I remember just like it was yesterday: on Friday, December 13, 2013, my brother turned 26 years old. That was a great moment for him, but I was more impressed with Beyoncé’s release of her fifth studio album, self-titled Beyoncé. I must admit, I felt a bit betrayed in the moment for several reasons: It was during finals, I couldn’t purchase it at the moment and she didn’t tell anyone. Although I was caught off guard, I was able to get past all of that because it’s Beyoncé. While I stared at the cover art of the entertainer on Apple’s iTunes Music application, I said to myself, “Wow, she didn’t tell anyone, that’s dope.”
What made the release so “dope” is not that Beyoncé and her team released the album with no traditional marketing, but her team was able to spring the project relying on their own channels to create excitement and success while earned media took care of the rest. I’m aware that everyone is not a fan of the pop star, but her team has perfected their marketing strategy like no other. I mean, let’s be real, how many artists you know can ditch traditional marketing, which is very successful, and see the same results as Beyoncé? Not many, and while this trend is popular in the music industry, brand new acts wouldn’t see similar results without a proper introduction to the public. For businesses, trying to generate and maintain the level of excitement that Beyoncé has been able to cultivate isn’t easily done, but brands can incorporate some of those small methods into its overall marketing strategy.
As I prepared for class the next day and after reading different articles about this unexpected album, it hit me! I figured out how Beyoncé created so much success with one album – surprise marketing. Listen, this is hands down one of the most powerful marketing tools and it spikes emotions. Communications practitioners that utilize this technique are able to build value in a product or service through genuine excitement and anticipation. Besides this system of surprise fueling emotion of the customers, surprise motivates change in behavior. Yes, a surprise enhances your emotions and amplifies your feelings while a behavioral change makes you ask the question, “what expectations do our consumer hold?” Beyoncé and her team has continued to ask each other these questions with new projects.
Let’s just have a moment and examine the product, Beyoncé. While marketers in advertising have relied on promotions and other forms of communications to relay messages, the singer has proved that word-of-mouth is still the most effective form of marketing. Aware of her power and influence, Beyoncé and her team have leverage the power and social presence of her and the projects she’s produced. Let’s take a look at a few ways Beyoncé and her team have utilized surprise marketing, and see ways your business can pull a Beyoncé:
Beyoncé – Album (2013)
This album made its debut back in 2013 with zero promotion and no warning. Promotions and advertisements were pushed via social media after the release on iTunes. With a lack of promotion, many wondered if this would hurt album sales but the technique did the opposite. This album became the fastest-selling album on iTunes worldwide with an estimated total sale of over $5million. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are word-of-mouth streams that allows news to spread from person to person instantly. Instead of a long-drawn-out promotion, in this case a three-month promotion or single release, try to explore some surprise efforts with your company. Your business could try coupon announcements, flash giveaways or anything your customers would love to see. The idea is to build excitement in your consumer that will drive them towards making a purchase. It doesn’t matter what you’re giving away, it’s the surprise itself that holds true value for the customer.
Formation – Single (2016)
As if the month of February couldn’t be exciting enough, the Queen herself decided to blow the NFL out the water. On the eve of Super Bowl 50, the singer released the single “Formation” with an accompanying video for her website. Instead of marketing prior to the release, Beyoncé chose to capitalize on the buzz and anticipation for her upcoming halftime performance by releasing it before game day. After fans shared 24 hours with the new track before her performance, we were able to witness the brilliance of the tactic when she announced her world tour after the commercial break. Aware that she was going to be among a massive audience with millions of viewers, she strategized around the event only to crash the internet. Email marketing is a great way to utilize this technique. Plan out a diligent and thoughtful strategy that creates a sense of urgency that drives consumer action for overall exposure.
The artist’s most recent project, Lemonade, was released through an HBO special. The teaser video built buzz and cultivated fan discussion about the announcement that Beyoncé was launching. As fans tuned in to HBO, it was apparent that the star created a full visual concept album and she began to release it midway through the special on different social channels. Being that the album was released on HBO, the event felt like a private viewing to her fans across the world. The artist has been known to give special perks to her fan club, the “Beyhive” which allows them to get first dibs and special access on all things Beyoncé. Provide a sense of exclusivity and anticipation for your customers. Newsletters or memberships are the perfect way to build that sense of exclusion with your consumer. Give them special deals, sneak peeks or early access to upcoming events. Provide them with the privilege they deserve to build on your brand loyalty.
Whew! Talking about Beyoncé makes me lose my breath, and sometimes I lose track of the word count. However, we all can take a piece of these tactics that are used to sell stadium seats to sell overall awareness. Incorporate these strategies into your marketing plan and find out who really runs the world!