Beyonce is not just a legend, she is an icon. She is the most-nominated female artist in Grammy history, with 79 career nominations and 29 grammy awards to her name. Her new album immediately soared to the top of Apple Music in 100 countries with 16 of the top 21 songs on Apple Music whilst garnering more than 43 million streams on Spotify — a new record.
Beyonce’s success isn’t a fluke but the meticulous result of building a long-lasting brand. We will take a look at every marketing tactic Beyonce has ever used and what we can learn from her.
The Inception: Dangerously in Love
Dangerously in Love dropped on July 20 2003, marking the beginning of Bey’s solo career. This album received positive reviews from music critics, and many accolades, earning Beyoncé five Grammy Awards at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards on February 8, 2004. Dangerously in Love also saw international commercial success, earning multi-platinum certifications in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The album debuted atop the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 317,000 copies in its first week and 15 Million copies as of 2021.
While the entire group took a break to work on their solo careers, Beyoncé earned the highest debut sales week among Destiny's Child members' solo albums, and produced two US Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles –”Crazy in Love” and “Baby Boy”, as well as two top-five singles–”Me, Myself and I” and “Naughty Girl.”
How did Beyonce achieve all this success on her very first album?
The Destiny's Child Effect
We were all extremely familiar with Beyonce by the time she released her debut album in 2003. Many people view Beyonce as the breakout star of Destiny's Child, but this wasn't an accident, it was by design.
Using a group or a band to market and promote a singer is a marketing tactic that has existed since the early to the mid-1960s, the period between the heyday of early rock and roll and the British Invasion. Destiny's Child in the girl group era produced an identifiable hybrid of gospel, rhythm and blues, doo-wop, and quirky pop.
When you want to grow your brand or market your product, you can either try to get the word out all on your own or collaborate with other people in a similar niche as you. Musicians do this same thing in a variety of ways. In the rap world, we have groups like Young Money or ASAP who bring together different artists to push music and market as a unit instead of trying to grow alone.
Music labels do the same thing by actively pairing artists they believe will have massive appeal as a group before they pick who the breakout artist is and then they are often pushed as the group's, lead singer. This tactic works so well because it brings together fans of each artist whilst providing labels with clear data of who the fan favorite is and how their solo career is likely to go.
On television, we have seen Simon Cowell execute this with Fifth Harmony and One Direction, along with countless other groups that might not have seen the same success. With Destiny's Child, group members LaToya and LaTivia left for this reason as they felt like Beyonce was being favored and pushed more than the rest of the group, which her father corroborated when he said, “My responsibility is to be a father first.”
What Can You Do?
Consider coming together with a group of people who are creating similar or complementary work to yours. This can be a product or a service or even you as a brand. Coming together helps market you further and faster than you can yourself This is something that helped Beyonce shine as she launched her next two projects utilizing more traditional marketing methods.
The Press Tour: B’ Day
B'Day is the second studio album by Beyoncé, which she released to coincide with her twenty-fifth birthday on September 4, 2006. The album debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200, selling over 541,000 copies in its first week of sales and scoring the third-highest debut-week sales. As of today, the album has sold over 3.5 million copies.
B’ Day utilized all the traditional marketing tactics we still see used in the industry today. Beginning with the traditional album rollout, months of teasers, a solid release date, traditional advertising (think billboards and park benches), the drop of a hit single to climb the charts, building anticipation, and finally the press tour.
This marketing tactic is the same tactic brands use when they want to build awareness and trust with their audience, by including product placement in movies or gifting influencers with new designs. The idea is if you see their brand in as many places as possible as often as possible, you will trust it.
In the marketing world, we know this as the ‘Rule of 7.' The Rule of Seven simply states that it takes an average of seven interactions with your brand before a purchase occurs. In the early 2000s, Beyonce was everywhere! Building on the work she had done through Destiny’s Child, it was simply impossible not to interact with some form of content that included her brand.
What Can You Do?
Consider doing a press tour of your own. This doesn’t mean appearing on different mediums talking about your product or service but selecting a range of topics you have expertise in and sharing those on different platforms. The goal is to be a recognizable, trusted brand.
The platforms don’t even have to be traditional platforms either, go on a podcast, or a YouTube channel. This era highlighted by enormous amounts of press catapulted Beyonce into the massive success she is today because who didn’t know Beyonce?
Personality as Marketing: I Am… Sasha Fierce
On November 12 2008, Beyonce let us know that although we thought we knew who she was, there were many facets to her as a musician and as a person. While she still utilized the traditional route of the press tour, the bigger strategy was in becoming a part of the conversation.
I AM…Sasha Fierce has sold over 8.12 million copies in the United States alone. In the UK however, the album debuted at number ten on November 29, 2008, becoming Beyoncé's lowest-debuting album despite having higher first-week sales than her previous album, B'Day. This album fueled the audience's natural desire to unpack and understand who Beyonce really was. It also added gasoline to the already swirling rumors of whether Beyonce was part of the Illuminati.
This showed Beyonce’s growing talent in storytelling and content creation. Facebook and YouTube were growing, and we were seeing the beginning of what would become influencer marketing. People became famous overnight just by showing their personalities online. Audiences were flocking to connect to people they considered genuine and marketing became all about how relatable a brand could be. The true genius however was infusing personality into a brand's story.
Beyonce became an integral part of the cultural zeitgeist through this creation. She showcased more of her personal side through songs like “Halo” and “If I Were A Boy,” whilst the second side of the CD came with hits like “Single Ladies” showcasing her fierce persona. Fans created countless videos of Beyonce turning into her alter ego. They dedicated entire social media accounts to the Sasha Fierce persona.
What Can You Do?
Consider your brand's personality, what do you want your brand to be known for? What’s your story? Incorporating this personality into the brand's story will create all the difference. For extra points consider how you can disseminate this story in a different way from what others are doing.
Beyoncé sharing her personality as marketing didn’t just work because she did it, but how she did it was just as impressive. It was something that hadn’t been seen before. Beyonce was changing and the way she was connecting with her audience was changing with her.
The Transition: 4
In an industry where fans are consistently looking for ways to know more about celebrities, Beyonce from an early age made it a point to keep her personal life to herself. This album following the trend that Beyonce used when she released I AM, came with a documentary called Life is But A Dream. This piece of the film gave her audience a much-needed sneak peek into what it takes to be Beyonce, toeing the line between traditional celebrity and influencer by making sure her work and not herself were easily accessible. Something she continued to do with later pieces of work.
Fans know this period as the transition of Beyonce also showed us a re-defining or re-targeting of Beyonce’s core audience: Black Women Feminists. Unlike I AM which appealed to different audiences, this album was the first one where she specialized and defied what we knew. She took more chances and produced different music to what was out there whilst also beginning to center black culture as part of her storytelling.
While I AM is considered Beyonce’s commercial success, 4 was considered Beyonce’s commercial disappointment. In the United States, 4 debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, with first-week sales of 310,000 copies. We should note that selling 310, 000 copies is successful for any artist; it just wasn’t a success for the numbers Beyonce had become accustomed to. Although as time passed, things began to change. As of December 2015, 4 had reached sales of 1.5 million copies in the United States. As of November 2016, it had sold over 5 million copies worldwide. As of August 2022, the album is certified four-times platinum.
What Can You Do?
Define what is important to you. Create a detailed audience persona and research what is important to them and what their stories are. Be inspired by what is inherently personal to you but also gain experience from what is personal to those around you.
Pay more attention to how your target audience is reacting and not trying to please every single person. Do not be worried about the numbers growing slower because 1000 dedicated fans will always be better than 10000 fans who aren’t.
One stand-out act in the documentary was when Beyonce found and flew 3 young men from Mozambique to be a part of her music video. She was redefining the cultural meaning of her name.
This is the album that broke the internet and shifted the music industry forever. The album sold over 617,000 copies in the United States and 828,773 copies worldwide in its first three days of sales, becoming the fastest-selling album in the history of the iTunes Store up to that point. The catch was there had been no upfront marketing at all. Beyonce’s self-titled album was a surprise.
Beyonce released an album and then let us do the marketing for her. This signified how Beyonce had gone from an icon into a legend.
In the marketing world, there is a term called surprise and delight marketing. This marketing strategy aims to attract and nurture consumer relations by providing unexpected rewards. Marketers designed it to increase customer loyalty and engagement while reducing churn. While so many consider this drop as a whim, Beyonce was showcasing her marketing prowess again.
The album was a visual album with 14 music videos all dispersed with clips and videos from childhood once again providing the world with a glimpse into her personal life. Not only did the audience get new music, but through the art, she included other small rewards for her fans. This album focused on topics she had not covered before, everything from sexuality, feminism, infidelity, and motherhood. This body of work showed Beyonce in a bold new light setting trends both musically and visually that we would see in other artists for years to come.
What Can You Do?
Consider how you can surprise your audience with a gift or reward. A study showed that by including a small gift think a sweet or chocolate you are more likely to increase customer satisfaction and the amount that people will pay.
Also, think about how you want to present your work. Part of the success behind Beyonce’s album was because you couldn’t purchase individual songs, and you had to buy the entire album so you could listen to it in the order that Beyonce intended. Whilst she wasn't the first artist in history to drop a surprise album, how she dropped her album changed the music industry forever.
The traditional release date for music was on Tuesday but after seeing Beyonce’s album's success ‘New Music Friday’ became a trend – one that is still present in the industry today. After this album, everyone from Drake and Kanye to Miley Cyrus tried their hand at releasing surprise albums and shifting their album rollout strategy to include more visual elements such as films, documentaries, and more music videos than had previously been the norm in the industry.
Controversy & Culture: Lemonade
Everyone saw the elevator clip and everyone knew when Lemonade dropped. Lemonade first appeared as a Tidal exclusive on the night of Saturday, April 23, paired with a one-hour HBO special as a visual accompaniment which garnered 788,000 live viewers.
Unusually and somewhat unexpectedly, some 18 hours later Lemonade was available for purchase in the Tidal digital store for $17.99, a package that included the HBO special, and by early Monday, iTunes and Amazon also had the album with a physical version set to release on May 6. This tiered album release resulted in over 1.8 million tweets referencing the singer that day and 450,000 sales in the first week. The visual album wasn’t just a success it was Beyonce shifting the music industry once again.
While Lemonade wasn’t a surprise album in the same sense as her self-titled release, because people were expecting she would release an album, the contents certainly provided the viewer with shock and awe in a very different way.
The album gave us different ways in which to find surprise and delight. Lemonade delved into black culture, ritual, tradition, generational trauma, grief, infidelity, and love in an artistic way that no artist is yet to replicate The visuals were filled with cultural references whilst each song presented us with different emotions on her road to healing.
In an age where all our favorite brands have an Instagram or Twitter account and relatability is the new celebrity, Beyonce gave us a dose of vulnerability that was so unexpected it broke the Internet.
What Can You Do?
Consider how you can create a tiered release for your product, brand, or service. Where and how can people find you? Is there a possible way for you to make it slightly different? How can you add a bit of controversy into your marketing? You might not be a famous couple, but could your brand maybe lend its voice to a controversial topic in a positive light? Whilst Beyonce’s album was controversial it left all of us feeling like she had provided us with the words and permission to begin our healing journey, and healing is what Beyonce is still allowing us to do.
Back to Basics: Renaissance Act 1
A radio-ready lead single. Release date and album title with plenty of notice. In addition to the Vogue cover story, a personal mission statement, a new social media account, a track list, and a pre-sale of merchandise. This album paid tribute to traditional marketing but with a twist. This album came with a vinyl set and merchandise that sold out before anyone even knew what they looked like.
The 332,000 “equivalent album units” for Renaissance include 179 million streams and 190,000 copies sold as complete packages, including 121,000 on CD and 26,000 on vinyl. Continuing with the trend of influencing and appreciating culture this album paid tribute to LGBTQIA+ club roots and her uncle to who she dedicated the album.
“A big thank you to my Uncle Jonny,” Beyonce writes in the acknowledgments that appear on her website and physical versions of Renaissance. “He was my godmother and the first person to expose me to a lot of the music and culture that serve as inspiration for this album.”
She continued, “Thank you to all of the pioneers who originate culture, to all of the fallen angels whose contributions have gone unrecognized for far too long. This is a celebration for you.”
Renaissance features several LGBTQIA+ artists that are acclaimed in the world of dance music, including Big Freedia, Kevin Aviance and Moi Renee. Honey Dijon, a transgender producer who worked on “Cozy” and “Alien Superstar,” called the Renaissance experience “life-changing.”
This album once again showed Beyonce’s dedication to creatively talking about culture whilst exposing the world to new and often unrecognized voices.
What Can You Do?
Consider your journey, is there anything you would like to pay tribute to? Marketing isn’t all about creating something new, it can sometimes be about nostalgia and experiencing a taste of the past. Nostalgia marketing is about connecting your brand with positive concepts or ideas from the past.
By associating your brand with those ideas, you want to trigger feelings of comfort and security. Beyonce has become an icon whose music we can turn to no matter how we are feeling and her marketing is embracing our tendency to associate her art with home even when we don’t fully agree with her.
Beyonce is an icon but you don’t need to be Beyonce to utilize some of her marketing tactics in your brand, all you have to do… is start.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Amanda is a Feminist, Tech-Entrepreneur, TV Producer, Freelance Writer & Author certified in Gender and Media and Digital Marketing with over seven years of experience working to develop and create various forms of content. She has been published by The Feminist Leadership Journal, Amaka Studio, Black Ballad, Document Women, In Her Words, Meeting Of The Minds, Africa80, and countless other platforms, dedicating her life to using media and tech to spread awareness and change lives.
In 2021, she self-published a book: At What Age Does My Body Belong To Me? and has since been developing It’s A Feminist Thing, a platform to showcase why feminism is the solution for a better equitable future.