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Innovative Marketing: The Kaiser Chiefs and the Build-Your-Own Album [CASE STUDY]

Encourage New FansI hate it when I don’t get what I want. I hate it even more when I paid for the privilege.

This is something that customers around the world suffer on a daily basis. Getting too much, or too little, or not quite the right product. Since we all know that sales and marketing is an earnest exploration of fit – why does this happen?

Why is it still okay that a fan buys an album because they loved a hit single, only to find that the rest of the songs on it suck?

It’s not okay. They’re not going to take it anymore – and they don’t have to. Services like iTunes, Spotify and Grooveshark have given album sales a run for their money.

Record labels are hard pressed to keep up, and stocks of ready-to-go albums gather dust in company warehouses, while fans pick and choose.

It shouldn’t have to be this way.

The Kaiser Chiefs agreed, and like most independent bands, they had a lot more options, and a much greater incentive to please their customers on the cheap… so they used innovative marketing to do so.

Good Old Fashioned Rock and Roll?

Bands associated with record labels and production companies design albums for fans to purchase. They choose songs to go on the album based on what is popular, what the “story” of the album is, what the band wants to promote, and then whatever else fits into the remaining tracks.

Once an album is produced, changing it is very expensive, so it’s usually a one shot deal. If fans don’t want to take the risk, then they can (and do) just go to iTunes and download the two songs that they actually like.

This means less sales for record labels, and decreased exposure for bands.

It’s actually a double whammy for bands, because fans can be so wary of getting a bum album that they’ll only listen to the popular songs, and many great tracks can go unnoticed.

The Kaiser Chiefs wanted people to get to know their music, and buy albums, but still give them the opportunity to be selective, and exercise the choice that makes music so enjoyable in the first place.

Hit the Road, Jack! Fans and Bands Have Had Enough!

This all started because record labels hate change, and like much of the media industry, they have absolutely no idea how to give customers what they want in a way that they want it.

Music consumers these days are very, very clear about what they want: options, choices, freedom.

Customers don’t always want a pre-selected list of songs, and they don’t want to be told what they can have or how they can have it.

Times have changed, and record labels are slow to get with it, leaving bands at a loss (net and otherwise) for how to get their new music out to the masses, despite the carefully constructed, expensive albums.

The Kaiser Chiefs wanted to give people a way to get to know their music, and buy their albums, while still leaving them the freedom to be selective, and exercise the choice that makes music so enjoyable in the first place.

The only problem was that, as a smaller band, they didn’t have the industry clout to make a studio handle it the way they wanted it done.

They Went Their Own Way, and Saved a Bundle

So they made it happen themselves. They were able to engage in such innovative marketing in a grassroots way.

This indie band knew that the traditional “take it or leave it” album method was over – people would be as likely to leave it as to take it, and so they tried to find a middle ground.

The Kaiser Chiefs created a funky build-your-own-album application on their website, where fans could pick and choose which songs they wanted on their very own album. Then they could design a cover, and even sell their bespokealbum to their friends, families and social networks, getting a commission when someone purchased.

They had it all put together by a company called SpecialMoves, which developed the interactive bespoke platform.

The best part was that they could provide that bespoke album at little extra cost to themselves.

This Cost Saving Measure Hit All the Right Notes

Fans loved it!

They made albums, shared them with their friends, and actively encouraged people to try it themselves.

Finally, a band was consulting them on the album-making process!

For very little extra overhead, the Kaiser Chiefs were able to sell many more albums to many more people. Plus, the buzz that developed around the whole thing was fantastic publicity – and it was all free!

This move is representative of a wide range of bands and musicians eschewing the traditional corporate (expensive!) method of producing and promoting their music.

By cutting out the middleman, this time in the form of “Big Music”, bands can get to know their customers, and get their input on what to make and how it should be delivered.

Giving People What They Want Doesn’t Have to Cost and Arm and a Leg

The moral of the story is that you have to pay attention to what your customers are telling you!

You can’t decide that one way is best and then try to shove it down everyone’s throat whether they like it or not. Think of the companies that you hate the most. By any chance, do banks and telecoms come to mind? 😉

Do they ever get your input on how their services should be made, marketered or delivered?

I didn’t think so.

Your customer is not a toddler, and your product is not mashed peas.

Why waste time, money and resources creating something that may please some of your demographic, but could leave the rest out in the cold, when you could spend a tiny amount of time finding out what they really do want, and just give it to them?

Build Your Own Money-Saving Systems

The key to the success that the Kaiser Chiefs enjoyed was finding a way to lower their costs of production.

By switching to Print-On-Demand technology, they didn’t have to bear the cost of creating, storing and selling massive inventories of the same album. This gave them the flexibility to change their offer from a single CD that nobody wanted to a variety of CDs that everybody wanted.

So… how can you use this kind of innovative marketing in your own business?

Can you reduce your production volumes, and thereby reduce your overhead, and gain some flexibility?

Is there a way that you can create multiple “versions” of your offer, to suit the needs of different customer segments?

Each situation is different, and there is no single “right answer” to this question. The key is to ask it, and start looking for answers.

You might just be surprised at what you find! 😉

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