April 29, 2016

What we can learn from Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’

Branding lessons from her latest album, Lemonade

Unless you’ve been excommunicated from society itself, there’s no doubt that you’ve probably heard of Beyoncé. More so, unless you’ve been excommunicated and you’ve been hiding out in a remote desert without any form of technology that can access the internet, you’ve probably heard of Lemonade. If the latter is the case, then first of all welcome back and secondly, Lemonade is Beyoncé’s latest album. Already heralded as a visual and musical masterpiece, Lemonade was released without public knowledge and accompanied by an hour-long film on HBO. The release has achieved critical acclaim to the point of mass hysteria.

Beyoncé is no stranger to success. Given her all-over domination of the world at large, it really seems like she has been sitting on her throne of Grammy’s, platinum albums and hit singles for an eternity. Such is her influence that her last two albums, Beyoncé (2014) and Lemonade were released without a word to the general public and yet have become financial successes, which is no easy feat in the music industry. There’s a lesson to be learnt there. Well, there are many lessons to be learnt from Beyoncé. However, as far as marketing is concerned, Beyoncé is one of the biggest and most successful brands in the world.

Of course, this didn’t happen overnight. As the saying goes, Rome was not built in a day and neither was Beyoncé’s empire. To have your consumer look forward to the prospect of a product that doesn’t even exist yet involves a great deal of work.

The importance of understanding your consumers

Beyoncé has a very loyal fan base. So much so that after Lemonade her ‘Beyhive’ took to social media in an attempt to track down and shame Jay-Z’s mysterious ‘other woman’ (‘Becky with the good hair’ as she is referred to). Unfortunately, their suspicions of Rachel Roy were misinterpreted as Rachael Ray. The celebrity chef now has a plethora of abusive comments on her twitter and Instagram images. They are particularly hateful towards her spring vegetable soup. Nevertheless, the devotion is clear. Beyoncé’s fans adore her and for good reason, she understands her consumers.

Firstly, her brand message is very relatable to her predominately female audience. Beyoncé is all about empowerment, a quality that is perhaps her strongest selling point. By releasing media that focusses on the ideas of independence and strength, Beyoncé gives substance and reason for her product and, in turn, creates an emotional connection with her consumer. This has been especially lucrative as feminism and gender equality have become increasingly frequent topics in global conversation.

Her brand message of empowerment is made more so by its adaptability. As she continues to grow, Beyoncé has involved other groups, secondary target markets that further her brand. LGBT groups and race relations (in particular, the Black Lives Matter campaign) have been major topics in recent years, and Beyoncé’s message has reached both of these groups. Her outspoken support of these communities has furthered her brand and ever growing consumer population.

The importance of creativity and utilizing your platforms

The importance of understanding your consumer most definitely feeds into the ideas of creativity and utilization of platforms. By growing her fan base to such an extent, Beyoncé hardly needs to do traditional advertising. Beyoncé’s consumers are all online as is the music industry (know your business!). Lemonade was released on the streaming service TIDAL, announced via twitter and supported with a film on HBO.

With such a large fan base, Beyoncé owns a great stake in social media. Lemonade garnered over a million mentions on twitter within hours of its release and this is just one of the hundreds of articles that have been written about it. This is all essentially free PR and advertising. She sells her product organically through social media and it comes off far less gimmicky than a press release.

The importance of quality over quantity

This brings us to the importance of quality. People don’t want lots of Beyoncé albums; people want amazing, artistically motivated Beyoncé albums. She is a pop musician by definition; therefore, it’s important that what she sells (her music) is actually good. Beyoncé has a literal team of extremely talented people who participate in what are essentially writer’s camps to work on her music. Her team spends the time to ensure what they are producing is the quality content that her consumers now expect. This means differentiating herself from other musicians by offering something that any other pop musician doesn’t have. In the case of Beyoncé, it’s the visual element of her releases. Both the Lemonade and Beyoncé albums have been highly praised because they are ‘visual albums’. They have gone beyond the pop music product and delivered experiences through video as well as the traditional album release. The videos are also of the same quality as the music. This high standard of quality and clever marketing through HBO streaming and TIDAL increases opportunity for financial success as people are far more inclined to pay money for this experience.

The importance of brand narrative and thinking in the long term

Beyoncé has been building a brand since before Destiny’s Child. All of it is laden with this image of Beyoncé eternally differing herself from the mould and establishing herself as the independent woman. From starting her solo career away from Destiny’s Child to exposing her grief at her husband’s betrayal on Lemonade, it’s a narrative that supports her brand message. Though her music and endeavours have grown, they still stay rooted in this great Beyoncé mythos.

Weaving this story is strengthened with each release, which is carefully considered. There is a great sense of thinking in the long term with this brand. Beyoncé wants to sell albums and stay at the forefront of people’s minds, there is no short and quick solution for this. This narrative is a crucial element in creating a brand with longevity.

Not everyone can be Beyoncé; that much is obvious. It does take an entire team of people to pull all of this off. Nevertheless, these are important things to keep in mind, considering her net worth is estimated to be over $400 million, she is most certainly doing something right. When it comes to taking that next step in marketing, perhaps it’s best to be the Beyoncé you wish to see in the world.