Photo credit: Matt Rourke/AP

As we all know, thanks to some masterful marketing that included a 3-minute TV spot during the NBA Finals, as well as what initially seemed to be a brilliant roll-out of the parameters of the deal between the electronics manufacturer and the hip hop icon, the Samsung/Jay-Z deal was something to watch unfold. The key points:

  1. Jay-Z’s new album, MagnaCarta. . .HolyGrail, would be available for free on July 4 to the first 1 million Samsung owners who downloaded a special app. The rest of us would have to wait until today, July 9.
  2. By the looks of the commercial, this was an event album, one that would, in the words of Jay’s rival, Kanye West, make other artists “tuck they whole summer in.” As in, forget about releasing music around the time this album drops.

Deals like these are tricky for both parties. For Jay-Z, it’s really about finding a way to cut through the media and marketplace fragmentation. Also, as a music maker, markers of success like units sold and chart position still matter, even to someone like him. So the fact that the album will be certified platinum almost immediately speaks volumes about Jay-Z’s clout in the marketplace (the rules were changed to allow this) as well as his stature as a global music icon.

For Samsung, this is a statement and probably one directed at Apple. It says, we’re coming for you. And we’ve got the resources to do it.

Side note: Samsung isn’t new to these types of deals. Ali Muhammad over at video channel HustleVision, reminded me that his earlier Samsung handset came preloaded with Christopher Nolan’s Inception.

Brands should note that any downside of such deals will accrue to them. That will always be the case when you borrow cool instead of creating it yourself. Apparently, Samsung’s servers crashed on July 4th. Also, the permissions required in order to enable the download were ultimately described as “invasive” and “onerous”. And those were the kind ones! Which is why, we saw the hashtag #SamsungFAIL trending on Twitter. Meanwhile, according to The Content Strategist, the hashtag #JayZFAIL is nowhere to be seen.

Speaking of Mr. Carter, he walks away with a multiplatinum album out of the gate. As well as the sheen of being a shrewd businessman for partnering with a global consumer electronics manufacturer to launch his album.

Based on the way albums come together and release dates are set, its reasonable to assume that Samsung didn’t have a much lead time. Which is really a shame. It seems like the main tools the company leveraged was TV and social media. But what a missed opportunity at retail! Sure, it would’ve cost a pretty penny to get in-store signage into a significant percentage of the carriers’ stores. But to make no effort makes all the resources put against this campaign seem like a loss, especially if you’re trying to close a 17-point share gap. I expect that a brand manager somewhere is going to be in for an uncomfortable conversation with his or her boss once the dust settles.

And without the big in-store push, what’s to make people run to their wireless carrier to trade up for a Samsung phone? It’s not really the content: After all, if you waited until a few more days til today, you could’ve just as easily bought the album on iTunes. Or, as Phil McKenzie of Influencercon noted in a recent conversation, you could’ve gotten it from a torrent site for free last week.

The problem with this entire scenario is that an artist like Jay-Z looks at a global brand and sees an ATM ready for withdrawal. That said, I’ll end with some suggestions for the next go ’round:

  1. Find an artist who will appreciate the partnership. That means find someone who respects your brand enough to give their best. Also, you want that artist to be a true promotional partner and talk about your brand.
  2. Protect your brand. You’re a brand steward, remember? There are things you need to get out of said effort in order to move your business forward. Yes, there are the soft measures like brand health and perception. But both sides have to feel satisfied once the deal is done and the resources have been expended. One wonders how Samsung feels about this deal now?
  3. Remember exclusive content. If what you’re attaching your brand to will eventually be available everywhere, how valuable is it? Therefore, you’ll need to create something for which consumers will have to come to your brand to get, something they can’t get anywhere else.
  4. Remember to activate at retail. If, at the end of the day, it’s about share, profit, volume and/or sales, then retail has to be part of the equation. I bet Samsung could’ve gotten financial and in-kind support from the carriers. Yes, there are probably sensitivities, but I can’t believe that there wasn’t something that couldn’t have been worked out.

If anyone hears about metrics on this project, especially from Samsung, please let me know in the comments.  I’m particularly interested in Galaxy S3 or S4 sales, as well as how many actual downloads of the album there were via the Samsung app.


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Posted by Rob Fields

Observer. Curator. Marketer. Dot connector.