I’m not a fan of OK Go’s music, but the band’s music videos are works of art.
By now it’s obvious that OK Go is as famous, if not moreso, for their innovative, synchronized, and often single-take videos as for their music.
But it’s the combination of their creative videos and their use of social media channels such as YouTube and Facebook for promotion that is largely attributable to their success.
The band’s approach to marketing in the YouTube era is worthy of discussion as a case study in effective brand management, because their approach demonstrates a magical fusion of form (their videos) and function (their songs).
Like singers Ani DiFranco and Amanda Palmer before them, OK Go has managed to harness the power of quality work and independent (often crowd-sourced) distribution to build their brand largely outside of the traditional record company structure.
Further, they look like they’re having a lot of fun doing it.
The band first roared onto the pop culture scene in 2006 with the music video for “Here It Goes Again,” featuring the quartet doing a synchronized dance routine on eight treadmills.
That video went viral and has now been viewed more than 30 million times.
Several years later they released “Needing/Getting,” in which the quartet uses both a car itself as an instrument, as well as rows of external pianos, guitars and more to accompany vocalist Damian Kulash as he drives down a 2-mile outdoor track, triggering the instruments in time with the beat.
Notably, Chevrolet sponsored the band’s video, so it serves a dual purpose – advertising not only the band’s then-new song, but also the Chevy Sonic they drive.
I can’t not mention “I Won’t Let You Down” here.
Sponsored by Honda and featuring the quartet riding Honda UNI-CUBs (electric motorized unicycles), it begins with the band’s standard choreographed dance moves before gradually increasing in scale until you’re watching aerial footage shot by a drone of dozens of Japanese women dancing with umbrellas.
The video has a special place in my heart both because the gradual change in scale messes with your expectations as the video progresses and because I love Japanese language and culture.
OK Go, under ever-increasing pressure by fans to up the ante, last week produced perhaps their most ambitious video yet, “Upside Down and Inside Out.”
This video is mind-bending, shot in one take, in zero gravity.
And notably, OK Go originally released it to Facebook rather than YouTube, where it has amassed more than 46 million views in its first four days.
You can read more about the time and effort that went into producing it via this Forbes article.
Suffice it to say, OK Go could have settled for being a mid-level alt rock band in the style of Oasis.
Instead, over the last 18 years they’ve evolved into multimedia artists.
Don’t misunderstand – they put in the work, Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 hours” of practice needed for mastery. They were recording and playing gigs for more than four years before shooting their first creative video.
But in their subsequent focus on being original, in offering value to their fans far beyond that of their music alone via innovative videos, they’ve built a brand like no other.
As I wrote at the beginning, I’m not a fan of OK Go’s music.
But because of their unique videos, which push the boundaries of pop art, that doesn’t matter.
I’m a fan.