After selling more than 60 million albums, legendary rockers Hall & Oates wanted to go back to their roots.
In October, the number-one selling duo had cut an album that reflected their beginnings as Philadelphia soul singers, entitled Our Kind of Soul. Their track record had proven them to be top-notch singers in the rock genre, but their management team of Doyle/Kos Management felt that they needed an extra publicity push in order to gain acceptance in the R&B/soul market.
With that in mind, Doyle/Kos hired Wolfson PR to take on the album's press campaign. "We felt that we needed help from someone with a background and presence in urban markets in order to open new doors for this album," says Brian Doyle, a partner at Doyle/Kos.
One of the advantages of running a campaign for such high-profile clients was that their names were a brand in themselves - Wolfson didn't need to worry about hard-selling a band with six number one singles under its belt. The main concern was where to start; the cross-market appeal of the new album presented the seemingly enviable problem of appealing to too many media outlets.
Unlike typical mainstream music, in which publicity has entirely to do with the PR push and radio airplay, an independent record was a slow-and-steady game in which the turtle wins the race after weeks, even months, of press buildup. Jonathan Wolfson, founder of Wolfson PR, ultimately decided to target the urban press first. "I felt like this would help with the mainstream pitch - once they gave their stamp of approval, the album would be credible."
Wolfson immediately tackled the hurdle of having to convince people of Hall & Oates' ability as soul singers by securing positive reviews from publications like People magazine and USA Today, which he then leveraged into appearances in the target markets of BET and The Tavis Smiley Show. "I didn't want to just go after print," says Doyle. "We felt that TV appearances, especially the BET get, would really trigger feelings that Hall & Oates were solid artists in those markets."
Media coverage snowballed with each successive event or mention, culminating in a blitz week in mid-April, during which the pair appeared on everything from American Idol to Jimmy Kimmel Live. As America was gradually re-educated as to why they became Hall & Oates fans in the first place, Wolfson began to tailor their print exposure so that it focused more on the personal interests of John Oates and Daryl Hall, such as Oates' love of skiing, and Hall's interest in home restoration.
In the week following the blitz, SoundScan units saw a 103% jump from the previous week, a solid testament to the effectiveness of the campaign. Sales continue to hold strong, and increased exposure led to the booking of Hall & Oates to appear as the performers at CNN's 25th anniversary celebration in Atlanta this month.
Wolfson PR feels strongly that independent records are long-term investments, and the firm intends to continue on the campaign in much the same fashion and at the same speed that it has in the past.
New singles will be released periodically, and a summer tour and New York press run is planned. Unlike mainstream records, whose popularity tends to be fast and fleeting, the publicity schedule for Our Kind of Soul should help to keep it on the charts for months to come. "The first week sales are not nearly as important as the 52nd week sales," says Wolfson. "You've got to think long term."
PR team: Doyle/Kos Management (New York) and Wolfson PR (Los Angeles)
Campaign: Our Kind of Soul press campaign
Time frame: October 2004 to present (ongoing)