Okay, I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’ve been listening (and watching) to Prince since the late 1970s – long before Purple Rain. Obviously, he has come a long way in his career since those early days. Sure, there was the wacky time where he changed his name to a symbol in a public protest against his record company, but his career as an artist speaks for itself. But Prince has now become a full-fledged marketing idiot.
He clearly doesn’t understand the importance of viral buzz and community around a brand – at one point, I thought he did. You may recall that Prince was originally one of the pioneers of online music distribution. Sure, he has a brand now, but the public relations backslash from his latest move will surely tarnish his brand considerably – it seems it already has. Several fan sites are now displaying a few “not so polite” symbols of their own.
Prince shouldn’t be suing his fans for using his images and lyrics on their personal fan sites. Instead, he should help them by providing them with images and content that they can mash up.
As an example of this in action, take a look at most any successful video game. Check the official web site for the game – more often than not, you’ll find a link to a pre-prepared “fan site kit”, which provides all the images and other branding materials necessary to kickstart your own fan site.
There are reasons why the video game industry is now bigger than Hollywood (in revenues). One of those reasons should be pretty obvious to you by now.
Advice to startups: embrace change, and embrace your customers. Extend your brand in every conceivable way possible, even if it means giving away some content to spread the love. Help them help you.