Clever social media video campaign increases brand awareness for “Weird” Al

Jul 23 • Front Page, Social Media • 2273 Views

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“Weird” Al Yankovic has done it again. After more than 3 decades in the music industry, the prodigal parodist has stepped back into the limelight, delighting old fans, earning new ones, and hijacking newsfeeds in one of the cleverest social media outreach campaigns on record. From July 14th through July 21st, using the hashtag #8days8videos, “Weird” Al released one music video a day from his new album Mandatory Fun, which he also debuted in whole on day two. This would have been titillating enough for a society as Pavlovian as our own, but it gets better: rather than release the 8 videos through a single platform, Al spread the wealth over 8 separate video-sharing sites, including big players (YouTube), medium players (Nerdist), and little players (Yahoo Screen) alike. This had the twin effects of both increasing his brand awareness, which matters with the tech-savvy but attention-deficit teens and pre-teens, and also of delivering content to the far corners of the web, where traffic is slower but audiences older. A strategy this methodized would have been impressive had a newcomer like Justin Bieber done it, but the fact that it was “Weird” Al, a 54-year-old polka artist, is downright jaw-dropping.



Thirty-two years, or the length of the recording contract Al signed in 1982, is an unheard of career span for musical relevancy.  Which other artists that were popular in 1982 still are? Olivia Newton-John? Hall & Oates? The brilliance of “Weird” Al is that, as a parodist, his shtick is almost immune from the effects of aging. As America’s musical tastes changed over the years, Al changed with them. In this regard, he’s less like a musical artist than he is a stand-up comedian performing his sketches to music.


And this wasn’t just any 32 years either. This was a time period that saw the recording industry pillaged, like a defenseless hamlet in the path of marauding armies, by successive waves of content-delivery system upgrades: from cassette tapes, to CDs, to Napster, to iTunes, to Spotify, each wave taking more of the shoreline as it receded. Enter into this equation the rise (and fall) of MTV, YouTube, content-sharing and mobile computing, and you have a perfect storm to push out the scions of old media (i.e., anyone born before the Information Age) in favor of the tadpoles of new media (i.e., the Rebecca Blacks and PSYs).


It would have been difficult for any artist to survive in this environment, but twice as hard for a parodist, considering the barriers to entry have been so thoroughly eviscerated. Anyone, literally anyone, can upload a parody of the latest hit song within hours of release and, through positive word of mouth and a few shares, gain semi-celebrity status. Thirty-two years ago, “Weird” Al was a big fish in a small pond; today the pond is exponentially larger, but Al has managed to grow right along with it. And that’s a testament to his lyrical genius. Here’s to the next 32 years.




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