If you're not familiar with Rick Rubin, he is one of the most successful music producers of our era.
He's worked with an amazing list of artists stretching a huge variety of musical genres including RunDMC, Jay-Z, Beastie Boys, AC/DC, and Aerosmith. From Slayer to Cheryl Crowe to Johnny Cash. This man has produced some of the best music of our generation.
I recently listened to an interview with him on Malcolm Gladwell's podcast Broken Record. As I listened to his incredible story, I couldn't help to think of my chosen career path of Product Marketing.
I'm not sure if Rick Rubin even knows what product marketing is. But his philosophy as a music producer resonated with me as I thought about my views on the "je ne sais quois" that make product marketers exceptional at what they do.
Blur the Lines
Rick had a genuine love of good music and did not see boundaries between musical genres. It's this genius that brought unforgettable musical combinations to life including "Walk This Way" with RunDMC and Aerosmith and Johnny Cash singing "Hurt" by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails.
His canvas was not limited to common musical boundaries. He saw beauty across boundaries to create a vision of what was next in music. Good product marketers do the same.
They take elements from all forms of marketing across all markets and combine them into a magical combination that works for their audience. In this world of information overload, product marketers must think past the norms to create truly memorable marketing.
Put a Spin On It
I love the story Rick Rubin shares about the Beastie Boys when they first went on tour with Madonna. He commented, "everything to do with the Beastie Boys was essentially an inside joke that no one else understood."
At its foundations, the music of the Beastie Boys was good. But what launched them into stardom was the theatrics that accompanied their songs. Their image, skinny white boys from Brooklyn, was what made them stick in people's minds in a time when rap was in its infancy.
Product marketers have to think the same way. Product Managers naturally gravitate to features and functions as differentiators, but Product Marketers have more levers to pull. Brand, look/feel, voice, creative direction...all of these aspects can contribute to a greater degree in initial engagement.
You'd be hard pressed to find a picture of Rick Rubin with his shoes on. He is a meditating, sauna-loving zen master.
The interview with Malcolm Gladwell weeks after his beautiful home and studio in Malibu was decimated during the California wildfires in 2018. I can only imagine some of the crazy circumstances he's found himself in, and still has kept his zen demeanor.
As Product Marketers, we should always aspire to do the same. Because if Rick Rubin can remain zen, it should be no problem for any of us ;)