Dec. 17, 2013

5 Life Lessons for Digital Marketers As Taught by Beyonce

Thanks to Beyonce’s latest release, life as we (digital marketers) know it, will never be the same.

Let’s go back. In May of 2008 I visited Cleveland, Ohio for the first time. I arrived downtown via Megabus from Chicago and was struck by the larger than life Lebron James Nike advertisement plastered on an enormous brick wall. The wingspan on the man coupled with the clear, direct, and overwhelmingly accurate message left a last impression that I cannot shake to this day.

The release of Beyonce’s lastest album last week left me with the same taste in my mouth: We are all witnesses. Overnight and without any warning, Beyonce cut through the chaos and adapted to the new habits of digital consumers.

Before I go any further let’s address the fact that Beyonce Knowles ranks on 8 different Forbes Lists. She is an unfathomably powerful businesswomen, music sensation, and global style icon. Her reach and influence are beyond what most people can even comprehend. Her paramount level of success doesn’t change the fact that digital marketers can learn a thing (or 17) from Queen B’s latest move.

AdWeek called it a marketing bomb strategy. The Huffington Post labeled it as what could be the greatest marketing stunt in the history of music marketing. The Queen herself told The New York Times that she was “bored with that”, [that being the way she has traditionally released her music.]

And she’s right. She’s bored with it. And consumers are bored with it too.

Last month The Guardian published, “Is the album dead? Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus and Elton John hit by dramatic US sales slump.” Not hardly. Beyonce is set to hit number one on Billboard after selling 450,000 albums in one day.

What can digital marketers learn from Beyonce’s response to boredom?

1. Believe in the power in your pocket.

That mobile device in your possession is proving to be a more powerful tool every day. Social media and mobile access is at your disposal and if your organization isn’t investing in the right channels for your business, you need to start. There was no press release announcing the album. There was no ramp up or countdown clock. There was no traditional marketing campaign in sight. There was one word accompanying one video on one account. SURPRISE.

2. Brand Yourself. 

Beyonce’s entire digital presence transformed into a cohesive design update in tandem with the album release. The original Instagram video she posted plays out in full form when the desktop version of the website loads. The design of the iTunes cover art pulls images from the videos. Every component of the design implementation of the album was perfectly executed. Mirror this approach as you unveil a new website: update everything in unison. Leave no channel behind.

3. Build a community that will market for you.

Don’t just use social media channels as a megaphone for your content. More importantly, use social media to build a community around your brand. Twitter shared that the Beyonce release generated more than 1.2 million tweets in 12 hours, with 5,300 tweets every minute at the height of the hysteria. Engage with your users so that they are engaged and willing to share your message.

4. Bust out the camera.

If you haven’t added video to your content strategy, there’s no day like today. Over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube. This translates to almost an hour for every person on Earth at an increase of 50% more than last year.  Digital consumers crave visual content. Through a stroke of genius, Beyonce released a visual album, including 14 traditional music tracks accompanied by 17 videos for her audience to watch. Begin adding video content to your calendar or risk falling behind your competitor’s that do.

5. Be a human being.

If you haven’t watched the visual album, take a moment and fast forward to 3:25 of Part 1: The Visual Album. Beyonce’s voiceover includes the following:

“I wanted everyone to see the whole picture and to see how personal it is to me. I will make my best art and just put it out. And that’s why it’s out today.”

How powerful could our art (whatever it looks like) be if we took a similar approach?
Doing our best work and sharing it in an honest way with our peers? As we continue to watch the Queen’s powers unfold this week, what lessons are you taking away from this marketing stunt/bomb/rollout?

Will your approach to digital marketing ever look the same?
The truth is, it can’t. We are all witnesses. 

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Ariel Upton

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