WE Communications Blog: Amplified Engagement
There’s been mainstream and marketing buzz lately about an alternative rock band from the UK. Last week, Radiohead erased some of its social media channels ahead of the release of its newest song, “Burn the Witch.” For a band with a rabid but niche fan base, the strategy worked: the band created fame and new fans all at once.
The “go dark” stunt worked for Radiohead. We all know that when brands do stunts, they need to be authentic to their essence, to make sense for their audiences and to mitigate criticism. I can see creating a “pyramid of authenticity” that we can check with brands or clients to know if a certain risk or stunt would be true to the core, and therefore more advisable. First, you must look at the industry, then the brand (or in this case the band!) … and then your customers, or fans, to evaluate the new marketing move, risky moment, or message.
I recently shared some thoughts on this topic with Diana Bradley of PRWeek (http://www.prweek.com/article/1394016/going-dark-web-worked-radiohead-wont-work) and now have a few more unique takeaways to share:
I talked to a Radiohead fan who said the launch annoyed him a little (he felt played with), but he also appreciated the band, thought they were cool, and recognized that “Burn the Witch” was getting a “ton of buzz.” I think this move goes beyond great PR and selling an album. It challenges us to think about the meaning and the purpose of owned content – especially when the product itself is content. Radiohead didn’t just go dark, like a quiet period before earnings; it literally erased some of its brand history by wiping the social channels. This silent act raises larger questions about the value of owned storytelling, and Radiohead challenged the status quo of constant content creation and has provoked us marketers (well, me) to reconsider how to get consumers to focus on the right content: your actual product.
As someone who regularly counsels amazing brands on how to engage audiences and gain sales, I see and hear all of the dialogues about being a disruptive brand. But in this case, it’s a low-cost, high-return example where the disruption led directly to discovery, and that’s worth listening to.
MD, NY Market Lead