Business Lessons From Gotye

Gotye’s smash hit, “Somebody That I Used To Know” is everywhere I go. 

Jacqueline introduced it to me months ago, when its stunning video made it’s way around the web, and I knew it was going to be the song-of-the-year.  At this point, you might be getting tired of it, like you did with James Blunt’s “Beatiful” or the last four hits from Coldplay. 

But, there’s great marketing and product development learnings that can come from super smashes, and why they happen.  I guess that’s why I love music and entertainment culture so much.  Putting my bizcap on, here’s what we can learn from Gotye: 

1. Be Emotionally Relevent To Many. – The product story (lyrics) appeal to two big groups: Those who’ve lost love, then contact and those who have been ‘screwed over.’  That’s a big market.  Think the Alannis Morrisette song with even bigger reach.  Green Day has often used a ‘life-situation’ wheel when writing songs for an album.  

2. Whittle The Product Down To Perfection. – The key was the song structure (no real break, quiet verse, tense bridge, rewarding chorus).  The production was sparse, but novel.  The build of the song is done as much with packaging (think fading, effects) as by design. 

3. Remember to include Old/New/Borrowed/Blue. – The song makes you think Sting, vibe like Andrew Bird, remember Peter Gabriel and most of all…feel emotionally down a little.  That’s the secret to building product drama. 

4. Promote The Product Sight, Sound & Motion. – Many people discovered Gotye through the video his team produced for the single. It was produced for YouTube, and has by far gotten more views (a quarter of a billion) than MTV could deliver in its heyday.  We saw him, his special guest Kimbra, and a neat visual concept that was worth sharing (and talking about).  In the Pinterest economy, you need to be Pinteresting! 

5. Apologize For Succes, Then Monetize. – When I saw Gotye at Coachella, this song was the highlight, and the crowd went berzerk.  Afterwards, he said, “well, now that we have that out-of-the-way,” and went on to sell us a second single with a passionate performance.  His shoe-gazing approach to such a smash allows even the tastemakers to continue to enjoy the song, and maybe, his next product.