Interruption Marketing by Kanye West

In what will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the poorest judgment calls by a celebrity, Kanye West’s interruption of Taylor Swift’s 2009 VMA Awards acceptance speech gives business owners a perfect look into why Interruption Marketing doesn’t work. Interruption Marketing is a marketing strategy used mostly by businesses when selling products or services to consumers. Interruption Marketing tactics take on many forms, such as the post cards (or business reply cards in Marketing Jargon) that fall out of the magazine that you’re reading, the TV advertisements that you’re forced to watch, or even the pushy salesperson that tries to stop you in the middle of the mall. These are all perfect examples of Interruption Marketing. Kanye West took this marketing strategy to a whole new level when he interrupted Taylor Swift to promote Beyonce’s video. Many people say that you can learn by following good examples from others, but also from staying away from things that you saw cause others harm. Well, this Kanye West Taylor Swift situation presents the latter learning opportunity for business owners.

So here’s what happened… Taylor Swift was awarded her very first ever VMA Award during the 2009 MTV VMA Awards Ceremony. As she was giving her acceptance speech Kanye West came up from behind her, took the microphone, and began to humiliate her in front of everyone in the audience and on national TV. He interrupted her speech to promote his own agenda. Kanye felt that Beyonce should have won the award and he wanted to promote Beyonce and her video. Kanye didn’t take out an Ad in Rolling Stone the week after the VMAs. Kanye didn’t use the situation to create new content by recording a song expressing his views. Instead Kanye West followed an Interruption Marketing Strategy. Unfortunately for him, as with many of the businesses who also use this strategy, he fell flat on his face. If you haven’t seen the actual footage, check out the video below.

It almost makes you cringe when you watch it… You feel so bad for Taylor Swift, but also so bad for Kanye West as you know in your gut what the backlash caused by his Interruption Marketing tactic will be.

Top 3 Reasons Why Interruption Marketing Doesn’t Work

  2. Interruption Marketing leaves a bad taste in the mouths of your target audience
  3. Interruption Marketing can generate NEGATIVE publicity for your business

Kanye West Interruption MarketingInterruption Marketing first and foremost interrupts EVERYONE (your target audience and those innocent bystanders who are forced to watch, read, or listen to your message) from what they are doing. The act of interrupting people causes those folks to resent the parties behind the ad (that’s you), especially over time. Not only that, but sometimes when the interruption is so bad, like when Mr. West interrupted Taylor Swift to promote his views on why Beyonce should have won the award, it can lead to a massive negative PR assault on your business. Some say that all publicity is good publicity, but we tend not to agree with that marketing philosophy around here. It’s not easy giving up on a strategy after using it for so long, but small business owners who want to be successful in the future must abandon this dying marketing strategy before it’s too late.

There was a time when Interruption Marketing actually worked. It was a time of mass production and mass consumption. The economy has changed, consumers have changed, technology has advanced… It’s time that businesses move on from Interruption Marketing to Permission Marketing.

Seth Godin on Permission Marketing

Seth Godin, the man we call the leading Marketing thinker of our time, has this to say about his new Marketing Strategy (which really isn’t very new anymore), which is based around receiving permission from your target audience to communicate with them, instead of simply interrupting them with your message:

Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.

It recognizes the new power of the best consumers to ignore marketing. It realizes that treating people with respect is the best way to earn their attention.”

Seth published the book, Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers Into Friends And Friends Into Customers, back in 1999. The book instantly became the new keystone to winning marketing strategies. At this point, the paradigm has almost completely shifted away from Interruption Marketing Strategies to solely Permission Marketing Strategies, but you still get the occasional Kanye West. There are still businesses out there who simply don’t seek permission to speak with their target audience. This is a very short-sighted way to run your business. Interruption Marketing sacrifices long-term profits from turning strangers into friends and friends in to customers for short term perceived gains.

Interruption Marketing is Dying

Interruption Marketing Strategies are dying. The companies who use Interruption Marketing Strategies to sell their products and services are dying along with them. This country can only move forward as quickly as small businesses will take us there. Don’t shoot yourselves in the foot by taking bad marketing advice and implementing Interruption Marketing Strategies for your small business. The next time you’re thinking of running that print ad, or recording that radio spot, remember Interruption Marketing by Kanye West.


  1. Man, Kanye really “got it twisted” with that move. Interruption marketing is definitely a good word for it. A lot of people trying to use social media make the same mistakes day in and out because they just don’t get it. But, here’s the key to social media marketing success;
    Engagement + value = permission marketing

    Good post!

  2. Rod –

    Yes, yes he did. I’m a big Kanye fan, but this scene definitely unfolded badly for all parties. I love your ‘key to social media marketing success’ –> ‘Engagement + value = permission marketing’. You got that right! Thanks for taking the time to leave such an insightful comment my man.


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