It is almost unimaginable that an artist like Beyonce, with more than two decades in the spotlight, would release a new album online with absolutely no warning. That is, until last Friday.
The superstar’s self-titled video and song collection dropped like no album had before, dominating social chatter and iTunes sales over the weekend, combining for a major hit before the weekend was over.
By Monday, some of the marketing industry’s biggest names were calling it the end of marketing as we know it. In just three days, Beyonce racked up 828,773 album sales exclusively via iTunes — making it the fastest-selling album ever on iTunes, according to Apple — with no traditional marketing machinery in place.
Beyonce planned it that way, of course, simply announcing the immediate availability of her new visual album featuring 14 songs and 17 videos at midnight in a short video on Instagram.
“From a marketing perspective, let’s not forget that it’s always good to surprise the consumer with something wonderful,” says Rachel Masters, partner and co-founder of Red Magnet Media, which has managed social media campaigns for Linkin Park, Duran Duran, Incubus and other artists.
“This is a marketing play, through and through,” she tells ClickZ. “I thought it was interesting that Beyonce used Instagram to announce all of this versus Tumblr or Twitter or Facebook. I think that shows the power of Instagram for the young generation and celebrities. Instagram’s been putting a lot of effort to build relationships in the music business and with public figures in general, and it’s a true testament to all that work they’ve been doing.”
Once Beyonce set the Internet on fire with her announcement, word traveled fast and far on social media channels around the world. While all of the BuzzFeed lists, memes and gifs created of Beyonce’s new videos were outside her control, her influence and sheer start power enabled her to stoke the social wildfire that ensued.
“The surprise element helped really create the buzz using social. That really shows that if you put something out there and you let your fans embrace it and make it there own, your fans can really be of marketing service to your brand,” says Masters.
“These are really clever, of the moment ideas, but it doesn’t make sense then for everyone to start repeating them,” she adds. “Let’s remember that our fabulous job in marketing is to come up with something really clever and unique. What’s going to delight our consumers? What’s something really cool that we can do?”
Now that Beyonce has surprised her fans and marketers alike, Masters says she and her colleagues need to be thinking about how they can one-up her, not simply copy her.
“I think music tends to be the early adopting wave of new technologies, and more older companies or consumer brands can learn a lot from how music marketers embrace digital and the social marketing strategies they put in place in order to attract consumers,” she says.
“I think what’s great about Beyonce is that everyone sort of cheers her on. I don’t know that many Beyonce-haters out there. She works really hard, she’s pretty authentic, and she is really giving and loving toward her fans, and yet she is very aspirational,” Masters says.
“Putting together a whole video album and doing all of this and keeping it quiet isn’t easy, but it all comes from the top down and everyone knows it came from Beyonce.”