Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Social Media Gives New Meaning to Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

My firm did a survey of corporate blogging earlier this year that indicated corporate executives in the Fortune 1000 were behind the curve in recognizing the power of blogging and, by implication, other forms of social media.

If ever there was an eye opener for the C-suite, it should come from none other than Bob Dylan, who in 2006 at age 65 became the oldest living artist to have an album debut at Number One on the charts – largely due to social media. In the October 5th, 2006 issue of Rolling Stone (not available online), Steve Knopper recounted in "Dylan’s Chart-Topping Strategy" how social media like YouTube, iTunes and MySpace were factors in spreading the word on Dylan’s new album, Modern Times.

The build-up began with a pre-release iTunes commercial along with an offer to buy Dylan’s entire catalogue for $199, including 42 rare tracks. His team then produced a home-movie style video for one cut, "When the Deal Goes Down," featuring Scarlet Johansson and premiering on AOL, where the video was watched 100,000 times on the first day and then posted to YouTube, getting 15,000 more views.

Dylan also started a MySpace page where Rolling Stone said that "Mr. Tambourine Man" had been played more than 700,000 times -- reaching scores of new young fans. His new XM satellite radio show – also a new medium -- is drawing 1.7 million listeners a week. And Dylan’s old recordings are moving. Oh, and Starbucks also sold 227,000 copies of Dylan rarity CDs as exclusives, as well as 13,500 copies of the new album. (The Starbucks deal also coincided with the premiere of Martin Scorsese’s documentary film about Dylan's life: "No Direction Home: Bob Dylan.")

The sum result is that not only did Modern Times sell 193,000 copies in the first week, 20,000 of them digital, Dylan’s older recordings also received a boost.

Pretty cool. But most important, pretty smart marketing.

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