‘The Next Big Thing’: Samsung’s Partnership with Jay-Z Demonstrates Shifting Marketing Rules

By now you’ve likely seen the musical, pseudo-philosophical, and now-viral three-minute video announcing Samsung‘s new partnership with Jay-Z, which first aired during the 2013 NBA Finals Game 5. The deal, which cost Samsung $5 million, allows the first million Galaxy and Note mobile device-users who download the corresponding app to access the rapper’s latest album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, for free, three days before the record drops on July 4.

At first glance, the $5 million price tag may seem like a major marketing risk, especially considering that promotions like this don’t usually generate a major sales increase due to the fact that most cell phone users are locked into two-year contracts. Factor in the unthinkable possibility that not every Samsung user is also necessarily an avid Jay-Z fan, and one might wonder whether the tech company could possibly see a decent return on its investment.

But if we instead assume that the goal of this collaboration is media attention and visibility for the brand, rather than a spike in sales, the idea suddenly appears like a match made in marketing heaven.

As of this morning, typing “Jay-Z Samsung” into the Google News search box yields 54,100 related results, and that number is likely to keep growing as more and more new organizations and blogs pick up on the story (54,101 right here!). Meanwhile, the promotional behind-the-scenes video has been viewed on Youtube over 5 million times. To buy that sort of publicity and media coverage would cost far more than $5 million, which, considering the fact that Samsung spends $4 billion per year on marketing and advertising, seems a thrifty and potentially brilliant investment.

The video ends with the Samsung tagline, “The Next Big Thing,” referring to both the mobile devices and Jay’s upcoming album, but it might as well also refer to the advertising strategy itself — why blow millions on TV ads telling the public why your device is cooler than your competitors’ when the same amount of money — used a bit more creatively — can result in viral videos and exponentially increasing media coverage? As Jay-Z states in the video, the internet is like the wild wild west; the rules are just starting to be written.