Learn From Weird Al Yankovic and the Anti-Marketing Mindset

Weird Al Yankovic Quote

You can’t just create whatever your art is and think strangers worldwide are going to stumble across it.

You may have noticed Weird Al Yankovic made a roaring comeback. He released a new album and amassed over 20,000,000 views on YouTube in just three weeks in 2014. His album hit #1 on the Billboard Charts, the first time a comedy album has hit #1 since 1963. To most people, it looks like Weird Al just made some funny songs, filmed some funny videos, and shared them with his audience. What you don’t see or hear much about is the following:

  • Weird Al has been making music and honing his craft for 30 years! That in itself is an amazing feat.
  • Weird Al’s record label didn’t have the money to produce the 8 videos for his latest album, so he went to sites like Nerdist, CollegeHumor, Yahoo!, and Funny or Die to partner with them. Not only did they help fund and produce his videos, then they promoted them to their built-in audiences (because any great content on their platform helps their platform).
  • Weird Al has been appearing as a guest on a number of popular podcasts (again, tapping into existing networks).
  • Weird Al got the blessing of Pharrell, Robin Thicke, Lorde, and the other artists he parodied. By doing this he earned their respect and they wanted to share his parody because it helped boost their other music.
  • Weird Al has his own blog where he’s been sharing unique content and behind the scenes stuff for years.
  • Weird Al uses social media well, reposting content that matters, and sharing interesting content.
  • He wasn’t platform exclusive, and his album has been downloaded 100,000+ times on Amazon, iTunes, and other sites.
  • And a whole hell of a lot more stuff that I couldn’t quickly find on Google…

So all of this seems great for a celebrity like Weird Al right? Maybe you’re thinking you can’t apply this to whatever thing you are creating? False.

Here are the exact takeaways you can steal from Weird Al:

Hone your craft

Weird Al has done this for 30 years. You don’t have to do it for 30 years, but you need to get good at whatever you’re putting out into the world. (I talked about this idea of Internet Woodshedding on my podcast last week.)

Partner with people who have existing networks you can tap into

Weird Al didn’t have College Humor, Funny or Die, and Nerdist knocking on his door. He sought them out and pitched them his (mutually beneficial) idea. Also, I’m sure he received some “No’s” from plenty of other networks.

Keep your audience engaged

Don’t just promote yourself when your latest thing is out or for sale. Marie Forleo does an amazing job of promoting herself for 11 months out of the year and selling her B-School product for only one month out of the year.

Share your work across multiple platforms

Don’t worry about people seeing your work too much. If people love your work, they’ll want to see it over and over again.

– – –

In a perfect world, you’d use your unique superpower to create something amazing and people would find you on their own. Unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world. Thinking people are just going to find you on their own is a pipe dream that’s simply never going to happen.

Back in 2008 when I conceived the idea for IWearYourShirt (by standing in my closet), I thought it was the next big thing. I thought I had created an idea that was going to have rocket-powered success. When the website was finished and launched, only 12 people showed up on the first day (thanks Mom and Grama!). I realized quickly that just putting up a website and hoping random people would find it is kind of like putting up a billboard in the middle of the desert.

I got on my marketing horse and started emailing friends and family about IWearYourShirt. I got on Twitter and started searching appropriate hashtags and engaging in conversations with strangers. With only a handful of hours spent marketing IWearYourShirt the first few sales started to pour in and I made a few critical connections. Had I just sat back and waited for people to find me, nothing ever would have happened. The same could probably be said for the success of Weird Al’s latest album. He could have just shared it, uploaded some videos to YouTube, and seen some viewership/success, but it wouldn’t have taken him to the first #1 comedy album in the past 50 years.

As a creative person, I know the feeling of wanting to be found. By putting my heart and soul into creating things, I always keep my fingers crossed that they’re just randomly going to be found and take off (read: overnight success). But this isn’t realistic and never works.

You can’t just create whatever your art is and think strangers worldwide are going to stumble across it. Sometimes you might even think by continuing to put your work out in to the world, a little spark of magic will happen (read: your thing goes viral). This also doesn’t ever happen.

Most people, not just creatives, suffer from the anti-marketing mindset*

By not actually thinking about marketing your product, service, or art, you’re putting yourself in success handcuffs.

The anti-marketing mindset stems from a few different things:

  • You see people in your field who’ve had success and it looks like it happened out of no where.
  • Creating a marketing strategy seems daunting.
  • Doing actual work is hard and takes time and effort.
  • Artists (especially) want to be found and think their work won’t be as “great” if they have to promote it.
  • Marketing is an iterative process that looks a lot like a maze. Some marketing ideas lead to dead-ends, but eventually one of those ideas (or the most likely the culmination of them) will bring you success.

This is all well and good, but you probably want to know how to take off the success handcuffs don’t you?

I don’t have a magic potion, a 12-step process, or some miracle advertisement you can buy. But what I do have for you is a plan of action you can take to get out of the anti-marketing mindset.

  1. Find people in your related business and ask them how they got to where they are. Learn from them. What worked for them? What advice can they offer? What failures have they had that you can avoid.
  2. The simplest marketing strategy looks like this: Find your superpower and then start taking action.
  3. Stop reading Facebook and Twitter all day. Stop listening to all the podcasts. Stop only consuming content and start creating it. Reward your content creation with content consumption. I like the 50/10 rule: 50 minutes of creation (work) to 10 minutes of consumption (pleasure).
  4. The only way your art, product, or service is going to get “found” is to share it with the world. You should immediately buy and read the book Show Your Work by Austin Kleon. It applies to everyone.
  5. Create a marketing strategy/plan built around email marketing.

Stop putting yourself in success handcuffs. Stop thinking you’ll get more customers by doing the same thing over and over again. Get yourself out of the anti-marketing mindset.

*Thank you Clay Hebert for this little phrase and inspiring this post.