Famous for 15 people: influencing the influencers

A Blog Article Illustration of a Gold Banana on a pink background for the Influencers Spotify Campaign for the PRCA

In creative terms, who influences the influencers? Could it be that less is more in B2B in hitting the ‘sweet spot’?

At the recent PRCA Creativity in B2B event, I and both of my fellow presenters (John Machin from Hill+Knowlton Strategies and Ellie Tuck from FleishmanHillard) used niche, targeted campaigns as examples of creativity in the B2B space.

This wasn’t necessarily a surprise to me as good creative, like good communication, is premised on careful targeting and reaching a usually specific audience who then act to influence others, and so the level of influence amplifies outwards much like soundwaves. Creativity in B2B comms is all about influence, it always has been.

But what struck me was the executive and creative bravery involved in some of the campaigns talked about.

“Probably the most creative B2B campaign in history”

The most powerful example was John’s explanation of Spotify’s ‘A Song for Every CMO’ campaign by FCB New York. Cited by Werben & Verkaufen as “probably the most creative B2B campaign in history”, this was a piece of work that targeted only 14 people.*

The campaign premise was still built around a data narrative. Spotify reckoned that their engagement levels were 23% higher than any other medium, yet digital audio represented less than 2% of overall media advertising spend. So, they needed to convince top marketers of their target capabilities.

The idea? To send each of the world’s top CMOs at brands such as GSK, Mastercard, O2 and L’Oreal a unique song written specifically for them based on their music listening and profile data, along with original custom album art and an accompanying platinum disc.

While the campaign reached 14 people, it reached the right 14 people. Not only did the targeted CMOs stop and listen, they acted as well. As a result, 2021 was the best year in Spotify’s advertising history with it achieving 75% year-over-year growth and €1billion in ad revenue for the first time ever.

Now that is influence.


“The Velvet Underground didn’t sell many records, but everyone who bought one went out and started a band.”

Put the needle on the record

There is a preoccupation with thought leadership content in B2B marketing, in the belief that it is the prime means to position a brand front of mind in an audience. However, thought leadership can take many forms other than a report or roundtable. In this case, it was a metaphoric ‘turntable’.

Truly pioneering ideas become viral, they keep on spinning. Our discussion at the event centred around the fact that there are so many ways to convey ideas but being both creative and empathetic is always the key.

The ‘A Song for Every CMO’ campaign had all of the ingredients we hold vital in the NEO acronym: narrative, empathy and optimisation. It had a narrative in the way the creative sung the brand story, it was empathetic in that it got inside the mind of the target audience, and it was optimised in that the output was realised in the most articulate way.

‘Peel slowly and see’

The campaign reminded me of the often-used quote about the influence of the New York band The Velvet Underground (VU). Mentor, band manager and pop artist Andy Warhol created the cover artwork for their debut album in 1967 that doubled as a piece of direct marketing. The design featured a Warhol print of a banana as a peel-off sticker that invited the owner to ‘Peel slowly and see’. Peeling back the banana skin revealed a flesh-coloured banana underneath.

The album sold poorly and was mostly ignored by critics, but later became regarded as one of the most influential albums in the history of modern music, ranking 13th on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the ‘500 Greatest Albums of All Time’.

Influencer marketing was alive and well in 1967 and audiences have peeled back slowly and seen ever since, leading to variations of the adage:

“The Velvet Underground didn’t sell many records, but everyone who bought one went out and started a band.”

Variations of this statement have been ascribed to both music producer Brian Eno and to VU founding band member Lou Reed** but the meaning remains the same. The group’s cultural influence has been immense.

Who influences the influencers?

In fact, Warhol’s own alleged assertion that “in the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes” is now a benchmark saying to describe the rise of online social networking, blogging, and internet celebrity – ie for modern influence.

In Spotify’s case, not unlike the VU album, it was famous for 15, or rather 14, people. Now that’s real B2B influence!

In this case, the data was certainly all important in framing the narrative (namely the clear misalignment between a 2% ad spend on a medium with a 23% higher engagement level), but it was the interpretation and lateral leap that struck the chord.

To misappropriate another famous viral saying from Juvenal, who influences the influencers? The answer: creativity.

If you have a B2B brand challenge we can help you ‘think creative’ about, get in touch for a free 20-minute 121 video consultation. Email magic@neoposition.com to get in touch.



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