Today Beyoncé is a household name—she commands attention with her work, and what she says, wears, and shares. Beyoncé has spent years carefully creating her brand—from her early days as the lead in Destiny’s Child to her career as a solo artist to her launch of a clothing line, philanthropy and investments. She has built a brand that is recognized and loved by generations of fans the world over.
In more recent years, Beyoncé, as a brand, has departed from the music industry’s prescribed path. Specifically, she and her brand, have bucked industry standards and expectations by challenging the status quo and carefully curating Beyoncé into both a household name and a powerhouse with a clear vision, purpose articulated across channels.
With the unannounced launch of her 2013 eponymous album—BEYONCÉ—Beyoncé broke music industry barriers and pioneered the surprise album launch as a net new marketing tactic in the music industry. Beyond dropping a surprise album, she did two unique things that challenged industry norms: 1) she chose digital first 2) she offered value to her fans.
With a digital-first launch, Beyoncé put her album and her brand where her fans were. Her album, 14 new tracks, and 17 fully produced music videos, was stealthily launched on iTunes and was exclusive to that platform for one week. The launch demonstrated not only an understanding of her fan base and their preferences—an increasingly mobile-oriented consumer base, but also innovation—driving a viral element to her album through social sharing and digital downloads while also driving demand for her physical album, which fans had to wait one week to receive.
A surprise album was strategic beyond creating media buzz; it was an opportunity for Beyoncé to share the news personally with her fans first. Fans who followed Beyoncé on various platforms—favorited her as an artist on iTunes, followed her on Instagram, subscribed to her fan club—were able to get the first news of the launch. This feeling of inclusion and surprise (what fan doesn’t want a surprise from their favorite brand?) drove increased loyalty and advocacy.
Additionally, beyond an album release, the added content of 17 fully produced videos offered her fans something new—a story. Storytelling, versus the traditional focus on singles, through various mediums is something that Beyoncé has capitalized on again with her visual album, Lemonade, an immersive experience that again challenged the industry norms.
Ultimately Beyoncé’s distribution and the announcement of BEYONCÉ shook up the music industry. Now, the industry standards for musicians have changed—impacting how they build their brand and release their albums. Since her surprise album, more and more artists have taken to surprising fans with their content.
As for Beyoncé as a brand and an entertainer, she has continued to push the envelope with her marketing. In fact, in 2016 she continued to change the game with the announcement of her Formation tour during the Super-Bowl halftime show and the release of her visual album (Lemonade) as a one hour, exclusive HBO special prior to the start of her tour. As a person and a brand, Beyoncé drives brand consistency even in how she shares snippets of her personal life on her website, and Instagram account—where she has a massive following.
It seems that Beyoncé will not only continue to entertain but push the boundaries for what it means to be an innovative marketer that surprises and delights customers by creating and delivering seamless experiences across channels. Who do you see changing the game in their industry and what lessons can we learn from them? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.