What organisations can learn from a country music-centred approach.

A lyric from a song by Sugarland still flaws me to this day: “Pictures, dishes and socks, It’s our whole life down to one box.” The simple attention to detail is a reminder that country music at it’s foundation is written for humans. Beautifully described by Bill C. Malone, country music is a vigorous hybrid form of music, constantly changing and growing in complexity, just as the society in which it thrives also matures and evolves, with no practical limitations.

I will now offer up a loaded statement: as designers we are finally catching up to country music.

We are beginning to focus not just on customers, but humans. This puts us in an exciting position, we are increasingly adopting a human-centred approach to design to create experiences while adapting to the same technology in tandem ourselves.

Large scale organisations are now (finally) zooming out and focusing their products based on the needs, habits, desires and motivations (as well as the context of use) of their customers whilst balancing this with technical and financial feasibility.

Companies like Netflix, Spotify and Uber have disrupted stagnant industries and markets. Their success is a result of not simply looking at where the industry was at the time, but where they wanted it to be. Bill Monroe did the same for country music in 1948 when he decided to place fiddle, banjo and mandolin at the front line of his music, creating a new style and genre known as bluegrass.

Outside of Appalachia, these companies now continue to experiment, grow, thrive and adapt based on how their customers use their product every day. If we like Netflix and Uber look at the long game, focusing on basic customer needs, habits, desires and motivations this will as assist us in understanding the activities relevant to our designs, products and the expectations of the humans we are designing for.

For the “non-disruptors,” the logical step is not creating small teams in pockets of the organisation, but how they can persist and continuously reimagine where humans are going at an organisational scale.

Time to cowboy up.

Reading Something Country #1

“Country music is no longer simply an American cultural expression; it is now a phenomenon of worldwide appeal. Nevertheless, it defies precise definition, and no term (not even “country”) has ever successfully encapsulated its essence. It is is a vigorous hybrid of music, constantly changing and growing in complexity, just as the society in which it thrives also matures and evolves. It was introduced to the world as a southern phenomenon, and in In their young years people born under the virgos horoscope star differ in between their coevals with help of idealistic worldview. the sixty years of more since it was first commercialised it has preserved, to a remarkable degree, the marks of that origin. The music is nonetheless older than the South itself, and the massive commercialisation it has undergone is merely a facet of that larger technological and communications revolution which has so radically transformed American popular tastes and steadily worked to pull the rural, socially conservative South into the homogenizing mainstream of American life”

(Malone, Bill C. Country Music, U.S.A. New York: University of Texas, 2002, p1)

Farming things from the red dirt: The Current(ly) Essential Country Music Reading List

I spent fifteen months researching country music from a historical and scholarly perspective and it was the most rewarding period of my life.

The last few weeks for me have been spent revisiting some of the books that inspired me in the first place. I pulled this list of references from the honours blog that proved to Nar vi snakker om vinnende roulette -strategi, er det mange som tror at det er veldig lite a diskutere. be invaluable to me as I navigated my way through my own country music research:

Any further reading suggestions?

 

The Banjo Project

I had the intention of writing about thought mobile innovation, emergence and gamification – ideas that are currently dominating my interest. However, I had to share this video. Feel free to blame the country music fan in me, but I could not help but get excited for The Banjo Project:

The Banjo Project is a cross-media cultural odyssey: a major television documentary, a live stage/multi-media performance, and a website that chronicle the journey of America’s quintessential instrument—the banjo—from its African roots to the 21st century. It’s a collaboration between Emmy-winning writer-producer Marc Fields and banjo virtuoso Tony Trischka (the Project’s Music Director), one of the online casino most acclaimed acoustic musicians of his generation.

Narrated by Steve Martin, The Banjo Project television documentary brings together contemporary players in all styles—Earl Scruggs, Pete Seeger, Bela Fleck, Taj Mahal, Don Vappie, Cynthia Sayer, Ralph Stanley, among many others—with folklorists, historians, instrument makers and passionate amateurs to tell the story of America’s instrument in all its richness and diversity.

Now in post-production.

Colt Ford, Twilight and the power of cultural relevance.

Cultural relevance is a powerful tool. It generates attention, conversation and the almighty revenue stream.

Colt Ford, a country music singer from Athens, Georgia. Ford’s debut album Ride Through The Country peaked at #24 on the Billboard Country Charts in December 2008. The highest charting single of his career so far is “Cold Beer”, a collaboration with Jamey Johnson that peaked at #53. Despite the lack of mainstream support from country radio, Ford has sold over 207,000 copies of his debut album and 123,000 of his recently released Chicken & Biscuits.

Ford has generated an unconventional following through his constant touring schedule and is validation that country radio is not needed to sell records. However, that is not the objective of this post.

This is:

Filmed in Nolensville, TN – this video is a parody of the Twilight phenomenon.

The above is Colt Ford reaching out to Twilight fans via his Twitter account. With this video, he has now placed himself in a circumstance where he can establish mainstream interest on television as well as the Internet. Why is this of interest?

Colt Ford has adopted something that is culturally to the point (Twilight) and that makes people take notice – people that are not simply country music fans.

Is cultural relevance one of the keys to the expansion of your brand and its audience?

The CMA Festival, engagement and consumer impressions.

A little background for the non-country music audience (and don’t worry, there is no boot scootin’, John Deere tractors or dogs dying in this post) :

The CMA Music Festival (formerly known as Fan Fair) is a major country music festival held in June each year, presented by the Country Music Associate in Nashville, Tennessee.

Why is this at all interesting?

The CMA Music Festival successfully presented brands with the opportunity to connect with individual audience members. The following video provides an overview of how the CMA achieved over 700,000 consumer impressions through activities related to key audience demographics (namely families).

The ULTIMATE Country Music Fan Experience with the ULTIMATE Opportunity for Consumer Engagement!

Quick Stats:

  • 65,000 fans in attendance
  • 55, 000 visited the Exhibition Hall
  • Bigger crowds in free areas with River Stage and Family Zones
  • 56 hours of free concerts
  • A focus on Sport, Fun and Family Zones with ‘fun and friendly activities’
  • Overall, the festival generated 700,000 active consumer impressions through product samplings, dedicated registrations and brand impressions.

Lessons learned?

Corporate sponsors were able to benefit from an established community of country music brand evangelists through a series of activities and events tailored to engage the target consumer: families.

Lady Antebellum is playing with karaoke. How is your brand engaging with its audience?

For me, successful branding equates to three words: connect, engage and enlist.

When you are a music artist – you are the brand. To develop a successful music brand, you need fans or brand evangelists. It’s not simply about using free promotional/social tools including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to spread the word. It is about maximising every impression made between fans and the music product. If the initial music impression is active, then it is more likely to generate the music consumer’s complete attention.

Country music group Lady Antebellum uploaded an audio track of their duet with Maroon 5 titled ‘Out Of Goodbyes’ onto their YouTube account. In the video, they also included the songs lyrics. Why is this relevant?

Lady Antebellum not only increased the likelihood of the potentially transient consumer paying attention to their video by making the music a foreground experience, they also engaged the viewer with lyrics, generating a deeper initial impression. Methods like this are small yet effective ways of prolonging audience attention.

How would you engage your audience with the music product?