Is Kanye West a Marketing Genius?

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past fifteen years, you probably know the name Kanye West. You may not know all the words to “GoldDigger” (Come on, it’s catchy!) or be on the waiting list for his newest pair of Yeezy Boost sneakers, but you definitely know the name Kanye. His  confident attitude and must-see antics are constantly landing him in the media spotlight. Kanye has feuded with Taylor Swift, begged Mark Zuckerberg for a billion dollars, had a backstage meltdown at SNL–and that’s just last week! The guy is no stranger to controversy.

I’ve always chalked it up to Kanye being a little crazy, and never really thought much of the timing of all of this until now. Is it a coincidence that he is suddenly VERY active on Twitter, with one outlandish post after another, right around the time he is dropping his latest album? I don’t think so. It also probably isn’t a coincidence that he is feuding with another huge celebrity. So is Kanye as crazy as everyone thinks he is? Or is he a marketing genius fooling us all?  Love him or hate him, Kanye may be able to teach us a thing or two about marketing.

Timing is Everything

Even if he isn’t a marketing “genius”, Kanye definitely knows what he is doing. In the midst of all the Kanye drama the past few weeks he released his new album, The Life of Pablo, in the form of a listening party, which just so happened to take place at his fashion show for his new line, Yeezy Season 3. Just as everyone is talking about the ridiculous things he is saying on Twitter, he released both at Madison Square Garden in front of thousands of people. Everything Kanye does seems calculated, and each thing is promoting something else.

In marketing, no matter what the product or service may be, timing is key. Understanding that there are certain times when a consumer is most likely to make a purchase or be in the market for something new is crucial to a successful marketing strategy. As Kanye’s actions and events all seem to be connected, so should a company’s marketing efforts. Each campaign, piece of content, etc. should be integrated to work together and continuously build off one another.

Stick to Your Brand Identity

Whether he is publicly forcing himself to the spotlight as he did in the 2009 VMA’s for Chapter 1 of the Taylor Swift saga, or talking about being the greatest artist of all time, Kanye is pretty consistent. His confidence may be seen as arrogance but by not being afraid to say anything, he found an identity that works for him. He understands that it is his brand identity. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos once said, “Branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room,” and people are definitely talking about Kanye.

While they work hand in hand, branding and marketing is not the same.  Branding is strategic, and is the underlying meaning behind every marketing effort. Marketing on the other hand is tactical, and is how your brand message is delivered to your audience. Your brand identity is something that gives your company a reputation. It portrays your brands values, mission, strengths, etc. Keeping it consistent is very important, and can be vital to gaining the trust and loyalty of customers, or in Kanye’s case, fans.

Create a Buzz & Get People Talking

Like I mentioned before, Kanye West knows how to get people talking, and often does this by creating a sense of exclusivity and buzz around his music or products. Take his new album for example. He changed the title multiple times, creating a buzz and getting people excited for its release. He then announced it would only be available on Tidal (which happens to be his pal Jay Z’s music streaming service). Do you want to get your hands on the newest pair of Yeezy Boost sneakers? Well good luck, because they are nearly impossible to find. Is the demand really so incredibly high for these shoes that they can’t produce enough, or do they want it to seem that way because they understand people always want what they can’t have? Making a limited number of these shoes makes them seem exclusive, which only makes people want them more.

In marketing, having people be aware of your brand is not always enough. Creating a buzz, however, is what actually gets people talking about your brand, product, or service. This can be done in a number of ways, but making what you are selling seem exclusive can be a great start.

Kanye West probably isn’t someone you should look to for guidance on all aspects of your life, but you may be able to find some inspiration by noticing how he markets himself and his brand. He wants us to think that all of this is just a coincidence and he may be crazy, but we’re onto you Kanye!

About the Author

Cailyn Chrystal is a Project Manager at 898 Marketing.  Cailyn develops strategies and manages implementation of content through social media channels for 898 Marketing and it’s clients, as well as optimization strategies for websites and content. Cailyn is a native of Youngstown, Ohio, and a graduate of Duquesne University where she earned her B.S. Degree in Marketing Communications.