“Professor” Bob Ritchie taught a master class in marketing this month.
Album sales — not business lessons — were the goal of Kid Rock and his people, of course. But any admirer of effective product promotion can find much to respect in a slickly coordinated blitz that put him on network TV, news websites, print media and pretty much everywhere we looked in the run-up to the Nov. 19 release of Rebel Soul.
Granted, Kid had a huge head start as a multi-platinum artist and highly quotable American Bad Ass. His ninth studio album, the first since Born Free in 2010, has legitimate news value and wide interest. And in Michigan, where advance coverage was inescapable, the man is a demigod to many.
Still, even a deity can use a strong PR push — and Kid’s certainly was as solid and coordinated as those for any Apple rollout or Hollywood blockbuster. These are just some of the choreographed moves:
- Political rallies: He appeared Oct. 8 with vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan at an Oakland University event north of Detroit and with Mitt Romney in New Hampshire on Election Eve. He earlier gave a private tent concert Aug. 30 outside the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. These weren’t album promotions directly, but the timely exposure is part of a drumbeat.
- Public service ad: The hometown hero narrates a new “Opportunity in Detroit” commercial first shown nationally Oct. 28 during the World Series.
- iTunes embrace: As one of the last high-profile holdouts, Kid made a late October splash by offering Rebel Soul‘s title track as a $1.29 preorder on iTunes. It’s his first non-soundtrack music issued on the platform.
- Free downloads: Next came free streaming of another cut, Detroit, Michigan, at his home state’s Pure Michigan tourism site Nov. 5. Then on Nov. 13, the title song went on iTunes without cost.
- Gift cards giveaway: His second annual holiday season gift-giving was announced Nov. 8. Through Metro Detroit radio stations, he’ll distribute $30 Meijer gift cards to 1,200 people.
- NFL show: Shortly before Release Day, Kid and the Detroit Lions announced that he’ll sing Detroit, Michigan during halftime at Ford Field on Thanksgiving – as he did to promote Born Free two years ago.
- NASCAR exposure: Nov. 18, album release eve, brought a pre-race concert at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida and media-magnet attendance as fellow Michiganian Brad Keselowski sped to a Sprint Cup championship.
- Broadcast rounds: The recent list includes Howard Stern’s radio show (Nov. 14) and Good Morning America (Nov. 19).
Nothing unusual or inappropriate about any of this, naturally. Presidential campaigning, philanthropy and taping a pro-Detroit ad are things he’d do even if a new album weren’t going on sale.
At the same time, the net result of Kid’s fall blitz is a blizzard of what marketers call earned media . . . aka free publicity.
Another public relations term that may apply is strategic philanthropy. A five-sentence Detroit News item about the gift cards, for instance, ends with this: “Rock’s new album “Rebel Soul” is due out Nov. 19.”
Billboard gave him the Nov. 12 cover. Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, VH1.com and CNN.com had coverage in recent days. Even the staid, literary New Yorker opened space this month for a long “Badass American” profile by culture writer Kelefa Sanneh.
The Detroit Free Press has five articles Nov. 18-19, including one reposted by HuffPost Detroit as its main display Nov. 19. The Detroit News’ recent tally is seven, spread out from Nov. 5-16.
MLive.com has three stories on its home page Nov. 19, pushing its coverage total above three dozen since August (including reposted updates). Deadline Detroit, a news site where I’m a contributor, had 11 pieces since August.
Crain’s Detroit Business got in the act three times since mid-August.
Takeaway: Staying top-of-mind when it matters takes as much coordination as syncing musicians, backup vocalists, dancers, sound crews and lighting techs for show time.