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Louis C.K. Teaches the Marketing World about Funny Business

In December, I was blown away by Louis C.K.’s self-released video “Live at the Beacon Theater [1],” grossing over $1 million [2] in online sales. I loved this so much that I decided I had to figure out the formula of his success. I started writing an article, taking a social media analysis approach. Louis C.K. did no paid advertising and avoided most traditional PR, so I thought that his success came from a brilliant social media strategy. He rarely tweets [3], doesn’t have an official Facebook page, and took to a Reddit Q&A [4] session to promote his video. All his efforts generated organic traffic back to his site where over 200,000 users purchased and downloaded his video.

By the time I finished writing, I realized that I had inadvertently concluded that the secret to Louis C.K.’s success was a trusted relationship with his audience, not just social media savvy. He promised to give the audience the best product he could deliver – truthful, smart comedy at a reasonable price – while asking them not to pirate the video. In return the audience promised to purchase the video, chatter on social media channels, and avoid sharing the video. I titled my piece, Louis C.K.’s lesson for marketers: Honesty is the best strategy [5], and further explored how the unconventional comedian was able to mobilize his loyal following by trusting his audience.

The article was posted last Friday, and since then, an entire discussion has been sparked in the comments section. One commenter mentioned that, “there is enough content out there that we should pay for what we ‘love’ and artists should aim to build a passionate following.”  I couldn’t agree more. As we have countless social tools to connect artists and audiences, we should remember how to maintain a symbiotic relationship between the two. Consumers need to support their favorite artists in order to keep them in business. In turn, artists need to offer new, interesting, and innovative products while building personal relationships with the audience.

Michael Wolf [6] wrote that 2012 is the year of the artist-entrepreneur [7] and we will see this trend continue as more people self-release music, videos, and e-books online. I look forward to seeing how new and established artists seek innovative new ways to connect with the audience, and I will happily pay the ones I love for their creative content.

The original article [5] can be found at GigaOm [8].