100 Days of Pop: Episode 23 Lil' Dicky

On the Pop100 we take a look at popular culture with a pop marketing lens to see what we can learn to make us better marketers and communicators. Today we’re focusing in on none other than American rapper Lil Dicky. Who is Lil Dicky and how can he possibly teach me anything about content marketing?  I am so glad you asked.

First off, have you seen Earth yet?  Lil Dicky’s music video that he released for Earth Day last week, is the reason I was so inspired to chat about this subject today.  You need to watch it. Things will make a lot more sense if you’ve watched this. Weighing in at 7 minutes and already at over 70 million views, this video has everything.  A magic book trope intro, Disney style animation with foul language, cameos by everyone from Kanye, Arianna Grande, Justin Bieber, and Lenoardo DiCaprio to name just a few, an all around ecological awareness.  Ok, so not best practices here but go watch it. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Ok, your back, fantastic, so on this episode of the Pop100, we’re going to marketing school with Lil Dickey.

So who or what is Lil Dicky?  Fair question. Born David Byrd, on March 15th 1988, Little Dicky or LD is an American rapper and comedian who came into prominence w/ the release of the music video Ex-Boyfriend which got over a million views on Youtube in 24 hours of publishing. He released his debut album Professional Rapper in July 31st, 2015 where the song Freaky Friday that feathered Chris Brown caught fire and became a worldwide hit.

He’s not your typical hip-hop icon, LD raps about everyday things that other rappers may find too mainstream.  You know about saving money, paying for his first album with his Bar Mitzvah cash, wrestling with an office job you're not passionate about.  

What makes him interesting to me was that he didn’t start out a rapper or even wanting to be a rapper, he started his career at world-renowned ad agency Goodby as an account manager but quickly moved into the creative department when he rapped his weekly planning sheet to the agency. This gives LD a heads up on how big brands work and a peak behind the curtain to the plumbing of media.

So how would this unassuming jewish rapper from the rich suburbs of northern Philadelphia have anything that he could possibly teach us marketers how to do our job better?

Well listen up cuz I’m about to tell you 3 things that Lil Dicky does that makes him a world class pop-marketer.  And no, it’s not going to have anything about having a purpose or saving the earth. That’s crap. I’m of course a proponent for any brand that REALLY wants to save the world, but I think it’d be a miss and way too easy.

The first thing Lil Dicky teaches us is that different beats better.  

In the world of Pop-Marketing we know how crucial it is to stand out and how novelty or the quality of being new, original or unusual is the force that allows us to grab that attention from the millions of others in a person’s feed or a journalist’s.  You break through by being different, not one step better than the competition. We’re a creature of habit and nothing is proven to get brain’s attention than something that looks or feels like something new and fresh.

Lil Dicky approaches hip-hop in a way that is juxtaposed to our mental model of hip-hop. He doesn’t look it, doesn’t have the story for it, doesn’t express the ideas traditionally covered.  Cliche or not, that’s how our brain works and Lil Dicky’s contrast helps him grab our attention quickly.

Of course it all falls to shit if he can’t rap. If the talent isn’t there, then everything was for not.  Without a good product, you’re toast, so make sure you can back things up or you will quickly prove that our brain’s mental model is correct.  It’s like American Idol. We love when the singer surprises us and the voice or talent doesn’t match with the presentation, but when they do perform to our brain’s expectation, they’re basically forgettable and they are wiped from our working memory to make room for something interesting. Harsh, but as is nature 🙂

The second thing Lil Dicky can teach us is to make better content. I know, I know, this does not seem earth shattering but hear me out. It’s important because in an age where we are competing with so much content, we gotta break some habits that we may not even know we’re in.

Lil Dicky is not a billion dollar brand, but yet how many brands create content that stacks up to this video?  10 years ago it wouldn’t have mattered because we weren’t competing with this content, we were just buying the ability to interrupt this content. Look at your content and I’m not talking advertising, that’s another game What is it saying? Why are you making it?  Does it earn your audience’s attention? Would you watch it? Are you proud of it?

There is such a big opportunity right now to surprise people. To make something that beats our expectations, that is better than it needs to be, but that is why it stands out. Let’s make that content.

Lil Dicky teaches us that we need to reign in this content beast that we’ve created and ask why we are making what we are making.  What is that organic FB post with 4 likes doing for your business? How is that insta picture that milks engagement from hashtag hunting doing for brand equity?  content should be special. It should say something and it should make someone feel something. I’d much rather have 1 Earth video come out each year on Earth Day than I would have hundreds of meaningless tweets.

If your content is worthy, than rad. Keep doing it but Lil Dicky and I are giving you a chance to change things. To respect your audiences time and focus on quality and stop flooding the internet with more stuff. We have enough stuff.  What is it that Tony Stark’s dad says- No amount of money ever bought a second of time. Let’s be truly consumer first and be respectful of the most precious resource of all. Their Time!

The 3rd Pop-Marketing insight from Lil Dicky is The power in partnerships.

Since we’ve already established how much Lil Dicky contrasts with our mental model of hip hop artists, a powerful tool in Lil Dicky’s toolbox is partnering with those already established in hiphop to both make his differences stand out even more as well as borrow equity from established artists to establish his own credibility within this universe and audience.  Snoop Dogg, Chris Brown, T-Pain to name a few and then with Earth, Lil Dicky has now built an almost WE ARE THE WORLD round up of world class artists and performers that bring him to new audiences and allows him to box way above his weight class in celebrity power.

So how does he do it and what can you learn?  

He isn’t that famous. You can’t just call these people up, so how did he pitch this idea to these celebrities and get them to bite.  Simple- He made it easy to say yes.

This is maybe one of my favorite pop-marketing hacks of the year.  Lil Dicky is a genius pop-marketer because he understands how this all works.

  1. Lil Dicky asked for 10 minutes of their time. By making it animated and writing super short cameos into the video, Lil Dicky was able to make a very small ask of each celebrity involved. It’s much easier to ask a celeb to call in and say one line than to have them spend a day at a shoot.  

  2. He used the snowball approach.  Lil Dicky had 2 or 3 relationships based on prior work. Bieber and Snoop were in from the beginning and it made the pitch much easier to say that yeah, Biebs and Snoop are already in and we’d love to have you.  This approach allowed them to snag people that would have been unthinkable if they would have started with the largest names with no context.

  3. It was for a good cause so it didn’t feel like such a lopsided ask. The celebrity got to participate in something that made them look rad and improved their relevance with very little effort.

So always always always know what you’re asking of partners or celebrities. Know what is a big ask and what is a small one and make it easy to say yes.

So that’s it from lil Dicky-  

Different beats better, Focus on more quality less often, and finally make it easy to say yes when you are pitching partnerships.

That’s it for this episode but if you want to keep up with me Joe Cox, The Pop-Marketer, you can subscribe to the Pop100 on Youtube or visit Pop-marketer.com to signup to my email where you’ll get weekly pop-marketing goodness to help you wield the power of pop-culture in all of your marketing efforts. You can also find me here on Enterprise Marketers Explicit Content Podcast were you can find an Avengers Assemble level team of hosts talking about all facets of modern marketing.

Thanks a ton and see you next time.  

Joe Cox