This month, Arsene Wenger, announced the end of his 22-year reign at Arsenal Football Club. Spending two decades with one company in today’s world is impressive and increasingly rare. In football, an industry known for its ruthless cloak and dagger nature, it is a truly remarkable feat.
Mr Wenger’s legacy at Arsenal is not one of unparalleled success but one of revolution and innovation. He changed the face of football in the country by disrupting an entrenched culture and showing a different way of achieving success. Last month, Spotify may have just done the same for IPO communications.
A new kind of IPO
What the music streaming company did was truly unique. Yes, it decided for a direct listing approach, rather than a traditional IPO and the razzamatazz of the New York Stock Exchange bell ringing, but that is only half the story.
It shunned the typical investor roadshow that companies go on leading up to an IPO. Instead, Spotify hosted an online investor day open to all, not just a handful of institutional investors behind closed doors.
The strategy enabled Spotify to reach the masses, focusing on communicating the growth potential of its business and its industry through use of cinematic video and booming playlists. They wanted to showcase what brand Spotify was and succeeded in doing so by adding a splash of theatre to the dated art of IPOs.
No media, no problem
The company’s media strategy was also unusual. Instead of the usual round-robin media tour, only one interview was given, and that was to CBS News. According to PR Week, Spotify turned down a request from The Wall Street Journal to profile of CEO Daniel Ek.
This meant that journalists, like everyone else, had to tune in to the live stream. Everyone, from users, investors, bankers to the journalists and analysts has equal access. Spotify had total control of their message yet did an effective job of promoting transparency of its business.
The company helped changed the way we listen to music and it may have just changed the way companies go public.
As The WSJ’s IPO reporter, Maureen Farrell wrote “So far Spotify's investor day looks (at least via livestream since reporters didn't get an invite) a lot more like an Apple product announcement than a typical investor day.”
Apple, of course, is no stranger to turning its back on the status quo. Their Superbowl ad for the launch of the Macintosh, ‘1984’, is widely seen as a watershed moment for product launch communications and advertising in general.
Creativity and innovation are not characteristics often tied to business communications. Sometimes the very notion of being a business communicator prevents us from even attempting to achieve something through means which are not tried and tested.
Yet even when the stakes are at their highest, like an IPO, Spotify was brave enough to try something wildly different. And they succeeded.
Modern day communications professionals have so many tools and resources at their disposal. I pose the question, are we truly maximizing this potential? Are we afraid to take risks on behalf of customers and clients?
Creating a video today costs a fraction of what it would have 10 years ago. All platforms are geared towards hosting and playing video. So why are we not doing more of it?
When we are launching a campaign or product, why are we still wed to the press release as the primary form of communication? Why not a tweet or a billboard? What about an app or a mobile web platform?
Yes, this isn’t the standard playbook. And there might be hiccups along the way. But this is the cost of innovation. With great risk can come great rewards.
As communicators, standing out is something we should aspire to do more often.
Sam Barber is an account manager for Cognito in New York