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Brands Can Make Waves, but Consumers Control the Tide

Posted On  May 5, 2015

Jay Z’s streaming music service, TIDAL, recently launched with a CMO’s dream team of celebrity supporters, including Jack White, Madonna, Usher, Alicia Keyes and other superstar artists. TIDAL, according to the website, is “A program dedicated to artists from around the globe who have passionate fan bases and are ready to broaden that base to a wider audience.”

The response from fans was swift and negative.

Other artists called out Jay Z for emphasizing the richest entertainers, who are hardly struggling artists, and charging $20 for the highest quality tracks. Rants and memes flooded Twitter. The mainstream media followed the tide of negative commentary.  Days later, Jay Z purged TIDAL’s CEO and 25 other employees.

A look at Jay Z’s professional history shows he has business chops, but he missed big on two accounts here:

  1. Consumers should be at the heart of all brands. TIDAL, with its focus on artists, failed to make sure consumers understood what was in it for them. If there is one thing all businesses need, it is paying customers. TIDAL’s marketing messages should flow toward consumers not its suppliers.
  1. Authenticity matters. A lot! While this statement has always been true, it has never been truer than it is now, a time when anyone can jump into the stream of social conversation and change the tide. Jay Z used Twitter to define his brand. The public used Twitter to rebuke his brand.

Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie pointed out the inconsistency between TIDAL’s star-studded promo team and their claim to help unsigned artists. He said, “I think they totally blew it by bringing out a bunch of millionaires and billionaires and propping them up onstage and then having them all complain about not being paid.”

TIDAL made a big splash – but not the kind Jay Z wanted. Brands that keep it real and keep consumers front and center will ride the high tide. Brands that don’t will get caught in the undertow and never make it to shore.

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Written by Joan Cassidy
Joan oversees a team responsible for developing LRW’s brand through a combination of content, digital and event marketing. Her expertise lies at the intersection of marketing, research and technology. Joan joined LRW in 1990 as a researcher and has worked on some of LRW’s biggest client relationships and projects as an expert in branding, customer experience, tracking, and technology, before transitioning to her current role in marketing. She received her B.A. in economics from UCLA.


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