When a Dollar and a Dream is More Than Enough: Why Brands Need to Move from Relevance to Impact

James Cuth – Dollar and a Dream

For anyone that grew up in New York in the 1990’s, you vividly remember the New York State Lottery commercials with the famous slogan, “All you need is a dollar and a dream”. At the time, the New York State Lottery was the largest in the country collecting over 3 billion dollars in revenue annually. I remember watching the whimsical commercials and thinking how cool it would be to become instantly rich. Unfortunately, like most families, we never became rich and instead saw countless people waste money on a false dream. The Notorious B.I.G. famously captured my sentiment on his classic song Big Poppa in 1995 when he said, “Tremendous cream: f*#$ a dollar and a dream”. Fast forward nearly twenty years and superstar artist J. Cole managed to redefine the tagline into a concert series that actually delivered the dream to countless fans.

The Situation: For many hardcore fans of superstar artists like J. Cole, going to a live concert was nothing more than a pipe-dream. The ticket prices are often too expensive and to make matters worse, artists often focus on new music and don’t play many of the early songs that the true fans know and love.

The Opportunity: What if there was a tour where hardcore fans could see their favorite artist (and countless superstar guests) for only $1.00. Also, what if the artists performed classic music from earlier in their career, in an intimate venue, giving the true hardcore fan a unique experience. From these insights, J. Cole’s Dollar and a Dream Tour was born.

The Results: The concerts themselves were epic! J. Cole and the Dreamville team executed the concert series flawlessly and the lifelong impact on his fans can tangibly be felt in the HBO documentary, “Road to Homecoming”. The most measurable result perhaps came when J. Cole’s Forest Hills Drive album dropped unexpectedly with no promotion and went on to become his first million-selling album.

The Lesson: Brand managers need to move from focusing on mere relevance to focusing on making a true cultural impact. In other words, don’t just strive to be relevant in culture, push to create it. Below are a few keys to begin creating culture today:

  1. Solve a Real Problem
    • Stop with the self-serving brand activations that are only meaningful in the context of your campaign. Take the time to find a real problem to solve or a way you can be additive to the culture your consumers know and love.
  1. Focus on Brand Strengths
    • Too often we use campaigns to bolster our weaknesses i.e. if I sell Swiss Army Knives I’ll give out free Neosporin in case you get cut. To consumers, this often comes off as completely self-serving and reminds them of a reason not to purchase. Focusing on brand strengths gives you a right to show up in people’s lives in a meaningful way.
  1. Aim to Make a Lasting Impact  
    • Don’t be a flash in pan. Separate your brand campaigns from your brand impact strategy to ensure it has longevity. Consumers digest content and activations faster than ever before and without a long-term play, you will quickly be forgotten.

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