Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
September 28, 2011 4:32 PM

It's Not Marketing

Confession time.

A few months ago I found myself on a long flight with nothing to watch. I had already seen the many Hollywood blockbusters along with the documentaries and news specials that were being shown on-board. In a moment of weakness, I decided to watch the Justin Bieber documentary, Never Say Never. I thought Never Say Never was a live "concert" film mingled with some backstage footage of the teen heartthrob blow drying his hair, playing Xbox with Usher or clips of young girls professing their love to The Bieb. I put the word "concert" in quote marks earlier, because I wondered how much of the live footage would truly be live. I know nothing about Justin Bieber other than he was discovered on YouTube by his now-manager Scooter Braun. With over a decade of music industry experience, I've had my own fair share of interviewing these types of teen sensations. Many of them don't last more than five years in the music industry (and the majority of them flame out sooner). It's not cynicism. It's a matter of fact that the music industry (and mass populous) have a short attention span for this genre. Today's Justin Bieber is yesterday's New Kids On The Block (or Backstreet Boys... or...). And, there's always something new and different right around the corner.


The movie captivated me. Justin is not only portrayed as a very smart and focused young man, he is a musician. A true musician. He cares about playing, writing and performing. Yes, the glitz is there and there are plenty of scenes with Bieber horsing around and clips of young girls professing their love to him, but it's a touching and personal story. A key figure in Bieber's success is his manager, Scooter Braun. After seeing some videos on YouTube, Scooter moved Justin and his mom from his home in Stratford, Ontario into a townhouse in Atlanta where they struggled to get Justin a record deal. It's a very touching and real story. In a few scenes I found myself holding back tears and in other scenes, the tears were flowing. Laugh all you want, but his story is both impressive and inspiring, it almost seems like it's impossible that it's a work of non-fiction.

This is where you come in.

Scooter Braun shared the stage with pro-skateboarder and entrepreneur, Tony Hawk, at this year's Google Zeitgeist event. During their panel discussion on music, entertainment and new media, the host, Sal Masekela (ESPN X Games) asked Scooter about his use of Social Media to build Justin's audience. Scooter re-iterated a key point from my recent Blog post on direct relationships (more on that here: What The Next Five Years Will Be About): when Justin was turned down by the music industry, it only fueled them more to use Social Media to create that direct and tangible relationship with the fans. Their strategy worked so well, that Justin, Scooter and the entire Bieber Fever crew truly do control the relationship between Justin and his fans. When further pressed about using Social Media as a marketing channel, Scooter said something that fascinated me:

"It's not marketing. It's real."

It's true and it's powerful and it's the number one reason why corporations are not all that successful with these platforms. Instead of using Social Media to be real, they're using it as another engine of advertising. I often say that Social Media is the most exciting form of marketing because it allows for real interactions between real human beings. It's so basic. Justin could just communicate and connect to his fans. He could (virtually) touch them, share with them, play with them, inform them and ask them. Scooter used five words to describe the new realities of business: those who think that they can simply advertise and not balance it out with being real (creating connections and developing direct relationships) are going to struggle - deeply - with loyalty and long term success. While Justin may have a long, hard fight ahead of him to prove his mettle in the music industry as something more than a teen sensation, brands could learn a lot from him and Scooter about the power of being real by creating real relationships.

Being "real" - it seems so basic and simple. Then again, we all know what they say about common sense... it's not all that common.

By Mitch Joel