Cross Promotion or Marketing Mutualism?

By / Blog

“Is this an ad for headphones?” “Who’s the guy with the beard?” “Wow this is long.” “Oh it’s definitely an ad for headphones.” “Maybe speakers?” “Ohhhhhh.”
This was my chain of thought as I watched the mac daddy of all cross promotion that was Jay Z’s Samsung Galaxy commercial which aired during game 5 of the NBA finals. The 3-minute commercial shows Jay Z and crew (composed of Pharrell, Swizz Beats, Timbaland and an unspecified bearded man who I later discovered was co-President of Columbia records, Rick Rubin) in studio working on his upcoming album. It’s not until the final seconds of the commercial that there are any definitive hints as to what is being promoted (save Jay Z’s general coolness) until a black screen flashes once, proclaiming “The Next Big Thing Is Here,” again with the website for Jay Z’s newest album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, and finally with the nucleus of it all, “Samsung Galaxy.”
In continuing their partnership, Samsung purchased 1 million copies of Magna Carta Holy Grail, giving Jay Z an unofficial Platinum album before it has even been released. As a result of this purchase, 1 million Samsung Galaxy S3, S4 and Galaxy Note II owners will receive Jay Z’s album for free, 72 hours before the album is officially released, simply by downloading the Magna Carta Holy Grail App. Samsung reportedly paid $5 a copy, totaling $5 million for the exclusive edge.

Now, we all remember learning about the different types of Symbiotic relationships in Biology; one in particular, Mutualism. If not, it’s the one where the bee gets to eat the nectar from flowers and the flowers in turn get pollinated as the bee goes. Each party benefits but also relies on the other for a specific outcome. No flowers, no nectar. No bees, less pollination.
So this commercial begs the question: are Jay Z and Samsung benefiting from successful cross promotion or are they each mutually dependent on each other to achieve their desired result? Without Jay Z’s certified cool-factor and exclusive edge with the release of his newest album, would Samsung be able to take the lead amongst its smartphone competitors? And, without Samsung’s ad dollars and album stimulus, would Jay Z’s new album suffer the same poor sales as so many others in this age of music piracy?
When you consider that Jay Z’s last album sold just under 500,000 copies in its first week and Samsung has spent years in the shadow of Apple’s iPhone, the pair’s “cross promotion” starts to look awfully similar to the mutually benefiting/dependent relationship between the flower and the bee.

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