Recently, Jon Bon Jovi came up with an ingenious idea. He produced a piece of content on social media that generated an enormous amount of viral, two-way engagement and tremendously boosted the visibility of his personal brand.
We’re all used to recording artists releasing songs or even entire albums about topical matters such as the Vietnam War, 9/11, or natural disasters like the earthquake in Haiti. If all Bon Jovi did was write a song about COVID-19, that would be nothing out of the ordinary and there wouldn’t be anything particularly interesting about it. In fact, we might even accuse him of trying to cash in on a tragedy.
Instead, the famous singer of such hits as “It’s My Life” and “Livin’ on a Prayer” wrote a heartfelt song about the coronavirus pandemic, but only released part of it so that fans could improvise their own verses to complete the song. Bon Jovi released “Do What You Can” last Sunday on his Instagram, and it has since become a viral sensation with people around the world submitting their own verses sharing their own unique experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic to Bon Jovi’s beat.
Recorded in his New Jersey home, “Do What You Can” will be played during the live primetime special, “NBC News Special Report: Coronavirus Pandemic.”
Watch the video below to learn more about how this song came about and witness Jimmy Fallon’s (understandably) ecstatic reaction:
Now, I’m not cynical enough to believe that Bon Jovi did this solely for publicity or notoriety. While not deeply familiar with his music, I am impressed with his creative and innovative charity work, such as his Soul Kitchen initiative. I genuinely believe he wrote this song to express his feelings about the situation, connect with fans, and unite the world in song during a difficult situation. But, while garnering publicity may not have been his end-goal, this interactive sing-along certainly harnessed the power of social media effectively and brought a great deal of positive attention to his brand.
The positive brand awareness and engagement that this song has generated is worth millions in PR impressions. It has created a level of word of mouth (WOM) beyond a marketer’s wildest dreams.
Here’s what we marketers, business owners, and all of us trying to spread awareness of any kind can learn from it:
“Do What You Can” is, among other things, a fantastic case study in effective content marketing during a crisis. We live in extraordinary times where anyone can easily write, shoot, record, and share a piece of content on a social platform and change the world or the course of their entire lives. In this new environment, brands are always struggling to gain a market share of attention, remain relevant, and stimulate engagement from their target audiences.
With so much competition and in such a noisy landscape like today’s current state of the Internet, getting attention is exceedingly difficult to do. And, during an unprecedented crisis like the pandemic we’re all currently experiencing, most brands are perplexed as to how to stay top of mind without appearing insensitive or tone-deaf to the situation.
Jon Bon Jovi proved with this song that one need not resort to cheap publicity stunts, spend a ton of money on PR, or give services away for free (which can be interpreted as a shallow and desperate way to close business during a difficult time).
No, if you’re a business owner, brand manager, or anyone trying to create awareness for a cause, you should be doing what YOU can to come up with your own version of “Do What You Can,” albeit on a smaller scale.
Unless you’re on the front lines treating patients with coronavirus, then you’ve got a lot of time on your hands at the moment as you are no doubt practicing social distancing and spending time in self-isolation (and if you’re not, you’re a schmuck). Wrack your brain or have a Zoom huddle with your team right now to come up with a piece of content or a series of content (audio, visual, or written) that encourages or inspires two-way engagement from your audience.
New technology, the advent of social media, and the dramatic changes in communications over the past decade have resulted in a shift away from one-way broadcasts over to two-way conversation and engagement between brands and their fans, prospects, and customers. Even broadcast news shows encourage viewers to tweet at them before, during, and after the show and media personalities host lives streams on platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram encouraging followers to engage with them in real-time.
I don’t care what business you’re in. If you’re a doctor, if you sell tires, if you’re a lawyer, a dry cleaner, an IT consultant, an accountant, a restaurant chain, a fashion brand or a wildlife conservationist — whatever, you should be coming up with an interactive and engaging piece of written, visual, or audio content that includes your audience and makes them part of the process. Your interactive content will serve as your Talk Trigger. Perhaps, your Bon Jovi-esque idea will be a game your audience can play online to pass the time while in self-isolation or a contest that puts their creativity to the test or an app that uses AR (augmented reality) technology to enhance their surroundings. Here’s another great example from a museum: Museum Asks People To Recreate Paintings With Stuff They Can Find at Home, Here Are The Results
Most important of all: Figure out how to tactfully tie your brand into the content without being sales-y and relate it back to what is on everyone’s mind right now. For the time being, what is on everyone’s mind is the pandemic. Tomorrow it might be something else. Either way, make your content topical, contextual, and relevant to your target audience.
One more thing. Don’t worry so much about how you’re going to “monetize” it or “convert” audience participation into sales and customers. Focus solely on providing an enjoyable experience and inspiring audience engagement.
Think of interactive, engaging content as currency which buys you or your brand much needed attention during a time when the last thing people are thinking about is your company (unless of course, you sell toilet paper or hand sanitizer; then you don’t really need to do anything besides exist). You can always figure out how to move people down the sales funnel or through the Buyer’s Journey later.
The positive attention, brand awareness, and emotional connection with your audience that you will gain from creating interactive, relevant content will pay off in spades, and net you far more interest in your brand or business than anything else could.
Jon Bon Jovi’s new hit song is the latest example of his tendency to use his platform and creative word of mouth marketing techniques for the sake of doing good. And, that is something we can all admire and seek to emulate. I suppose the title of his song, “Do What You Can,” is a rallying cry for all of us, and is really all we can do right now.