On July 3, one million Samsung mobile users were able to download Jay Z’s latest album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, completely for free and listen to 72 hours before its official release date, allowing it to go platinum before it was even technically for sale.
The hype drummed up by this strategy simply can’t be understated. It didn’t matter that the album, upon its release, was met with critical ambivalence. It had already been heard by a million people, who had then shared it with their friends and families.
The best part of this? He got paid for every copy.
Samsung paid Jay Z $5 for every copy of the album that they gave out to smartphone users. The album made a cool $5 million before it was even released. It has since gone on to top the charts, shifting 528,000 copies in its first week.
This marketing ploy has also greatly benefited Samsung, which has slowly been maneuvering itself into the position of Apple’s only viable rival in the smartphone industry, despite experiencing app problems on the first day the record was released.
Since the introduction of the Galaxy S4 and accompanying tablet, Samsung’s products have been vaulted to the upper echelons of smartphone tech. However, they have never quite inspired the levels of popularity and devotion of Apple products.
By partnering with Jay Z, Samsung has not only managed to attract a healthy amount of press, but has also aligned itself with one of modern America’s most popular stars. This endorsement should allow Samsung to project a slightly more vibrant brand image, allowing it to connect better with the young target demographic that has typically been exclusively and singularly devoted to Apple.
Yet despite the exposure and success partnership generated for both Jay Z and for Samsung, the campaign quickly hit several stumbling blocks. In addition to experiencing download problems, the new app that Samsung had created to facilitate the download process came under scrutiny when users complained that it was an invasion of privacy. As the album was being downloaded onto a series of smartphones, Samsung put together a downloadable app to ease the process.
This app is now under investigation by the FTC. Complaints cited the app’s requirement for users to provide access to their personal information, including their age, location, phone records and social media accounts.
Samsung has vigorously denied these charges, labeling them “baseless claims.” They claim that information obtained by the app was merely used for consumer verification purposes and marketing communications. Whether this is or is not a violation of users’ privacy, it can’t be ignored that the use of user information like this is in no way unusual, and is quite common.
While the FTC has not yet released its findings regarding the app, this incident does serve as an interesting blueprint for a modern product launch. Though it admittedly relies heavily on the artist’s pre-existing notoriety, the basic principles behind it can be adapted universally. Rather than trying to desperately fight leaks and piracy, Jay Z was able to use them to his own advantage.
In addition, this model is a useful reminder that marketing doesn’t necessarily need to end with a standard campaign. A product itself can be used as an advertisement, as demonstrated by Samsung’s use of Magna Carta Holy Grail to strengthen its brand’s image. Although the app is being investigated, this has done nothing so far to diminish the publicity drummed up by this campaign.
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