Cullum’s Category re-invention

Saw another great example of category re-invention in action last night. It was a literally “live” example: Jamie Cullum in concert. This young genius has taken a rather dusty old category, jazz music, and revitalised it, dragging it kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

This guy is only 30, yet already has an incredible track record. After a breakthrough appearance on the Parkinson TV show in April 2003 (aged 23!), his album, Twentysomething went platinum and became the best-selling studio jazz album in the UK. By the end of 2003 he was already the UK’s biggest selling jazz artist of all time. Since then he has released two more albums, most recently The Pursuit, than you can find here.

Here’s some learning on category revitalisation from Jamie:

1. Be brilliant at the basics: first up, this guy is a jazz performer extrordinaire. He is a demon piano player, and has a wonderful voice. And unlike many modern artists, he can really, really perform live. This gives him the right and the authority to then innovate.

=> Always remember that what every new product or service you create, delivering the basic product “sausage” is absolutely key. Don’t be arrogant and take this for granted.

2. Classics with a twist: About half of Jamie’s songs are cover versions of standards, such as “I get a kick out of you” and “I only have eyes for you”. But he executes these is his own unique style, bringing youthful energy and exuberance.

=> Innovation doesn’t mean having to come up with something totally new. Indeed, many new products and services are modern re-interpretations of existing, perhaps outdated, offerings.

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3. Revitalise the customer experience: The Jamie Cullum live show was one of the most memorable I have ever been lucky to see. Yet is was simple, without any flashy light shows, dancers, costume changes etc. Yet he delivered the experience in a distinctive way using his own unique personality. He did a performance of one song with just him and a double bass player. He pays percussion using his hands on the lid and side of the piano. He jumps on and off his piano like Jerry Lee Lewis. And the encore was performed in one of the boxes in the theatre by him singing without a mic, and his musicians performing with no amplification.

=> Look at each step of the customer experience and see how can you can re-invigorate it with your brand’s own unique personality.

4. Make use of modern media: Jamie Cullum uses new media to boost engagement with his fans and stand out from the more stuffy jazz musicians. You can download a free track using a wristband from the gig, or using a code from Facebook for example. And fans at the concert were encouraged to take photos and video and upload them, rather than being banned from taking in cameras as often happens.

Today the “medium is the message” is truer than ever. How can you harness online channels in a way that is relevant to your target, and authentic for your brand?

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