Proof Strategies M

Hotline Bling To Viral King

May 20, 2016

Drake and Memes in the Marketing Mix

It’s no secret that Drake has become the undisputed meme king of the interweb. He has dominated internet culture and made headlines, creating quite the commotion online thanks to the promotional activities surrounding the release of his new album, Views.

If you own a computer, chances are your screen has been graced with some (or all) of the content below:

.@Drake Views From The Sein — Seinfeld Current Day (@Seinfeld2000) 25 April 2016

#VIEWS A photo posted by Jose Bautista (@joeybats19) on

Drake is undoubtedly one of the most meme-ified musical artists of our time, and many would venture that he and his circle have intentionally leveraged elements of meme culture as a marketing tool. While it’s challenging (impossible?) to predict what will make content gain true viral status, Drake has shown us that there are ways to elevate a brand – at least a personal brand – to meme status.

In the wake of Drizzy’s Views promotional blitz, many marketers may be asking themselves if his efforts can be duplicated on behalf of a brand. What factors catapulted Drake to viral popularity online – and can/should consumer brands attempt to leverage meme culture like he has?

“I know they’re somewhere watching…”

Music videos have traditionally played a critical role in the marketing of a new album, but content marketers are more frequently turning to online video to connect with consumers. Drake’s gloriously awkward dancing in Hotline Bling shows how the right footage can be chopped up, repurposed and poked fun at – connecting with his fan base on an intimate and authentic level, with the internet’s creative minds continually breathing new and hilarious life into the video footage.

“When my album drops, they’ll buy it for the picture…”

While album art might harken back to a simpler time in music history, Drake’s Views cover might have reinvigorated this tool for online channels. In creating an unapologetically photoshopped and highly (almost to a fault) literal interpretation of his album name, Drake set himself up for continued notoriety, tempting others to engage, edit and share their own masterpieces, featuring Tiny Drake. One company even created its own web tool to facilitate the process.

“Snap, snap, snap until they run out of card space…”

The world’s biggest brands might still be hesitant to hop on the Snapchat bandwagon, but Drake’s partnership with the picture sharing app and release of custom filters are perhaps the biggest acknowledgment of Drake’s own position in pop culture as a meme. These Drake-themed filters coincided with the release of Views and allowed Drake’s fans to easily join in the frenzy, becoming content creators and contributors themselves.

Finding the right mix…

Much like we counsel our clients, Drake’s not putting all of his eggs in the meme basket. He’s supported the launch of Views with a fulsome marketing campaign through a number of channels (also including OOH, pop-up stores, and on-brand partnerships with target-right demographics). With celebrity status and online clout like Drake’s, word of mouth buzz around this album release made it hard to ignore him on social channels and traditional news outlets alike.

When all is said and done, could a brand dream of achieving the same levels of viral success that Drake has achieved, from an online marketing perspective? Is it worth attempting or is it too challenging to predict the outcome?

While many brands have achieved success with their own viral videos and UGC campaigns, it remains to be seen whether a brand could intentionally – and effectively – emulate Drake by providing the same meme-able content without being seen as inauthentic or trying too hard.

Bold brands might attempt to mimic Drake by creating editable/shareable imagery and videos that invites interaction and modification, but they would need to appear as genuine as possible – and also prepare for the potential backlash. Thanks to internet trolls and brand detractors, the possibility of UGC gone awry, of course, presents itself. While the Snapchat approach is safer, though pay-to-play, approach for brands to connect with consumers, it might offer less authenticity and opportunity for virality.

What do you think? Can brands take a page from the book of Drake? Do the risks outweigh the benefits?