What do Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, Post Malone, Ed Sheeran, and Justin Bieber all have in common?
Over the last several weeks, all of them have been blocked from the #1 spot on the Billboard Top 100, their ascendency stopped by a little song called “Old Town Road.”
Whether you herald it as the cutting edge of rap/country hybridization or you hear it as a musical meme gone horribly wrong, there’s no question that it’s the most talked-about, most argued-about, and most historically significant song of the year.
You probably know the backstory: A rapper named Lil Nas X assembled the song from trap beats and country instrumentation, initially uploading it to YouTube where it became a viral sensation. It rose to the top of the country charts; country radio disavowed it, essentially saying it wasn’t “authentic” enough. The incident sparked an online debate about the fluid nature of genre and country music’s vexing history of racism, among other things.
Also, somewhere along the way, Billy Ray Cyrus got involved.
Of course, the song eventually made it back to the charts, and stands as one of the defining pop culture moments of the year. And, it got us thinking about the nature of content marketing—
something Lil Nas X obviously has a pretty good handle on.
Viral Still Matters
One takeaway: Creating something that connects with people, even on a small scale, still matters… and those little connections can quickly build into huge movements.
Nobody had ever heard of Lil Nas X before “Old Town Road,” and he released the song without much in the way of industry support. It was just a goof that he uploaded to the Web—but people liked it. The song is strange, funky, extremely catchy, and a joy to listen to. It caught on. It went viral, even without much in the way of supportive infrastructure. And in much the same way, a really well-honed piece of content, with the right audience and the right moment, can catch serious fire… with or without the help of big publishers or influencers.
Categories are Innately Limiting
Even if you don’t care much for the song, you have to admit that it’s spawned some compelling meta-narratives and critical conversations… including dialogue about what it actually is. Country? Trap? A novelty? A new frontier?
Maybe that’s a big part of why it’s connected with people: It exists outside of our pre-set boxes and categories. Similarly, there’s room for content marketing that doesn’t fit in with an expectation.
You don’t have to blog about the same topics as everyone else in your industry. You don’t have to create Instagram videos that follow a formula. You can allow your own personality to sparkle and shine through, and trust that your unclassifiable authenticity will resonate.
When in Doubt, Remix
We made a joke about Billy Ray Cyrus, but in all seriousness: His remix of “Old Town Road” is an important part of why the song has stayed in the public consciousness for so long.
Remixing your content marketing can have a similar impact; if you have a blog that’s performed well, why not break it down into some tweets? Reshape it into a press release? Or if nothing else, use it as a jumping off point for some ancillary blog posts?
Recognize when you have a good thing… and look for ways to spin it in a fresh direction.
These are just a few of the takeaways we’ve gathered from “Old Town Road” and Lil Nas X… and if you want to know how these lessons can impact your content marketing efforts, we invite you to reach out.