How Jay-Z and Samsung's Revolutionary App Is as Gross as Farmville

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Jay-Z's Magna Carta Holy Grail is--well, I haven't listened to it yet. (iPhone 3GS users are actually barred from owning it until they upgrade to a newer device.) This isn't a review of the album, except to say that I think "BBC," with its bizarre, layered production and conciliatory Nas verse, is really great. This is a review of his self-consciously forward-thinking marketing campaign, from its Samsung Galaxy S4 integration to its weird attempts to gamify itself.

And its marketing campaign is gross. Have you ever wondered what it would look like if one of America's most respected pop artists used every single trick that turned Facebook into a user-hostile minefield of automated invitations to play Bejeweled knock-offs?

You probably haven't, but here it is.

Read More: As a 26-year-old White Woman, I Can Really Relate to Jay-Z

The New York Times went to the trouble of summarizing the JAY Z Magna Carta app for those of us with tiny pockets.

In short: It started by logging into your Facebook and Twitter accounts. From there, you could unlock lyrics--Jay-Z's famous verses, the ones that made him an icon--by tweeting about using the new app.

"Unlocking" the lyrics required a post on Facebook or Twitter. I used Twitter, where hitting the "Tweet" button brought up a canned message: "I just unlocked a new lyric 'Crown' in the JAY Z Magna Carta app. See them first. http://smsng.us/MCHG2 #MagnaCarta." The message could be altered, but something had to be sent. No post, no lyrics -- for every song. Users were forced to post again and again. And frankly, a lyric that is going to show up almost immediately on the Internet isn't much of a bribe for spamming your friends.

This is right out of the social-gaming playbook, and it sucks. It's turning your fans into billboards because you don't trust your product enough to build organic word of mouth. It's doling out rewards piecemeal, in the most addictive, hollowly "productive" way possible, because people have discovered, through painstaking research, that their customers will waste more time and money on their big dumb free-to-play game if they feel like they're winning something every couple of minutes

It's a guy whose persona is built around being above the rules--doing things most people wouldn't dream of doing, skipping what they wouldn't dream of skipping--giving up control of his image to a social media intern who sits up all night researching MBAs and watching TED talks about being an Innovative Synergistic Web 2.0 Thought Leader.


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