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Pharrell Williams is a digital marketing genius

It seems that planet Earth just can’t get enough of Pharrell Williams these days. Not only did he kill it in 2013 with Daft Punk and Robin Thicke, but his number one hit, Oscar-nominated, six-week Billboard Chart reigning, Happy is keeping his name on the lips of a truly global audience. How does this catchy tune fit into the digital marketing world, you ask?

On November 22 of last year, Pharrell released the Happy music video at 24HoursofHappy.com which is billed as, “the world’s first 24 hour music video.” The video played the song on repeat while regular people and exalted celebrities alike were filmed dancing and lip-syncing their happy moments in the streets of LA. Viewers could watch in real-time, or track back to other moments from the day and share them with friends. 

The 24-hour website has earned nearly 9 million hits since November and the song on YouTube already has, (get ready) +168 Million hits. As if that wasn’t successful enough, the video’s very nature has promoted fan made videos and homemade versions to be produced and uploaded online. According to the BBC, a couple in France created their own website honoring the video called, wearehappyfrom.com, which just surpassed 1,000 user submissions. 

What are four ways digital marketers can learn from Pharrell’s monumental success?

1) He took a risk and tried something unorthodox.

By utilizing the medium of the “interactive” video that allows and encourages viewers to watch, move, share and participate, the video gave people something to talk about and to do. Interactive videos have been done in the past from artists like Bob Dylan and Queens of The Stone Age, each with a different theme and presentation style. Pharrell’s video, however, quickly became an experience which is something hard to achieve via a computer screen. The project’s very out-of-the-box nature ensured it’s instant viral success and word-of-mouth promotion. 

2) Pharrell realigned his goals.

By airing a 24-hour video, something his competition had never thought of or even attempted, Pharrell now stands out as an innovator and strong communicator. Intending for people to watch the entire video in a single sitting is an unrealistic goal that probably never entered the artist’s mind. Instead, he wanted to create a real-time experience that transcended the normal limits we place on ourselves and our interaction with entertainment. The audience member can watch, stop, come back and pick up at a new place entirely. They get to experience the content on their own terms and on their own schedule. His ROI? Millions upon millions of hits and a legion of new content.

3) The message was simple.

The entire video focuses on the premise of, “I’m happy and here is me being happy”. Brands these days tend to get a little convoluted when it comes to their message. Look no further than Sprint’s, “Framily Plan” commercials that feature people, gerbils,cartoons, different languages, and complex banter. Every time the commercial airs, too many questions arise and people find themselves feeling like they’ve missed something. The simple message in Pharrell’s song has led to an international sensation, toppping the charts in more than 30 countries. Take a hint from the song (and Aristotle) and appeal to your audience’s pathos.

4) He tapped into the human element.

No CGI, no super hot models on a Vegas rooftop, no flashy cars and no elaborate plot line. The Pharrell message puts the power into the normal, everyday human being. The staying power of the Happy ‘campaign’ is measured not in it’s massive budget but in it’s intrinsically real and fun-loving message. People dancing in the streets in their work clothes brings a physical experience we can all relate to into the digital realm. In many ways, this video is reminiscent of Apple’s iconic iPod campaign that featured, surprise, silhouettes of regular people dancing. 

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