There are hundreds of thousands of great bands and musical artists out there, but the most successful ones are the big ones. Lorde, Pitbull, Pharrell Williams, Passenger, and Imagine Dragons—you probably know all of these names, and it’s not because they’re more talented than the garage band down the street.
It’s all about the brand positioning. The brand makes the product happen. It’s what lends credence to the product and allows it to flourish. Think of it like this: a brand is to a product what a promoter is to a band or music group. The brand is the name and the image, the product is the music. Without one, the other won’t make it big. If we look at brands and products through this lens, we can identify what makes hard-working brands work.
Who doesn’t find something alluring about a secret? People want—no—they need to know what’s behind the curtain, and they’ll do anything to find out. Companies and bands alike both use this technique to build up interest in what they’re doing through suspense. It’s that anticipation of the unknown that makes people want to learn more.
A good band promoter knows the power of secrecy. A great band promoter will use it to the band’s advantage. Think about when your favorite band announces they’re working on a new album, or they have a new single, but they aren’t going to share it. You get pumped about it precisely because you can’t have it. That secrecy is what compels you to go see them live, or buy their music when it finally does come out. When Beyoncé released her secret album, fans went into a frenzy, and soon even those who weren’t fans were listening to her music just so they knew what the fuss was about.
The same can be said for brands and products. A good brand will learn to use secrecy to their advantage. Too much secrecy can backfire, of course, because people won’t know enough to be interested, but some companies have figured out the right ratio of releasing to withholding information. Virtual reality headset company Oculus Rift has maintained high customer interest in their product while keeping much of their development under wraps. This is a great strategy for companies that have a unique product that’s interesting in the first place. If people are already somewhat interested in the product, a little secrecy will only heighten that interest.
Scarcity is just as alluring as secrecy. When something is scarce, whether it’s due to a controlled supply or not, consumer interest grows and the price skyrockets.
Look at Wu-Tang Clan and their secret album. The album really wasn’t all that secret. They got tons of exposure for the one album they created, but the thing that really gave them exposure was that there was only one, just one copy of that album. The Wu-Tang Clan wanted to create a unique and powerful piece of art, and by creating only one CD they achieved this without ever being heard. It’s a work of art that will only have one owner. That owner is going to be the only one on earth with that recording. Wu-Tang Clan’s producer realized the power that the one and only CD has. It is exclusive, and that exclusivity makes it extremely desirable.
A brand that’s used this technique to their advantage is Apple. When Apple came out with their gold-colored iPhone, consumers clamored to be one of the relative few to carry the blessed golden phone. For a brief time the gold phone—because it was scarce—became the Holy Grail. Exclusivity drives a lot of consumer purchases. Bottom line: scarcity sells, so use it to your advantage. Make a product that’s scarce and sought after and talk loud about it.
Ever receive special offers or opportunities because you’re part of a group or a fan of a certain product? It feels great. Being in the loop when it comes to exclusive information is awesome, and when others find out that there are perks for being in the loop, it makes the product more desirable.
Musical groups and bands constantly practice this. They’ll offer up special early releases or concert tickets to their devoted followers. Coldplay is notorious for giving away free live albums at their shows and allowing devoted fans to get early releases of their songs.
Sharing sensitive information early on with select fans or followers creates fan buzz about the product you’re selling. That buzz generates interest in your brand so that future products will be seen in a light similar to your previous product. One thing to keep in mind: your product needs to live up to the hype. If it’s touted as an awesome, innovative product, then it better be, or future products will suffer.