Full Disclosure: Anyone who knows me has a 0% chance of being surprised that I’m writing this post. I am a proud member of the Church of Beyoncé, so I may or may not be slightly biased.
Beyoncé is doing something right. In the past year, she has completed two multi-national tours, released a surprise album, was named one of the most influential people by TIME and came in at #1 on Forbes’ Celebrity 100 list. And that’s just to name a few. How has she maintained her success with seemingly minimal backlash (on the scale of 1-to-celebrity, anyway)? And what can other brands learn from her?
She takes creative risks. Beyoncé is generally known as one of the hardest workers in the entertainment industry. She has a hand in nearly everything she does – whether it’s the aesthetics for her live performances or the artistic direction of her albums. She is always aiming to take things to the next level, and that means she’s not afraid to take creative risks.
Imagine preparing to launch a new product in a shroud of secrecy, where no one outside of the very select people working on it was able to know it even existed. No marketing plan. No PR outreach leading up to the launch. Just releasing it one random day in December. Beyoncé did this last year, surprising everyone as they woke up on December 13, 2013 with a 14-track album that featured a fully directed music video for each track. Despite no warning or early promotion, she managed to create more buzz than most artists do with a traditional album launch. She sold 828,773 copies in three days. And that’s just digital. It was a risk, and it paid off immensely.
In another example, Beyoncé was lined up to receive the MTV Video Vanguard Award at the Video Music Awards this year. When artists perform on award shows, they tend to sing their latest hit or other popular songs. Beyoncé decided to take a different approach. She put together a 16-minute medley of the entire track list from her latest album. This included lesser-known songs that could have fallen flat to an audience expecting something they’ve heard on the radio. It was one of the first times an artist had performed snippets from a full album. It raised the bar and gave viewers who hadn’t heard her full album a glimpse at what they were missing. It was, in effect, a full promotion for her album.
Lesson Learned: Risks are scary. You never know how people will respond. But for brands that are daring, the payoff can be huge. Make sure you don’t jump into something haphazardly. Plan it out, cover your bases and have a little fun. It can be a great way to separate your brand from competitors.
She built a loyal fan base to help tell her story. The Beyhive, as they’re known as, are some of the most loyal brand evangelists out there. They help spread the word about all things Beyoncé without even being asked. Beyoncé also makes it a constant point –whether through her blog, quick clips of beehives at her concert, or beehive inspired jewelry – to acknowledge her fans and let them know she is grateful.
She tells her own story, her own way. One of the things Beyoncé is known for is her uncanny ability to keep the majority of her personal life private. In a TMZ-run entertainment world, that’s a lot easier said than done for current era celebrities. Despite this, she manages to maintain control over her image than most of her famous peers. When the occasional thing does slip out, Beyoncé responds in her own sly way via things like social media to set the record straight. For example, as rumors grew about marriage troubles with Jay-Z, she posted a series of pictures in a Mrs. Carter sweatshirt as well as a loving picture of Jay and their daughter Blue Ivy. It was a quietly loud way of saying, “We’re good, thanks.”
Lesson learned: As a public-facing brand, it’s hard to have full control over what is being said about you. The good news is that with social media, brands have the opportunity to respond directly to the public as appropriate. They no longer have to rely on gatekeepers to tell their side of the story for them. Be open and honest, and you’ll be able to gain more control over your image.
Who Run The World?
Love her or hate her, Beyoncé has proven to be not just a successful entertainer, but also a successful entrepreneur. She built a brand and business from the front lines; she didn’t step back and become a third-party to her own brand. There is a lot to be learned from the decisions she’s made to grow her career and have her own identity.
Senior Marketing Analyst
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