Okay, we admit it: When it comes to his relationship with the Internet, Prince has something of a spotty track record.
In his defense, he was one of the first major artists to embrace the Web as an avenue for engaging his fans. Then again, he also famously declared the Internet to be a passing fad—a prediction that seems increasingly unlikely to pan out. He changed his name to an unpronounceable and more or less untypable symbol, the very definition of un-Googleable. And let’s not forget: He also sued his own online fan group, and has been fairly critical of YouTube, though not without reason.
Nevertheless, we will be so bold as to say that Prince has embodied some of the most important traits of successful content marketing—likely without ever realizing it. For content marketers looking to up their game, there are much worse role models to have than The Purple One.
What Prince Can Teach Us About Content Marketing
What content marketing lessons does Prince impart? There are a few that spring to mind:
- Be provocative. When we speak of Prince, of course, we are speaking of the man who opened several shows for The Rolling Stones, clad in just a jacket and bikini briefs. We are talking about a man whose sexually provocative songs number in the dozens, who has an album called Dirty Mind that plays out exactly as you’d expect an album called Dirty Mind to play out, and whose classic songs like “Darling Nikki” often sound, frankly, like they’re inspired by porno. He’s seldom shied away from provocation, and he’s seldom been unable to command our attention. We’re not saying that content marketers should seek to titillate, but they should do something unexpected—even if it’s just adopting a defiantly unorthodox stance on a particular industry issue or concept.
- Be prolific. How many artists do you know of who have released triple albums—or for that matter, who have released multiple double albums? Prince’s in-studio productivity is matched only by his on-stage stamina, which is topped only by Springsteen’s. Content marketers, too, need to invest their time and talents in developing ample amounts of content—never sacrificing quality, but never resting on their laurels, either.
- Be inclusive. In his early days, Prince was obsessed with forming a band that included both men and women, and musicians of multiple hues and ethnicities. In fact, the look of his band was almost more important than the instrumental prowess—because for him, it was important to create a band that was welcoming to people from all walks of life. Content marketers should be likewise—addressing different pieces of content to different buyer personas, perhaps, but never creating content that would exclude any reader, or hold anyone at bay.
- Be unclassifiable. Some artists are essentially genres unto themselves, and Prince is surely one of them. In stitching together pieces of gospel, rock, funk, soul, pop, folk, and dance music, Prince has made a sound that’s entirely his own. The task that content marketers face is ensuring that what they’re doing isn’t a carbon copy of what their competitors are doing; that even as you use familiar concepts and tools, you do so in a way that reflects your own distinct vision and voice.
- Be the solution. Many have suggested that Prince positions himself as a messianic figure—explicitly so in songs like “I Would Die 4 U”—and while we don’t suggest that content marketers view themselves as saviors, we do think it’s important to offer solutions—to position yourself or your brand as the answer your customers and readers have been needing, perhaps without even knowing they needed it.