How a pop band rivals the best content marketers

I want to go off topic, off on a slight tangent, and bring to your attention a pop video. It’s four minutes long, and it has absolutely nothing to do with content marketing.

Or does it?

OK Go released a new music video today. This in itself is unremarkable; plenty of bands release plenty of videos every day. But an OK Go video? Well, it’s become an event. I’d go so far as to say it’s to pop music what the John Lewis ad is to Christmas: teased, anticipated, devoured, picked apart, enjoyed over and over and over again.

How to get attention in a changing world

The Chicago-formed four-piece has developed a habit in recent years for show-stoppers. And they had to. Though their debut album did well, got some notice for some catchy tunes, they were in danger of being just another pop band, albeit one that was lucky enough to get a record deal.  When it came to the first single from their second album – A Million Ways, released in late 2005 – they eschewed the gloss of previous videos for a low-budget dance choreographed by the singer’s sister and filmed in a back yard. Was it because of record label budget cuts, or was it because they wanted something different? Who knows. But it got attention, and I recall being at an OK Go gig at Koko in London in 2007, performing the moves with 1400 others and laughing my head off.

It’s likely, though, that you know this band from the 2006 video for Here It Goes Again, where they performed a routine on treadmills, shot in one take. It’s received tens of millions of views on YouTube. Highly shareable, and released as Facebook and Twitter were really starting to take hold, it was another low-budget trick that catapulted the band into the mainstream.

Embrace what works

According to Wikipedia, singer Damian Kulash said in 2008 that the band had not produced the music videos as part of any overt “Machiavellian” marketing campaign. “In neither case did we think, ‘A-ha, this will get people to buy our records.’ It has always been our position that the reason you wind up in a rock band is you want to make stuff. You want to do creative things for a living.” He explained to Rolling Stone in 2014 that the band continues to make such quirky videos as following their success after “Here It Goes Again”, the band worried about being considered a one-hit wonder: “We could go in two directions: We could either try to out-cool it – try to out-run it like Radiohead did with ‘Creep’ – or just embrace it and go, OK, what really worked here.”

Indeed, the band’s promotion of music videos on the internet has been compared to Nirvana ushering in the grunge movement in the 1990s.

A case study in great content marketing, intentional or not

While it may not be part of some clever marketing campaign, there’s plenty to learn from OK Go. Their video releases are months in the planning, precision timed. Teased online. They appeal to the community they’ve built up through quirky, outlandish and clever stories and visuals. They know their medium and their strength, and they play to it, trying to top it each time. Even 10 years after the treadmills, the mystique remains. It hasn’t grown old; the excitement is still real. Just take a look at social media today and see how much they’re trending.

Ladies and gentlemen, whether they mean to or not, OK Go provide us with a genuine case study in the power of great content:

  1. Be creative
  2. Think big
  3. Don’t be scared to try new stuff
  4. Know your strengths and play to them
  5. Know what your audience wants and give it to them
  6. Harness modern mediums for distribution
  7. Keep innovating

And if you have four minutes to spare – heck, even if you don’t! – please, watch, enjoy, and marvel at this feat of marketing perfection.