Beyonce and the Celebrity Brand Paradigm

beyonce screen-cap2

So, literally, in the middle of the night, Beyonce dropped a new album.  With the Instagram video above, no less.  Now, I’m not part of her rabid fan collective known as the #Beyhive, but this is move is highly fascinating from a marketing standpoint.  Here are some initial thoughts:

  • Look, Ma! No Marketing. Not a word was leaked about this from her team.  Rather, she used her 8 million Instagram followers to spread the word
  • The iTunes homepage takeover: Check. Makes sense: After all, it’s an exclusive.

Beyonce-itunes

  •  Labels are superstar factories now and forever. If you’re a major label, you want one of these.  No more effing with “developing” acts.  You want someone you can groom into a global brand.
  • Personal brand + fan engagement = WIN.  Again, with 8 million Instagram fans and 13 million Twitter followers, Beyonce could be platinum next week.  Are there enough diehard Bey fans to push her to that magic number? We’ll  see.  But it’ll be worth watching those first week numbers, as well as looking for indications of sales momentum heading into week 2.
  • Music release windows shrink to zero.  Timberlake had a few months of pre-release marketing for his 20/20 Experience. We all found out about Magna Carta. . . Holy Grail on June 16, two-and-a-half weeks before the July 4 release.  About Beyonce, we. Heard. Nothing.
  • But, ultimately, it’s about the music. There’s insane buzz today. But people are just now getting the album.  Will it hold up, i.e., will it meet or exceed expectations? If so, she wins.  If not, this album release becomes a cautionary tale like Gaga’s Artpop.
  • Visuals matter. Beyonce is 14 songs but, more importantly, 17 videos. The visual web is no joke, people. Ignore this at your own peril.
  • Speaking of which: Somewhere in America. . .Gaga and Interscope are MAD.  You would be, too, if you spent $25 million marketing and album that only sold around 250K to date.  Beyonce is a reminder that it’s not about spending the most money, but about spending smartly.
  • Also: Now more than ever, former manager Troy Carter is looking like a genius for bailing on Gaga’s project before it came out, crashed and died.
  • Massive coordination is required to make things look this effortless.
  • Watch the shift in marketing dollars. As my friend Ali Muhammad points out: Marketing dollars have moved from awareness to content, touring, merch and digital engagement.
  • Where’s Pepsi?  They spent an estimated $50 million to be in business with her.  I certainly hope they’re able to take advantage of this new album buzz.  More important: I hope they’re not making the same mistake as Samsung.

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  • Indy Neogy

    Great post. I’m especially interested in the “game theory” around this kind of thing. Reviewers seem generally positive on the album, but are noting a certain “rawness” around the production values. There’s a school of thought in the movie world (particularly around the comic book franchises, e.g. Batman, Superman, etc.) that if you can hit the fans hard enough with an exclusive you can get to your magic figure (not sure what the formula is for albums, but for blockbuster movies these days it’s often around 50% of production costs) in the first weekend (USA market) – and that guarantees overall success even if it turns out (as with Man of Steel) that word of mouth turns negative.