Marketing | 22 Oct 2014

U2 and New Coke


U2 released its 13th studio album Songs of Innocence on September 9, 2014 to over 500 million iTunes customers. For free. It was the biggest album release to date. However, when it comes to discussions about U2′s first album since 2009, you did not hear much of critics’ opinions about the record itself. It was drowned by people whining and complaining about the fact that they didn’t want that album and now they cannot delete it from their iTunes account. So much so that Apple had to create a special software to enable them to remove it.

Leaving aside the fact that consumers became so spoiled that they complain about something they get for free, the whole situation reminded me of New Coke. Remember that spectacular marketing failure? Or was it a spectacular marketing success?

New Coke – a reformulation of the iconic soft drink – was introduced in 1985. Americans hated the new formula, and Coke’s original formula, re-branded as Coca-Cola Classic, was reintroduced shortly after. What in public’s perception seemed to be a spectacular marketing failure, turned out to be a a spectacular marketing success and resulted in a significant gain in sales (up to 2% market share against Pepsi!)

The same happened to U2. While some were complaining about their “violated” iTunes accounts, 33 million people accessed the album in its first week of release. In addition, 81 million users listened to it and 26 million downloaded the entire record in the first month after its release. Also, 26 other U2 titles entered simultaneously the iTunes top 200 albums as the direct result of the release.

When marketing to consumers, it’s important to remember that perception is everything. However, marketers must be careful to avoid their own trap. Analyzing cold-hard numbers helps distinguish spectacular marketing failures from spectacular marketing successes.

Trackback This Post | Subscribe to the comments through RSS Feed

Leave a Reply