As much as Kanye is famous for wanting to “pop a wheelie on the zeitgeist”, Drake is also in it.  That is, he’s so very attuned to the cultural moment.  And what he’s done with his video for “Hotling Bling”–currently the No. 2 song on the Billboard charts–is another reason that I have to give it up to rapper and actor.  More importantly, it’s time for marketers to stop and ask what this means for their content marketing efforts.  And, once again, it’s New York Times music critic Jon Caramanica who puts it all in perspective with a smart breakdown of what’s happening with this video and the context for why this question is important.

First, Caramanica writes:

The “Hotline Bling” video is also the moment when Drake fully becomes a meme.

No celebrity understands the mechanisms of Internet obsession better than Drake. Online, fandom isn’t merely an act of receiving — it’s one of interaction, recontextualization, disputed ownership and cheek. For the celebrity, it’s about letting go of unilateral top-down narratives and letting the hive take control. For fans, it’s about applying personalization to the object of adoration.

The “Hotline Bling” video is built exactly for that task. It’s important at its full length, but even more so in the screenshots and few-seconds-long GIFs that it’s designed to be broken down into. It’s less a video than an open source code that easily allows Drake’s image and gestures to be rewritten, drawn over, repurposed.

And repurposed, it has been.  For example:

And this gets to the heart of this cultural moment we’re in, one in which anyone and anything can become fertile material for a meme.  Caramanica writes:

Transparency has always been Drake’s bailiwick, but this approach to content creation takes it past a place of emotional vulnerability and into an advanced space where an artist induces people to create their own narratives: The star is at the center, but not in control. Making a meme of a celebrity can be a way to sort through complex feelings of fandom. It’s an act of devotion, and also undermining. Drake, more than anyone, understands that this will happen whether or not he wants, so why should everyone else have all the fun? He wants to play, too.

Of course, the idea of shareable content isn’t new.  It just that when an artist of Drake’s stature pulls it off so well, the implications for marketers are foregrounded.  That said, here are some questions to consider:

  • Does the content you create rise to the level that people want to share, remix and/or repurpose it?
  • In addition to focusing on product and positioning messages, do you understand what elements of your content might pique peoples’ interest and entice them to have fun with it?
  • Are you willing to give up control of your content?  As Caramanica points out, what Drake understood was that this loss of control also means that some people may use the opportunity to undermine or poke fun at your brand. Are you ready for that?

We’re very much in an age of the non-linear customer journey.  That is, there is no longer a direct path to purchase.  If that’s the case, then perhaps content has to be designed with an eye towards how it also exist outside of traditional, top-down narrative structures, as well.

What other issues does this raise for your content marketing efforts?  Drop a comment below.

In the meantime, here’s the video. Enjoy!

Drake – Apple Music

Hotline Bling video out now.


Posted by Rob Fields

Observer. Curator. Marketer. Dot connector.