Recently, on the busiest day of the week, the lights at my local newsstand went dark.
But it wasn’t the changing economics of the newspaper industry that forced the doors to close. The Chicago-Main Newsstand in Evanston, Illinois, is actually doing a brisk business. Stop in any given night and you’ll find folks flipping through an array of hundreds of consumer and specialty magazines.
Have a passion for the design of early 20th century homes? The latest issue of American Bungalow feeds your need to “promote and maintain the uniquely American phenomenon” of this architectural gem.
Think print magazines are going up in smoke? Chicago-Main clears that up right away. Established titles like Cigar Aficionado and up-and-comers like Tokewell, dedicated to legalizing marijuana, get you your fix.
The reason the doors were locked that recent Saturday had nothing to do with an outdated business model. In fact, it was quite the opposite. The doors were locked to set up for an interesting new way of doing business: a one-day pop-up retail store for the worldwide launch of Grammy-winning R&B singer Frank Ocean’s newest release. In that story, there’s a smart marketing lesson for savvy chief learning officers.
Even die-hard music fans might need a refresher on Frank Ocean. Ocean made his name with the 2012 release of “Channel Orange,” his first studio album, which reached No. 2 on the Billboard chart, garnered six Grammy nominations and won two. Vibe named him the magazine’s Man of the Year in 2012. He then disappeared from public view, spending the next four years deep in work and only occasionally surfacing with hints about new music and teases for album release dates that quickly went unmet. That is, until recently.
It’s strange that a suburban Chicago newsstand would be ground zero for a major international music event. Ocean picked just four locations to serve as pop-up stores for the release of his new album and art magazine, titled “Boys Don’t Cry.”
Pull back the cover and you see the logic. With a combination of social media, viral marketing and creative distribution deals, individual artists are grabbing headlines and enlisting their most ardent supporters to convert bystanders into fans. In addition to setting up a pop-up store and creating a magazine, Ocean started a live video stream, released a 45-minute “visual” album and inked an exclusive music distribution deal with Apple.
In Ocean’s case, the value isn’t in selling the actual product in a store. We swim in an ocean of streaming music from services like Spotify and Pandora and dip in and out of a constantly flowing stream of information. Creating a limited-time event is a powerful way to own a much more precious resource: attention.
Did it work? Ocean’s new album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts. Collectively, the songs on his new album were streamed more than 65 million times in the first week, earning Ocean nearly $1 million according to Forbes. Not a bad week’s work.
There’s a lesson in all this for CLOs. Your content and courses compete with a staggering amount of free information. The challenge isn’t creating and distributing content to employees. It’s getting their attention and converting that into action.
Consider a pop-up learning model to make a splash. Take some learning dollars and instead of putting it to work for a traditional e-learning course create a limited-time learning event tied to a critical business issue or exciting new development in your industry.
Lost out on a critical sale? Put together a pop-up learning blitz on honing negotiation skills. Struggling to retain young workers? Develop a multimedia event on managing millennial careers. Get your business leaders involved. Ask employees to contribute. Deploy technology that gets your organization’s attention.
Financial services giant Vanguard took that insight a step further. They designated 2015 the company’s “Year of Learning” and used collaboration technology, gaming and a series of learning events to promote innovation across the organization. Those efforts in part led the firm to be named No. 1 on the Chief Learning Officer list of Learning Elite this year.
Sometimes the best ROI isn’t in dollars saved or courses delivered. It’s in heightened awareness and genuine excitement for learning. It’s in inspiration and innovation. Think differently to put some pop in your learning.
Editor in Chief