.O.O.D Music has been massive and they are constantly topping streaming charts. The mechanics of being popular in streaming  are fundamentally different than in physical world. You need to get people hooked immediately.

  1. Polarizing is better than boring

Supporting Trump? Using Whitney Houston´s bathroom as a cover art? Saying “slavery is a choice?” Using naked look-a-like of your wife to promote an album?

It is hard to agree or approve some of the latest moves by Kanye, but that is besides the point. He is creating news and regardless of your views about him, it is hard to not notice. For majority brands the problem is not that people are talking negative things about you. It is that no one is talking about the brand. We live in attention economy and Kanye West is the master of attention.

  1. Always-in-beta

Starting from Life of Pablo, Kanye West has reinvented the album form. Ye-album was still being tweaked right before the last minute of record listening party. Before the new album, he teased (or trolled) the audience with song “Lift Yourself” consisting of following lyrical mastery:

Poopy-di scoop





 Whoopity-scoop, whoop-poop

Poop-diddy, whoop-scoop

Poop, poop Scoop-diddy-whoop


Whoop-diddy-scoop, poop

Internet was baffled and the song was not in the actual album. With the current timespan of pop songs and Internet full of memes and weird content, Kanye is essentially acid testing different ideas that might be genius or insane. They all contribute to this attention economy that drives streams, concert ticket sales and shares. With the five albums with set release dates, they need to also be released. Art does not live in isolation without connection to the audience. Kanye and his crew are breathing “done is better than perfect” mantra of successful start-ups.

  1. Let your team shine

As one of the most well-known artists in the planet, Kanye West did not just release his own album. He orchestrated 5 weeks of the most talked about musical releases. The sequencing of the albums was brilliant. Insanely strong Pusha-T Daytona started this music unleash. He had not released album in three years so there was lots of hype and the strong quality made it talked about. Ye-album by Kanye would have been hit in any case and in fine way it set the way for Kids See Ghosts (that is objectively listening the better album). Next we will have Nas, who naturally has strong own following and huge interest with his collaboration with Kanye. Teyana Taylor is probably the least well-known of the artists so it makes sense to end with her album as everyone has been raving about the different albums for five weeks.

Kanye lends his star aura to his protégés, but at least in Pusha-T album does not take over. Good leaders are not hogging the limelight to themselves but they use their clout to put their star team members on pedestal.

  1. Reinvent the form

Lately many new albums have been too long and too boring. Culture II by Migos was 1 h 45 minutes. While it had good songs, also plenty of fillers. All of the new G.O.O.D. Music releases are only seven songs and about 20 minutes, that is less songs than in the latest magnum opus (in length, not in quality) from Chris Brown. When competitors are doing things certain way, it might sense to go opposite route. The short and condensed form is also perfect for streaming. Sometimes constraints also help to create the best art.

There are not many artists that are not only creating popular culture, but are truly shaping it. Kanye West is one of them.

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Building a Successful Failing Company

Each year over 30,000 consumer products are launched. 95% of them fail.
The failure rate of TV shows is about the same 95%.
75% of advertising campaigns are failure.
(Probably the real rate 95%, but the years of crafting those Effie entries probably helped to shape that number down)

The conclusion is clear. We are doomed to fail. Or actually we have planned ourselves to failure.

Companies, who do not tolerate small failures, end up doing big ones. Perversely companies are obsessed of micromanaging the staff and punishing for minor mishaps, but eventually end up messing up themselves big time. There is too much strategy & planning, not enough doing (ironically coming from planner). The trick is to fail often and fast to avoid the big failures and to ensure big wins. Actually it is not about failing, but just doing things.

Four ways to encourage doing actual things and failing fast in your workplace:

1. Taking ownership of the ideas and making it a habit
The problem with the companies is not the lack of ideas. Not even good ones. The problem is that there is a lack of ownership of the ideas. Throwing ideas is worthless, planting and cultivating them priceless. That is why Orange idclic works. You do not just throw an idea around. You get the opportunity and responsibility to build that idea.

I remember time selling digital ideas, when clients only wanted TV ads. We always presented those ideas, even though client had not asked for them. First they were irritated, then amused, then interested and finally buying them.

Selling idea is about creativity, vision & perseverance. Mostly the latter.

If you make the habit of producing five presentable ideas to improve your business (or your client´s business) every month, you have presented 60 good ideas by the end of year. I recommend changing the client or the team, if you have not sold any of them.

2. Something Concrete/Month: Test & research with real audience
If after numerous focus groups, strategy workshops and numerous alternations to body copy you still end up messing the project, what is the real risk of just trying stuff out? Also company, which gets its Facebook status updates approved by ten different managers, cannot really be agile innovator.

Your website and social media channels give great opportunity to test things with real people before you commit millions of dollars behind certain idea. When you commit to test one of those ideas every month, you have done 12 prototypes a year. On a worst case you have 12 small failures. On the best case you have done couple of breakthrough successes.

3. Reaction fund: Show me the money to show that you care

World does not spin around your strategy. Your strategy spins around the world. And that world is changing rapidly.

“Ability is little account without opportunity”
-Napoleon Bonaparte

Every company should have reaction fund to react to current events. Something relevant happens in the real world, which opens the opportunity for your company. When the opportunity rises you should have budget to react to it. Whether you produce event, application, flashmob, social movement does not matter, reaction and taking the action is the key. The designated budget is also a proof that your company is serious about that agile innovation.

4. Skunk works Exchange program: Spreading the change to whole company

Big change starts with small movements. That is why it is crucial to start with task force, skunk works or lab, with progressive individuals who are hungry to change the company.

The challenge is to spread their impact to whole company. If people in skunk works are the only ones doing the cool stuff, it helps quite little the struggling company around. Thus every member of that skunk works should be member for only limited time. When revolutionizing the company for appropriate time in that small unit, they would be located all over the company in different units. This works also other way around, task forces giving new meaning to bored employees. Think of it as a work exchange, where you do not move geographically but mentally.

The future is uncertain and the failure is unavoidable. It is how we seize the opportunities and try out new things, which determines our success.

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