Michael Jackson – a Study in Marketing

In Part 1 of this series, I mentioned how marketing strategies could really be condensed into a two-sided spectrum depending on your business or product. The “Rihanna side” represented the side of the spectrum of marketing based off a “cool factor”. In Part 2 of the series, the “Whitney Houston side” represented the side of the spectrum of marketing based off functionality. But, these both represent extremes. You never want to completely focus on one paradigm of marketing and completely forsake the other. “So how do you reach a happy medium?” you may ask or, “what celebrity will you pull out next?” Look no further than the title.

Michael Jackson

When you think of Michael Jackson and you take away the personal stuff that plagued him late in his career, there are so many iconic moments. There’s Thriller, the Moonwalk, his fashion sense, and Bubbles. Michael Jackson was literally the coolest you could get, particularly in the 70’s and 80’s. He was so cool that he could still rock a jheri curl in the 2000’s and look like the most stylish guy on the red carpet. But before all of that, Michael Jackson was a musician first and foremost.

If you were to ask the multitude of famous artists that worked with Michael Jackson what his musical skill was like, he would be above reproach. From a young age, Michael Jackson was a good singer, but could also play multiple instruments as well as read and write music. In other words, as a pop musician, he was about as technically sound as they come.

The combination of charisma, style, and musical ability made Michael Jackson a literal superstar. And don’t think for one second that if any one of those pieces of the combination were missing that he would be the MJ we know today.

What does that have to do with marketing? When marketing a product, you should try to put an equal focus on how well it works and how cool it is for consumers. While a lot of this is contingent on your business and the people that build the product, marketing somewhere between the “Rihanna side” and the “Whitney Houston side” puts your marketing strategy on a “Michael Jackson level”.

Take Apple for instance (yes, everyone uses Apple as an example for everything. Sorry). When you look at the inner workings of Apple products, each iteration typically has the technical specs that would make your engineering friend blush. And while that is a function of the people that build these products, it is also indicative of the marketing team that they see the value in marketing the technical side as well as the overall aesthetic beauty/functionality. How do I know this? The average person knows more about how Apple products work on the inside than the majority of their other gadgets.

And of course, it goes without saying that for most people, buying Apple products are a cool thing. But, their marketing has been so successful not for the commercials they run, but for how their customers are now doing the marketing for them.

Stop me if you’ve seen this on Facebook on Twitter, “Omgomgomg, the new (Apple product) is so (insert superlative here)!!!!!!!” It is a testament to Jony Ive and Apple’s marketing department that they’ve so engrained Apple products into everyday life. It’s reached a point that Apple products are not only perceived as the coolest thing to have, but as the coolest absolute necessity for your life to function.That, my friends, is the secret sauce for the perfect marketing strategy – put an equal focus on why your product is absolutely necessary to succeed in life (Whitney Houston) and why it’s so cool that people have to have it (Rihanna).

To catch up on the previous posts in this series, click on Part 1 or Part 2

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