Know Your Audience: “Weird Al” Yankovic Leverages Social Media to Top Billboard 200

Weird Al Tacky

Weird Al in his new music video, “Tacky”, which already has over 4 million views

A true industry veteran, “Weird Al” Yankovic released his first studio album in 1983, and has continued to create 13 more albums, to varying degrees of success. But until the release of his most recent album, Mandatory Fun (released July 15, 2014), Yankovic has failed to grab the elusive number one spot on the Billboard Top 200 Albums of the Week Chart. In doing so, the king of parody managed to break an over 50 year drought for comedy albums topping the chart. The album released to generally favorable reviews, according to Metacritic.

Weird Al Mandatory Fun Weird Al HandyMandatory Fun’s success can be attributed to more than just the talent of its creator, however; Yankovic and his label experimented with new marketing techniques that effectively leveraged the power of social media as a force for promotion. The popularity of this scheme likely comes down to a simple marketing concept: it was the right message to the right audience in the right format. The vast majority of popular comments on Yankovic’s new videos referenced former videos and the importance of nostalgia for his old videos. The videos were also timely, parodying some of the biggest songs of the past year. Finally, the video releases were optimized to attract attention. Instead of spreading single releases over a period of a month or more (as normal albums typically do), he made the decision to release 8 singles with music videos to accompany them over a period of 8 days. The constant exposure hooked viewers in certain communities, particularly Reddit’s music community. In a community of about 5.4 million subscribers, 4 of the top 17 posts of the year were claimed by Yankovic (including the second biggest post of the year). The exposure culminated when he did a public interview on Reddit’s Q&A forum, which is in the top 20 biggest interviews of the year so far.

The results of the social media flood drastically increased the mindshare of his new album. The NY Daily Times reported that “The exposure Yankovic earned via mobile and social networks leapt an astounding 3,391% between the week of July 7 and July 14.” Similarly impressive results were achieved regarding Google Trends; the songwriter was searched for around 2200% more frequently in the month of July than he was searched for in May. Finally, each of the videos he released did well on Youtube, achieving a total of almost 34 million views (averaging 4.25 million per video) at the time of writing.

Google Trends Weird Al

Note the two spikes in popularity in 2006 and 2014. Also of note in this graph, Yankovic’s 2011 album, Alpocalypse, fails to come even close to get the traction that either album reaches.

While the social media flood technique seemed to work with resounding success, one issue that still needs to be addressed, however, is how to turn such a short message into permanent mindshare. Unlike his 2006 release, Straight Outta Lynwood, Yankovic’s new album has failed to maintain the buzz that it generated. As marketers look towards new ways of leveraging a constantly evolving social media climate, a focus needs to be put on figuring out how to not just promote a product, but to sustain the message as well.

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