In Recent Tragedy of Prince’s Death, There Are 4 Lessons in Marketing We Can Learn From His Legacy

Last week we lost a legend, one that transcended categories, and capture the attention and hearts of millions. Multiple generations put their differences aside to mourn the passing of one Prince Rogers Nelson, and share their stories and insights into a man most of us didn’t’ know personally, but felt was a part of our everyday lives.

Prince embodied many of the words brands strive to be: disruptive, transcending, inspiring and impactful. So often do we compose marketing strategies, presenting them to senior executives using these words only to never truly experience their success. Marketers can learn a lot from Prince, as someone who was able to embody the definition of some of these words across multiple decades. How did he do it? Here are four lessons that may get us closer.

  1. Never Stop Experimenting

Prince continuously evolved his sound, mixing genres like rap, pop, funk, soul, and everything in between. He collaborated with new artists, logged guest appearances in unexpected places, and interacted with media at unpredictable times. He never lost our attention because we could never guess where he would land next, but yet, when he finally arrived, it would make perfect sense that he was there.

To be like Prince, Marketers need to always remain true to their brand’s core essence, but continuously evolve through experimentation. With budgets tightening, it’s easy for marketers to become more conservative and just focus on optimizing past wins. But without experimentation, brands can stagnate and lose the interest of their audience. Marketers should never stop mixing channels, technologies, and content mediums to discover new ways to arrive in places that capture the attention of their audiences.

  1. Mark Every Communication with Your Unique Signature

Through all his experimentation, Prince could not be categorized. He was different. He was, in a way, his own category. And his category wasn’t defined by his personality (although it supported it). It was defined by his work. He didn’t become his own category because he declared it in an interview one day. He became his own category by continuously producing work marked with his unique signature.

Many marketers spend time defining their brand’s position and unique story only for it never to be translated to their core audience. To be like Prince, marketers cannot simply declare they are unique and different in internal communications and expect it to be heard and understood by their respected audience. Rather, marketers need to invest in socializing and policing communications through all parts of the organization. They need to have the processes in place to ensure every interaction a person has with their brand, a handshake, an article, an ad, is marked with their unique signature and consistent message they wish to convey.

  1. Authentic Customer Stories Are Content Gold

My favorite Prince story I read this past week was about Prince attending a small house party in Beverly Hills. Saying nothing, Prince enters the house with his band, and the storyteller, a guitarist from a popular pop band, has a transcendental moment playing beyond his abilities simply being inspired by Prince’s presence. When finished, no words need to be exchanged because, on that small stage, they both understand the impact that moment had on the young guitarist’s life.

Like Prince, brands should never shy from creating one-on-one connections with customers in their environment. Most companies often dismiss small scale ideas because they are deemed inefficient and unprofitable. In truth these moments are content gold, providing authentic ways to share the brand’s story through the voice of the consumer. To harness these moments and make them more ROI positive, marketers need to reduce frictions for customers to socially share their behind the scenes moments. Then, marketers should invest in social listening, so they can properly capture and share these stories from the authentic source through their own brand channels. By creating these feedback loops, marketers can make true one-on-one personalized moments a greater part of their promotional strategy.

  1. Let Your Work, Not Your Strategy Define You­

Prince was considered one of the hardest workers in the industry, creating more original albums than most artists. He never stopped logging the hours, because he understood that a plan is only as good as the actions that support it. He never shared his plan either, but simply lived the phrase “let the work speak for itself”.

Too often, marketers spend a disproportionate amount of time chasing the next big thing, developing complex marketing strategies and sharing their vision throughout the organization. They promise big, and often lack the resources, time and budgets to make it happen. Marketers need to remember that plans are not what customers see. The work is what influences customer’s thoughts and feelings and ultimately shapes the customer’s perception of the brand. Marketers need to ensure that they are dedicating the proper time, budget and resources to actually execute the plan and adapting with action when needed.

As marketers, lessons and inspiration can be found not just in our own personal experiences but from others around us as well. Prince taught us how to be different, to be unique and to be true to ourselves. As teams sit down to write their next marketing strategy and figure out how to become the disruptive brand they strive to be, it might be wise to reflect on the story of one legendary pop icon who disrupted the industry and left a lasting mark on so many.