In the marketing case study about launching Jay-Z’s book, a memoir entitled Decodad, the various different challenges and solutions taken are clearly outlined. This campaign is interesting to look at because it was marketing a relatively low-interest format, a book, in an innovative way that crossed a number of traditional and new platforms. As they worked through it, the campaign turned out to be an unprecedented partnership between Roc Nation (a company owned by Jay-Z whose real name is Corey Carter), Spiegel & Grau (an imprint of Random House), and Microsoft on behalf of their search engine software Bing. The purpose of the campaign was two-fold. First, it was intended to launch Carter’s lyrical memoir Decoded. Secondly, it was to bring attention, particularly young people’s attention, to the capabilities of Bing as a search engine to rival Google. There were a number of things that made this campaign unique, so it’s helpful to just start from the beginning, which would be the author of the book.
Jay-Z (Corey Carter) already had a well-established reputation as an entrepreneur willing to take risks. He had started as a street thug and drug dealer before he even graduated high school, but managed to start a record label with some friends and quickly released several award-winning albums. Having achieved his own success, he went on to both other companies and to found more of his own companies to help other musicians get their breaks. His activities in the past have proven him to be willing to take risks and his approach to doing business is always to take what’s always been done before and throw it out. He’s constantly looking for new approaches, but has also demonstrated that he’s intensely interested in being intimately involved in the process – enough to be creatively in control of his projects. The book he wrote is an unusual take on a book and involved a lot of insight to his lyrics and his life, so it could safely be assumed that he would want to retain creative control over its publication and launch.
The book company that purchased the publishing rights for the book was Spiegel & Grau, an imprint of the much larger Random House publishing group. They usually only produced about 12 hard-cover titles each year, but shared Jay-Z’s interest in innovation and loved his approach to the memoir. The problem they faced was that the book market was already a beleaguered industry at that time, the book itself limited the available markets even further (it would not be welcome in more conservative settings), and the fact that most hip-hop books of this type, even by big name celebrities like Jay-Z, did not perform well in sales. In addition, Random House would only allocate $50,000 toward the marketing of the book, which was an insanely low amount for a book of this type with this type of author. Since both the book company and Jay-Z had worked with Droga5 in the past, Spiegal & Grau went there for ideas.
Although still a young company, Droga5 was already fairly successful and had developed a reputation for delivering innovative solutions to their clients. Something they did differently was to go straight to the client’s mission rather than basing new campaigns on what has worked in the past. In looking at this project, they quickly decided a global, interactive scavenger hunt would be the answer, allowing potential readers to seek out approximately 200 placements of each page of the book throughout the month leading up to the book’s launch. This would put every page of the book into public domain space before it was even published and fuel interest in learning more about it. Locations for reveals were selected based on the unique content of each book, drawing a strong cultural parallel between the pages and the story. Players would need to decode clues provided to them through other media outlets to find the released page, but locations for the pages would need to be in accessible locations (billboards, media outlets, store windows, etc.). Players would be encouraged to play by the awarding of prizes such as signed copies of the book, personal Facebook messages from Jay-Z, and the grand prize of 2 tickets to every Jay-Z concert anywhere in the world.
At this time, advertising agencies frequently handled all the elements of a campaign from the development of marketing strategies through designing and producing the creative materials, media planning and buying, and performing post-buy analyses to assess whether goals were met. Execution for this project would require “coordinating efforts across various media channels and forms – mobile and social networks applications in addition to outdoor and bespoke media, for instance – and asked for a tight integration of on-the-street and online experiences” (7). In addition to being incredibly hard to quantify because of the innovative approach, the campaign was estimated to cost at least $2 million, quite a bit more than the $50,000 allocated by Random House.
At the same time, Droga5 had received an open brief from Microsoft challenging them to find ways to grow Bing, a search engine. At the time, Bing was only getting 10% of market share compared to Google’s 66% and their primary demographic was white middle-aged women of the midwest. They wanted to break into the younger market. In addition, Bing already had a history of working with celebrities and they weren’t afraid to spend money for those types of activities, so Droga5 approached Microsoft with the idea of partnering on the campaign (after getting the go-ahead from Jay-Z and Seigler & Grau). “We had created a hunt … so, of course, we needed a search engine. And what search engine is fighting for relevance, and hoping to drive trial through buzz? It was so obvious that Bing was the ideal partner. And the irony is that Microseft was already our client” (9).
There presentation to Bing was very detailed, explaining what the campaign would look like, how Bing’s technology would be used and how people would use it as part of the hunt, and how all of that would help Bing (their return on investment). Even though all parties were excited about the partnership, it took about a month to work out all the details of the agreement between the three parties and they still came to difficulties in the final details as Bing pushed for bigger logos in more places, threatening to overwhelm the Jay-Z brand and the underlying purpose of the campaign – to push Jay-Z’s book to the top of the sales charts. Droga5 also had to wonder if they would have the abilities to pull off such a massive undertaking, whether they had priced it adequately, how they would measure returns, how they would assure success to both parties, and how they would keep the partners together and happy.