It was on a sunny June 25th, 5 years ago that our music industry lost one of the greatest music icons to exist, both in the creative and business aspects. Michael Jackson was a man of many identities depending on perception. To most he was the King of Pop, to some he was the leader of the Jackson 5 and even at times he was the face of controversy. Regardless of his depiction in media, Michael Jackson was a bonafide business man and his decisions in the industry helped build an empire that is still thriving half a decade after his death.
As we honor MJ today, let’s look back at 5 business lessons he taught us:
Like most musicians and celebrities, Michael Jackson’s brand was simply himself. Whether he donned a single glove, a red leather jacket or military attire, MJ was both a style icon and international brand. In order to stay afloat in a sea of competitors, individuality reigns supreme.
Choose Partners Wisely
In the early 1980s, MJ struck a partnership with PepsiCo that would set the bar for integrated marketing for decades to come. After getting rejected by Coca Cola because of his proposed joint campaign aiming to promote his album and the brand was deemed “too ethnic”, MJ changed his marketing pitch and approached PepsiCo with a different angle. The New Generation, focused on making PepsiCo the drink of choice for a younger audience made both Pepsi and Michael Jackson a household name for most of the 80s and years to follow.
Be Involved in All Aspects
Whether he was choosing album covers or producing a hit single, those who worked with MJ unanimously noted his detailed involvement in all aspects of the business. As the well known phrase says, “A boss tells you what to do, a leader shows you how to do it” Michael Jackson was a leader to both his employees and those he influenced.
During his lifetime, MJ supported 39 charities, including his own Heal the World Foundation. Although controversy often surrounded Michael Jackson’s efforts, it didn’t stop him from donating his time and efforts to those in need. He held tight to making the world “a better place for you and for me and the entire human race” until his death and even continues today.
Know Your Business
In a Forbes article, celebrity attorney and long time advisor Donald David noted that Jackson wasn’t what he appeared to be in the media,“ I once sat and talked to him for over an hour and he just knew the music business front to back. And he had good instincts. He had really good instincts.” Whether you run a hair salon or multi-billion dollar car manufacturing company, learning the intricacies of your industry will help you advance your business and gain the trust of potential investors.
The King of pop may have made some questionable decisions in his lifestyle, may have kept paparazzi employed for decades and caused tidal waves in media coverage but, one thing is for sure, his ‘kingdom of pop’ has never been the same since his reign.