What Texting With Prince Taught Me About Marketing
It was the most bizarre – and educational – experience I’ve ever had as a reporter. And it came courtesy of rock icon Prince.
It was the strangest experience I’ve ever had as a journalist.
And that’s saying something, considering I once:
- Accidentally ignited a national controversy involving the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
- Almost got beaten up by a NFL player in the locker room after his team lost a game.
- Asked former Minnesota Governor Jesse “The Body” Ventura (a former pro wrestler) what he hoped to catch during the state fishing opener, only to have him (jokingly) reply that he was hoping to snag a six pack of Bass Pale Ale.
Prince and the New Marketing Revolution
But my “texting” encounter with Prince was the most bizarre of them all. It happened in 2001, and you can recount the entire exchange here if you like.
At the time, I was a freelance writer, contributing concert reviews and feature stories to the St. Paul Pioneer Press newspaper.
Be Original. From landing a record contract as a teenager to blowing off Dick Clark on American Bandstand to splitting from his record label and selling his music directly to fans using the Internet, Prince was never conventional in his approach.
Our text exchange for the Pioneer Press story was a perfect example – he didn’t write his responses to my questions in a regular format.
Instead he used phrases like, “Eye love that so many younger people who have never seen me play b4 r coming out 2 party with us! Many of 2day’s youth don’t get 2 c real musicians, because most of the popstars of the day r lipsynching 2 trax. So when they c us, feelings they never thought they had about music become manifest.”
Who responds to a newspaper reporter’s questions like that?
Pre-teen girls … and Prince?
Be Personal. Prince treated his fans like few international rock stars ever would, holding numerous small, intimate, after-hours performances and dance parties for small groups inside his Paisley Park complex here in the Twin Cities.
Those after-hours, all-night jam sessions and parties gave fans the type of ongoing, insider-type access and sense of community that you don’t often see with a star of Prince’s magnitude.
Strategic or not, Prince also built powerful professional and personal relationships with celebrities, media members, professional athletes and others to the point where you can’t swing a stick online right now without seeing a new “Prince story” someone is sharing for the first time. (Myself included!)
Despite being one of the world’s biggest introverts, Prince found a way to turn his music into a tool that opened unusual doors, built mutually-beneficial relationships and gave followers intimate access to his life and passions.
Be Memorable. From bizarre media interviews to a wildly diverse wardrobe and hairstyles to raunchy, sex-charged stage shows to becoming a Jehovah’s Witness and giving up swearing, to even owning the color purple, Prince was never predictable.
And in marketing, that matters. In fact, my business coach is fond of saying that the #1 mistake marketers can make is to be boring.
Love him or hate him, Prince was never boring.
And that’s why you continue to see a news cycle filled with celebrity tributes, breaking news stories and fans worldwide flooding social media with videos and posts about a deceased musician from Minneapolis.
And as I reflect on my own encounter with the Purple One, I’m reminded that he taught me more than I realized back in that bizarre 2001 text exchange.
Perhaps that’s because there are some universal truths when it comes to attracting, engaging and selling to a loyal fan base – be it in business or rock n’ roll.
Prince demonstrated them better than most, and we’d all be wise to learn those lessons well.