The Orlando Eye is bathed in purple the night of music legend Prince's death.

Think Tank Thursday: Marketing Lessons Learned from the Death of a Legend

Those in the business of visual communications—and those of us whose job it is to follow such companies—come to appreciate effective presentation, whether it’s in the form of a well-worded sign, a distinctive logo or a dazzling visual display.

The rock and funk musician Prince, who passed away last week at age 57, was the embodiment of how to effectively communicate with an audience. Whether a fan or not, one cannot help appreciate the marketing (and I would argue musical) genius of the man, whether it was the period in his career when he dropped his name completely, in a dispute with his record company, or his decades of live performance, where he, his band and his stage show commanded full-eyeball-attention at all times.

Thousands of us heard about his passing while attending an international sign expo in Orlando, Florida. That night the famous Orlando Eye, the 400-foot Ferris wheel located a stone’s throw from my hotel, was bathed in purple in honor of the man born Prince Rogers Nelson, who died at his home outside Minneapolis, the city he was born in.

At the show, one booth in particular cranked Prince's music the last two days of the show, and even though I didn’t care for everything he did, the songs of his I like I really, really like. Nice job Lexmark booth.

As when any legend dies, people—and companies—feel the need to react. It’s how people react that can offer us lessons. For example, a Facebook friend who’s a musician posted something to the equivalent of, “I didn’t like his music so the guy meant nothing to me.” He said that on the day of Prince’s death. The social media retribution, as you might well imagine, was swift and severe. Show a little respect, huh?

Some corporations also got their hands slapped with their thoughtless reactions. There’s a right way and a wrong way for companies to respond to such news, and Cheerios blew it while Chevy did not. Click HERE to read a nice Billboard piece about that.

Writing in Inc. magazine, LinkedIn Riches founder and CEO John Nemo wrote about the time he was a newspaper reporter and got into an email back-and-forth with the artist-formerly-and-then-later-known-again as Prince. You can read Nemo’s account HERE.

There aren’t many people who can truly be described as one of a kind, but Prince was one of those people. As I posted on my own Facebook page last Thursday, after I got back to my hotel room and was soaking up the Prince retrospectives on TV, “The world is just a very much less cool place tonight.”


Got a news tip? Contact Tony Kindelspire