Kanye West may be unpredictable (and occasionally unhinged), but there’s no denying: he knows how to grab an audience. Kanye first made headlines around this year’s Coachella music festival when he was rumored to be a headliner, only to reportedly drop out right before the lineup announcement… only to then return to the programming for a special “Sunday Service” performance on Easter Sunday.
Unpredictable, sure, but that didn’t stop 50,000 festival-goers (almost half of the festival’s daily attendance) from attending the special event, which started before the festival at an off-site location. Nor did it keep attendees from quickly buying out the $220 ‘church clothes’ crew necks.
It makes us wonder - how has Ye been able to cultivate such a dedicated, forgiving and purchase-ready audience? It’s more than just his celebrity status and creative mastery - the fact is, Kanye (whether he knows it or not) is a marketing genius.
Here are 4 things to learn from Ye’s Sunday Service that you might use in your next marketing campaign:
Coachella continues to get bigger and bigger - not just in terms of its total attendance or the revenue it generates, but in spectacle. Each year, artists push the limits of what’s possible in live performance to make their mark on Coachella’s hallowed stages. Leave it to Kanye to create his own stage somewhere else.
Sunday Service began at 9:30am (the festival usually opens its doors around 12pm) at a hill on the campgrounds, outside of the actual festival site. And, unlike most of the programming you see on the lineup card, it only happened on Weekend 2.
Even for a festival known for its surprises, this was about as different as it gets. It made headlines and generated 27.5M impressions across social media.
Different can be dangerous - so make sure you don’t do anything that will offend anyone or alienate your target audience. But remember - brands don’t go viral by playing it safe.
Part of why Sunday Service was so heavily attended was its prohibitive factors. It only went down on Weekend 2. It happened early in the morning on the third day of a music festival (you do the math). Tickets weren’t available for sale. Viewers streaming the event at home had to watch through a peephole view.
Attendees got a first look at the Church Clothes pop-up shop, which offered various overpriced items (like the aforementioned sweatshirts and $50 socks).
There’s a phrase for this - “you only want what you can’t have.” Sometimes, making things feel unattainable is the best way to get people to want them.
Kanye hasn’t had the best press of late. Or ever. His last-minute cancellation on this year’s festival because they wouldn’t build him a giant dome for his performance definitely came across… entitled.
But while he might have disappointed those expecting to see him on the lineup card, he came back and delivered something even more special than a headlining set. He delivered an utterly unique, emotionally charged performance featuring church singers, other musical artists (Kid Cudi & DMX performed with him) and his family. He played the hits alongside new material.
The move to return to Coachella - the very festival he so recently slighted - shifted the conversation around Kanye from “petty diva” back to “creative genius” (unless you had Weekend 1 tickets).
If your brand has been tarnished in any way - even as small as something like a campaign that fell flat - sometimes it’s as simple as going back and doing it the right way to turn the momentum around.
Even after the performance, there were still a million questions. When will the new album come out? Will there be a summer tour? Is Kanye back? Will there be more Sunday Services?
When you develop brand awareness with your marketing campaigns, your potential customers will now move down the marketing funnel into the consideration stage. This is where they will explore your website and social channels or sign up for your email list to gather more information.
Unlike Kanye, when you leave them wanting more, be ready to provide more! Make sure all of your conversion and retention strategies are firmly in place so you can capitalize on the interest you generate with your awareness campaigns.
By going against the grain, creating exclusivity, taking control of the conversation and leaving everyone desperate for more, Kanye definitely won the weekend. You may not have an opportunity to utilize all of these strategies at once, but you should certainly keep them in mind for when the moment calls!
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Sara is a Social Media & Influencer Manager at Hawke. When she’s not strategizing content for brands, she runs a fashion and lifestyle blog in her spare time - check out her website www.lovesarafaye.com