Nicki Minaj, MBA Edition

I love looking at pop culture and applying business strategy lessons. It’s something about the mix of timely and timeless, I can’t help it.

So when Nicki Minaj puts out a new album, I’m not so interested in rocking out with my windows down, but I’m completely fascinated by the choices that she and her team have made.

Seeing as she’s had eclectic successes (“Super Bass,” “Anaconda,” her verse on “Monster” – all which appeal to their own sub-groups), I’m curiously approaching any of her new work to see what angle she’s taking now.

So far, the primary tactics seem to include:

– it’s a long album that plays more like a singles collection than one with a traditional arc or feeling of cohesiveness.

– she’s directly reaching out to numerous sub-groups with shoutouts to current rappers (“Barbie Dreams”), pop radio crossover (“Bed” with Arianna Grande), and quasi-90s-throwback relevance (“Majesty” with Eminem).

– she wants/needs commercial radio support, album sales, and streams, so she’s trying to win on all fronts. That’s risky.

Initial thoughts and reactions:

Is this the Instagram-ification of music? Like shareable pictures in a feed, this album feels extra broad, even for her. It’s the same artist, but there’s a lot of stylistic space between one song to the next.

Where it could succeed is in finding a minimum viable audience at the individual track level. This is interesting if the Instagram analogy holds.

Where it could fail is in being too broadly appealing without any central through-line, and therefore end up being broadly forgettable. It doesn’t feel like an album.

Time will tell how it is judged. So far the critics seem luke warm, but it is getting streams.

The big takeaway for me is thinking about the smaller, completely customized blocks that our professional work breaks down into.

It is possible to do mass-customization if we focus on the minimum viable audience(s) we have access to for each service.

For example, we may offer 10 services, but by framing the custom work on the 4 we are going to provide to a single client, we give them the feeling of mass market with the benefits and attention of personalization.

Drawing that distinction can help us to prioritize “different” over “better,” even when it’s the same “us” delivering the products and services to a wider audience.