"So one of the reasons we invented this entity Passengers, is to allow U2 to be somebody else besides U2, I suppose."
-- Brian Eno
Column: off the record..., vol. 14-605
February 09, 2014
“This is a punk rock band, hearing mad tunes in their heads that are gospel and folk and psychedelic and hard rock. And we depend on what Quincy Jones said, we depend on God walking through the room on our record and want to give thanks.” – Bono at the 44th annual Grammy Awards
Well, it would appear God did not get the memo that U2 were not recording in Dublin when He walked into the room. Earlier this week, the roof was lifted off the band’s Dublin recording studio when heavy winds plagued the area.
Perhaps God was trying to inspire the band to hurry up with the recording process. Even He gets impatient sometimes.
“Invisible” has grown on me the louder I’ve played it. M2 was correct that you need to crank it up. For me, it’s a punk song at its core. I have found myself using it as a catharsis – yelling the chorus, pointing my finger at anything in front of me while inflecting anger, rebellion and self-determination. That chorus is infectious and I envision my children using it on me when they get to their teenage years. We’ll hear the whole arena (or stadium) chanting the conviction in the chorus, and the thought of it sends goose bumps. I can also picture the die-hard fans wearing hats/headbands with arrows pointing back at them that say, “I am here.” Oh yeah, I’m already thinking tour.
Many have commented about the expense of the “Invisible” (RED) ad and why Bank of America would spend the advertising money to the network instead of simply donating it. While $8 million is a considerable amount of money, it’s pocket change for Bank of America. The company had a net income of $3.18 billion in the fourth quarter of 2013. In 2012, they had $200 million of philanthropic investment.
I have always believed that philanthropy is when you give without expecting something in return. Investopedia defines philanthropy as “Charitable giving to human causes on a large scale. Philanthropy must be more than just a charitable donation; it is an effort undertaken by an individual or organization based on an altruistic desire to improve human welfare. Wealthy individuals sometimes establish foundations to facilitate their philanthropic efforts.” That doesn’t seem to be what the Super Bowl Bank of America/U2 “Invisible” (RED) blitz was about. It was more about “Goodwill.”
Investopedia says the following about goodwill: “The value of a company’s brand name, solid customer base, good customer relations, good employee relations and any patents or proprietary technology represent goodwill.”
While the end goal is to get millions of dollars to the Global Fund for (RED)’s mission for an AIDS-free generation by 2015, both Bank of America and U2 received direct goodwill benefits. For Bank of America, the donation showed support of (RED), while also making the company appear to be a corporate entity with good intentions for humankind. For U2, it promoted a new sound the band has been experimenting with to see how their audience would like it. It was also a beta test of their use of social media to mobilize fans. An exclusive video on U2’s Facebook page did not appear on U2.com, probably to get word-of-mouth going to remind people that the band does have a Facebook account. While I didn’t see anything on Instagram, Twitter was aflutter with the retweet of the (RED) message. Celebrities from Oprah, Robbie Williams, Ellen DeGeneres and Jonah Hill, to Conan O’Brien, Ashton Kutcher, Lenny Kravitz, Chris Rock and others joined in.
U2 got their new sound out to test the waters, saw the strength of social media and began tweaking their marketing game plan for the summer based on all of us beta testers. I wouldn’t call it philanthropy, but rather goodwill. They increased the value of their name brand, which is U2. All in all, (RED) benefits at the same time. (RED) continues to benefit from the $1.29 you now spend buying the single will be donated by iTunes.
Some fans have taken the stance that 3.1 million downloads of “Invisible” prove U2 is relevant. I would disagree. Those downloads were free and came during a Super Bowl broadcast that was watched by 111.5 million people, the largest television audience in the history of television in the U.S. The band was smart to use this platform, but would it have received this many downloads had it not been offered for free? I see “Invisible” as the taster you’d get at the store, and if you like it you’ll buy the full box. It’s clever that the band is still in the recording studio, because had “Invisible” been met by the audience differently, the band could go back to the drawing board. At this point, I don’t believe they’ll have to. Based on the feedback we’ve been seeing, it seems the audience digs the new sound.
I have yet to view U2 as being irrelevant – we’re still talking about them, debating the merits of their music, discussing the artistry of their craft, etc. Bono needs to get some new talking points, and the new one on “Insecurity” ranks right up there with a singer who might need some help. We’re all here for you! Although, if U2 manage to beat “Let It Go” for the Oscar and knocks the Frozen Soundtrack from the No. 1 album position on the Billboard 200, I think it’ll prove they’re even more relevant.
And finally…maybe this is the reason why Bank of America chose to partner with U2 and (RED): In 2006, two Bank of America employees sang “One” to celebrate their bank’s acquiring MBNA. While the actual video has been removed per Universal Music Group’s request, it was talked about on the Joe Rogan podcast (note: there’s some colorful language from 4:20 – 6:20 by the podcasters).
Have a great week!