On February 6, 1995, Montell Jordan released the lead single from his debut album of the same name, This Is How We Do It. The song hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, remained there for seven consecutive weeks, became a multi-platinum selling record, and earned Montell a Grammy nomination.
More than 26 years later, the song is still in heavy rotation worldwide, from recently viral TikTok videos to Peloton classes to (probably) your last party playlist. This Is How We Do It still slaps. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t ripe for a remix…
Since launching Trainual, we joked that This Is How We Do It was basically the Trainual theme song. Essentially, that’s what our customers are using Trainual for – telling their teams, this is how we do it here. AKA “here are our processes for keeping our business running smoothly.” So we put it on the vision board: Collab with Montell Jordan.
Then this past summer, a funny thing happened. Montell Jordan teamed up with a certain software company (spoiler: it’s us) to co-write and release a remix of his iconic ‘90s R&B hit. This time titled “This Is How You Do It.”
Where the original track leaves off on a weekend party, the remix – written to be an anthem for entrepreneurs and small businesses – picks up “when the grind takes more than 9 to 5.”
Though we need to share the why here (as in why the heck is a SaaS company shooting for the Billboard charts!?), it’s probably more interesting and helpful to share the how.
That way, when you think about planning your next brand campaign, maybe you can learn from some of the moves we made here.
Now, in keeping with the theme of our new single… this is how we did it:
First, getting in touch
It was December 2020 and the Trainual employee holiday party was right around the corner. We thought it would be cool to open the virtual event with a celebrity shoutout, thanking the team for all their hard work through such a trying year.
And what do you know, Montell Jordan is on Cameo. But more than just requesting a video from him, we could actually book a live Zoom call with him! We saw that as the perfect double opportunity to record a shoutout for the team and kick off a more serious conversation about a partnership at the same time.
That’s exactly how it went down. We exchanged info on the call and kept the conversation going afterward. In a follow-up, I threw a bunch of ideas at Montell, and he was ready to jump in and collaborate with us.
Writing a song together was one of those ideas…
🔥 Tip: Want to get in touch with celebrities for your next creative campaign? Here’s how we’ve historically done it:
- Cameo for business. Similar to booking a birthday shoutout from Draco Malfoy, you can also contract most celebrities on the platform for short, hand-held advertising videos. These might not have the most flexible terms for commercial usage. But they do add a special something to your social strategy without too heavy an investment.
- IMDB Pro. Prefer something that looks more official than an iPhone selfie video? On IMDB Pro, you can find just about any celeb’s representation (talent manager, publicist, agent, and so on). Using their representation’s contact information, shoot them an email to pitch your idea and talk rates or timelines if they go for it.
Making the music
With most of our past advertising campaigns and product or culture videos, we’ve used royalty-free music beds provided by Soundstripe. (Bonus: Hear Soundstripe founder Travis Terrell dish his company’s unique scale strategy on the Fastest Growing Companies podcast.)
Could we have gone straight to Def Jam and licensed Montell’s original hit song for this campaign? Sure. Would that have been as interesting? Probably not.
Plus, music licensing can be complicated (one of our company’s core values is no red tape). And artists usually only see a fraction of the cash that goes to the song for commercial use. Since we were working directly with Montell, we wanted to do something different, something more creative, and something that established a longer-term, less transactional relationship.
Also, as I mentioned, the original “This Is How We Do It“ only works in association with the Trainual value prop in its title and chorus hook. The rest of the song doesn’t really align with the aspirations and struggles of our small business audience.
So the task became this:
Let’s write and produce a brand new track that leans into the nostalgia and leverages the recognizability of his classic, but that feels fresh at the same time.
Let’s make this a song so perfectly on point with our message that we would want to license it even if we had nothing to do with making it.
This shouldn’t be a Trainual jingle (we’ve already got one). It shouldn’t be a Trainual promotion at all (we recorded a rap for that). This song should just be a freaking JAM that people would actually want to listen to.
In a past (and somewhat current) life, I was a singer/songwriter. I’ve posted about how I believe my start in making music with punk bands was really the beginning of my marketing career. Well, if that’s true, then bringing “This Is How You Do It” to life has to be the culmination of it all so far! And because of those beginnings, I had the right contact in my list of recent calls.
My good friend and producer, Chris Plante, was up for the challenge. Chris (better known as artist Modslee) led the music production, mixing, and mastering on the track. While he, Montell, and myself brought the lyrics and melodies to life.
Drawing inspiration from Bobby Brown to Bruno Mars, it took a few rounds of revisions to get the right sound. Chris and I were even editing the lyrics in the car on the drive from Boston to Brooklyn, where we would be recording at Grammy award-winning studio Douglass Recording.
There, in the same space that artists such as Vanessa Carlton, Andrew McMahon, Norah Jones, and Cage the Elephant belted out their hearts on the mic, Montell Jordan would lay down the vocals for “This Is How You Do It.”
Lights, camera, action
We had big dreams for this one, but we only had two days. Two days to shoot five commercials, three social stories, a music video, a podcast feature interview, behind-the-scenes vlogs, and a slew of promo photos.
My brother and Trainual CEO, Chris, our video content creator, Nic, and I met up in Brooklyn, New York, to make it all happen. But we couldn’t pull it off on our own.
That’s where Danielle Diamond and the Epiq Media team came in. I had connected with Danielle in Dave Gerhardt’s Marketing Group (DGMG). She’s the founder and director at Epiq Media and produces all of Dave’s social video content.
Our first talk in the summer of 2020 was about a possible extension to our Shorty Awards Finalist campaign featuring three actors from The Office. Unfortunately, with the pandemic, that one hasn’t come to pass. But I knew Danielle and her NY-based team would be the perfect crew to bring “This Is How You Do It” to life.
Epiq helped refine the commercial concepts and scripts, secured the sound stage at Brooklyn’s Greenwood Studios, and rigged up one hell of a production.
The first two videos of the commercial series would build off a concept we knew was crushing it with our entrepreneurial audience. The feeling of wearing too many hats.
In February 2020, we shot a video featuring my brother Chris sharing his unique entrepreneurial journey. In it, he was wearing a stack of job-title-labeled hats that needed to be handed off. He went from video guy to marketer to salesperson and so on.
For that video, the Trainual office was the set. And our team members who actually filled those roles took the hats off his head as they walked by. People went nuts over this video on social media. Because it wasn’t just an ad, it was a recipe. There was real value in the story. It was both entertaining and educational, and people could see themselves in it.
Apparently, we were really feeling the remixes this summer because we decided to remix our own ad in addition to Montell’s song.
But this time, we featured an entrepreneurial legend (spoiler: it was Daymond John). And instead of the Trainual team, Montell swoops in to take off the extra hats, showing him, “this is how you do it.”
The second series of ads would feature a few typical SMB scenarios (onboarding, training, and delegating) gone wrong. Montell then swoops in to course correct, showing people, “this is how you do it!”
In these spots (launching soon), Montell Jordan personifies the Trainual app. But, as we like to say, “if your business doesn’t have Montell Jordan, you need Trainual!”
A special cameo
Now, let’s address the elephant in the room. Or should we say, shark!
Yes, I’m talking about Daymond John. The People’s Shark from ABC’s Shark Tank. Founder of FUBU. CEO of The Shark Group. And an icon of entrepreneurship.
Daymond joined Trainual last year for the opening session of Playbook 2020. And we stayed in touch with his team after the event (friendly reminder to save your seat for Playbook 2021). They were impressed with how we were transforming the way small businesses scaled with systems and SOPs.
After many months of conversations working out partnership details, we inked a deal with The Shark Group. We had to pinch ourselves to make sure it was real. But Daymond John was about to invest in Trainual, participating in our Series B. Plus, we would create some promotional campaigns together. And we didn’t even have to get in the Tank!
It just so happened that all of this came to fruition around the same time we were planning this campaign with Montell. We couldn’t help but notice the synchronicity.
Back when Montell Jordan’s hit single started dominating the airwaves, Daymond John’s fashion empire, FUBU, was gaining speed. FUBU had started making hats out of Daymond’s mother’s basement in Queens and today has done over $6B in sales.
If you’re paying close attention, you might have just noticed that Daymond’s story of building FUBU started with him physically making hats. It was just too perfect. And that’s why we decided to stack the hats once again, this time on Daymond.
The ‘90s were very kind to these two gentlemen. And fortunately, nostalgia is marketing gold today. So the stars, literally, had aligned.
👀 Spoiler: We have a special “This Is How You Do It” performance planned for Playbook 2021 that you can only catch live at the event! Register for free to see it.
Launching the campaign
Here’s where it all collides. Months of wild ideas, enthusiastic early morning texts, and the best kind of stress all leading up to the moment we lit the fuse.
On Friday, August 20, 2021, “This Is How You Do It” was released to the world as a brand new single from Montell Jordan and Trainual. Can you name any other software brand that’s also a Spotify or Apple Music artist? We’ll wait.
And in case you’re unfamiliar, #NewMusicFriday is the new global release day. So that kicked things off for us. The following week took things to the next level.
Our music video dropped on Montell’s YouTube channel. On Trainual’s channel, we released the behind-the-scenes video. Daymond posted an Instagram Reel about the campaign. And Grindology Magazine featured it too.
Advertising banners were hoisted up over the moving walkways in Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. We dropped the three different Story ads and the campaign hero video (leaving another four on deck to trickle out over the next few months). And we even queued up a few TikTok influencers to join the fun.
Promo videos started running on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Spotify. Plus, TV spots on Hulu, CNN, MTV, ABC, HGTV, and more.
In its first two weeks, the song was featured on nearly 1,000 popular Spotify playlists and climbed in momentum to currently reside in Montell Jordan’s own Spotify top five, most popular tracks.
Remixing and re-recording a hit ’90s song isn’t your typical B2B SaaS marketing strategy. And there are a lot of easier ways to create ad campaigns. So, why go to all this trouble?
Because modern marketing is about the brand – brand resonance and relevance. Your brand is your reputation, and your reputation drives revenue.
Might some of the pieces of this campaign generate new Trainual trials and customers, traffic to the website, or newsletter subscribers? Of course. We care about those business metrics and near-term acquisition targets as much as the next business. But we’re playing the long game.
The real objective behind this entire campaign was to start a conversation on a larger scale than we ever had before. We set out to strike a chord with the people starting, systemizing and scaling their businesses right now.
And right now, those people are primarily millennials who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s. AKA they know (and in a lot of cases, love) Montell’s original track. So, we were betting they’d love the remix too.
The commercial videos will serve their purpose and drive awareness that leads to more immediate growth. But those will have a shelf life. The song? The one that subtly contains the core sentiments of the Trainual brand story, product value prop, and customer motivations? That’s evergreen.
Trainual is an artist on the track. Our logo is on the album art and in the music video. And we’ll always be linked to it. But honestly, it’s a powerful thing for the song to begin to have a life beyond Trainual and this specific campaign.
B2B marketers today should strive to find ways to resonate within people’s lives outside of work.
What can you do to show up where you’re least expected but still be welcome there? Can you be additive, not interruptive? Will you be just another work app, or will you enter the cultural consciousness?
Those are the kind of questions you should be asking when it comes to brand campaigns. At least, that’s how we do it.