A lesson in marketing from Jay-Z

Until I met Dre, the only one to look past, gave me a chance,
and I lit a fire up under his ass, helped him get back to the top,
every fan black that I got, was probably his in exchange
for every white fan that he’s got, like damn, we just swapped.

– Eminem (White America)

Over the past year I’ve started to really take an interest in the strategies companies use to distribute their product. One of my favorites is a sub-set of co-promotion that I’ll call the “Network of networks” strategy whereby a single product brings together a couple small but passionate groups. Rappers do this extremely well by featuring many artists into each song. Each artist comes with their own small but passionate group. Each group is strong within its own social network, but nothing on a macro-level, when they come together they can bring a product to its tipping point.

“Social” startups are trying to take advantage of this and are starting to make it work. This or That, for instance, runs contests where one networked group competes against another networked group. Each group feels compelled to mobilize their group to get votes and thus build a user base for the company.

The next time you sit down to think about your own strategy, think about how you can build this network effect into the model.

A lesson in marketing from Jay-Z

Immediate Differentiation: A lesson from being foreign

Look at my sales, let’s do the math, if I was black, I would’ve sold half,
I ain’t have to graduate from Lincoln high school to know that

-Eminem (White America)

One of the lessons I focused on during my recent trip in South America was differentiation. Most of us spend our entire lives trying to fit in and be accepted and yet those that differentiate are the most successful. While not new, it fascinated me that my foreignness drew curious people towards me and got me preferential treatment at bars and restaurants.

All it took was saying a few sentences in heavily accented Spanish and they’d be interested in a conversation. Where are you from? What are you doing in Argentina? The fact that I was different, made me interesting immediately, and they wanted to engage. I did nothing to hide my American accent, actually I did the opposite (much to the Chagrin of my embarrassed brother).

So the question I ask myself is how does Card Gnome create the same sense of differentiation. How can I get people to immediately feel that we’re special and take steps to engage with us. To me, it comes down to three areas:

Visual Branding: Use bold stylistic cues that are different than one would expect from your industry. House Wine, has done this well by taking a completely different take on wine labels. You may not like it, but you won’t miss their bottles when you stroll the aisles. Steve Lowtwait has done an excellent job giving our logo the same special treatment.

Informality: Companies have traditionally used buzz words and conservative language when communicating with customers. We decided a long time ago to talk with our customers as if they were our family and friends. Our informality helps them to feel comfortable having a conversation with us. We already see the fruits of this labor in an active artist community that is willing to give us candid feedback and refers to us by our first names. Consequently all company updates come from “Chad and Joel” never from an anonymous no-reply email address (thank you Holly Hamann for leading the way on that with the BlogFrog video updates)

Trust people: Don’t be overly-protective with your product. Let customers touch it, feel it and play with it. Have you ever felt welcome in a store that prominently displayed signs that said “you break, you buy” or that has metal detectors? No. Websites that force you to sign-up before a purchase or into onerous sign-up processes are the virtual versions of these unwelcoming environments.

What methods have you found for differentiating your product?

Immediate Differentiation: A lesson from being foreign