Kendrick knows how to make a splash, and his digital marketing techniques reinforce his ability, and effectiveness, to do so.
Lamar’s talent already made a him standout, with his storytelling abilities positioning him as one of the top rappers of his time. But it wasn’t until his 2015 album To Pimp A Butterfly (“TPAB”) dropped that his marketing scheme became apparent, with each next release rounding out his brand and career more.
It was three years since his previous record, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, and Kendrick’s label, Top Dawg Entertainment, had been marketing the release date of the already highly anticipated TPAB for March 23rd. Every K dot fan had the date memorized, and every radio station and media coverage had it marked in their calendars. But then, Kendrick and TDE surprised the world when TPAB hit Spotify a week early. This unexpected decision turned Lamar’s album into practically an event, with media sources and consumers alike racing to be the first to listen all the way through. Even people who weren’t avid followers of his music darted to their respective Spotify and iTunes accounts to hear the album that was released “early”.
This set a precedent for TDE and Lamar. His next move was already in the works, and the marketing for it would be done with a similar surprise and subtlety factor as TPAB. First, Kendrick went on Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert’s shows where he performed new songs on each, setting up PR within consumers for something they didn’t even know existed yet. Next, he and his label began to post release dates on Instagram, without any explanation as to what they were for. This added on to the mystery and questions asked by fans over the next possible K dot project. Teasers like these continued on social media for a month, with mock album covers and track names, until Lamar released his compilation album untitled unmastered without any announcement. And yet again, media and fans, who had only teasers and tastes of new Kendrick for nearly a year, essentially sprinted and clawed to get their hands on his surprise product.
Then, in 2017, Kendrick did it once again. His fourth studio album was put out on all streaming sources after a month’s worth of album cover teasers and a pre-order option on Apple Music. He has cultivated an expectation of vagueness and teasing when it comes to his (possible) releases, setting up his tangible product to not only anticipated before it comes out, but basically be a viral event the second it drops. Which, as history tells us, could be any day. And with this strategy bringing his latest work to be a certified Double Platinum record with two Grammy nominations, he leaves the digital marketers watching him thinking…