BLOG3: The Fruits of Grassroots

Sometimes advertisements don’t just stay on a poster and billboard, and here’s how it works!


Today, we’ll be looking at a few ad campaigns to demonstrate the effectiveness of grassroots advertising, a non-traditional marketing process. Instead of spending money and effort to purchase a radio or T.V. spot, a grassroots strategy encourages less spending and greater mobilization for customers to promote the product and/or service one wants to promote. Let’s start looking at some campaigns to gain a better picture.

Radiohead’s In Rainbows Campaign (2007)

Radiohead’s In Rainbows Download Webpage.

This one is a favorite of mine.

Back in the younger days of the internet when it was still considered a grassroots method of advertising, the process of an album’s campaign is largely tradition to what we still see today: a big record label promoting the singles through airplay, a music video spot on T.V., the physical sell of CD’s into the market, and the rise of big ad placements all over social media sites. While the internet largely disrupted the cycle with streaming options and piracy, Radiohead saw it fit in their current situation to disrupt that process back with something largely unheard of at the time: a pay-what-you-want “honesty” box. No strings attached. You could listen to the album right now, and you didn’t have to pre-order a physical nor spent a single cent on the digital release.

While many critics like Gene Simmons of Kiss were unhappy at the “unruly” destruction of the music industry at hand, Radiohead begged to question the philosophy of always paying the artist.”How much is music worth to you?” they implicitly questioned, and while many stats brag that the download sales figures were low and torrenting offset the number coming from the Radiohead website itself, the fact is Radiohead amassed over 3 million download on October of that year with a healthy $10 million in revenue. In Rainbows‘ sales were bigger than all of their released albums combined, making it their most well sold album to date!

I think the reason why it was so effective, and largely influential years later, is how it brought together the artist and audience in an intimate manner, focusing not just on the Radiohead fan demographic but also on the average music listener to download something for free and pick whatever they wanted instead of having to purchase the whole album. It was a campaign that encouraged convenience but also gave the option to support the artist directly with all the money you had. Another reason it blew up is the unconventional model it championed (while in reality was only a temporary marketing process never used again) caught the attention of the media and music industry to respond and react in ways that brought more promotion to the band with zero spending. A last important factor to note is such a strategy would have tanked realistically, but Radiohead managed to be the right band and right personality to flagship their strategy to a victory.

UNIQLO Cubes (2011)

The UNIQLO Cubes set up in New York City.

While this one is a little more costly in the spectrum of grassroots, pop-up shops are an increasingly attractive method of promoting fashion brands and is often a campaign strategy for the music industry as well to create word-of-mouth discussion (just look at the pop-up shops for Frank Ocean’s Blonde that increased the hype).

UNIQLO being a Japanese-exclusive fashion brand at the time was already popular for its non-traditional advertising and its unique motto of selling clothes that are less about standing out and more about being clothes for everyone to wear. Their demographic was to reach casual wearers who want the comfort but also the colorful look of a “high-end aesthethic.” This would include any age group as they kept to a unisex design.

The UNIQLO Cube consisted of small, compact cubes with its interiors consisting of shelves of the product hugged against the walls so you could see a blur of colors from the outside of the cube. These shops designed by Hollwich Kushner studio were set up in New York City, New York for its introduction to the American market, and I would say they were a remarkable success as UNIQLO made an impact in the American market with set up shops nationwide after. Subsequent pop-up shops would follow like converting cargo caravans into temporary shops and making the Cubes a worldwide tour. A major reason the pop-up shops worked is because of the major word of mouth, especially on a location like New York City. It attracted not only casual wearers but its minimalist design would attract artistic people as well. The unisex wear could also be a large factor of why it worked as well, being inclusive of everyone rather than a specific gender.