Many professionals talk about the need for personal branding, and Beyoncé is a shining example of how a public figure and a brand can intertwine. But it's not just people who can learn a great deal from the renowned and meticulously built Beyoncé brand; companies can, too.
You may not think of her as a marketer, and marketing is probably not her primary focus, but Beyoncé has plenty of branding experience that modern companies can emulate. Through the ups and downs of her career, Beyoncé has steadily built a brand that encompasses not only her music but also her style, beliefs, and personality.
How has she done it?
- Telling her story and marketing with authenticity
- Remaining largely consistent while taking small risks
- Being honest in the face of controversy
- Branching out through brand collaboration
Launching With Meaning
One factor that has undoubtedly propelled Beyoncé to the height of her fame is the buildup that takes place before the launch of a new product.
Earlier this year, she announced the launch of her women's sportswear line, Ivy Park, and the buzz immediately began. However, it wasn't just a hefty marketing budget or loads of advertising that kicked up intrigue about Ivy Park. It was the story and the reasoning behind the clothing line launch.
Beyoncé claimed to "live in" her workout clothes while rehearsing and working, but found that none of the current fitness brands felt quite right. So her intention was to create clothing that women could feel comfortable and strong wearing, and to bring light to the notion that beauty goes far beyond physical appearance.
A YouTube video with over 330,000 views features Beyoncé in her hometown discussing childhood memories of running with her father at the park. She then reveals how each challenging event in her life brought her back to the practice of running in that same park. At the end, the viewer is asked, "Where is your park?"
The video transforms the seemingly typical release of yet another fitness clothing line to a much more profound and personal event.
Moderns brands must learn to employ storytelling to show who they are and what they have to offer. And it's done by allowing some vulnerability to trickle through. Be willing to reveal some of your backstory—the challenges, the setbacks, and the reasons why you do what you do.
Collaborating With Other Brands
Another way Beyoncé has positioned herself at the forefront of modern American culture is by signing a deal with Pepsi.
For brands, too, in addition to having a distinct persona, it's incredibly effective to partner with other trustworthy brands to increase visibility even further. By collaborating with Pepsi, Beyoncé was granted access to countless additional opportunities, including social media events, live appearances, and commercials.
Another benefit to partnering with other brands on projects is that doing so sparks an opportunity to solidify a consumer's sense of trust. Beyoncé gained access to a new, and possibly much larger, audience that otherwise may not have given her much attention. The Pepsi brand reaches around the globe, and its logo is recognized across cultures to represent a consistent and desirable product.
The key is to be honest and ask questions before partnering with another brand. You want to determine whether they have integrity and whether they are aligned with your goals. Be clear and up front about these goals, as well as the limitations of working with your brand. Have a clear vision in mind that both parties can benefit from.
As brands grow, they inevitably relinquish some of their control over how they are perceived. Mishaps will occur for every brand; you will inevitably be portrayed in a way that is not in line with your intended persona, or (worse) in a way that goes directly against your brand values.
Part of Beyoncé's appeal to fans is her authenticity. She often shares updates and photos of her personal life and family. And though in many ways celebrities are far removed from ordinary life, Beyoncé opens up about her childhood and hometown, and even shared home videos of her wedding day. Through such a level of transparency, she's seen as genuine and relatable to her followers.
In 2013, however, a controversy challenged that authenticity when it was discovered that Beyoncé was lip-syncing the Star-Spangled Banner at the presidential inauguration. When questioned, Beyoncé could have attempted to cover up the incident, which may have easily put her entire brand and career in jeopardy. But, instead, she came out publicly, stating that a lack of time to rehearse with the orchestra along with the monumental importance of the event caused her to play it safe with a recorded track. Interestingly, that response seemed to restore Beyoncé's brand authenticity because she had had the courage to be truly transparent in a dicey situation.
When mistakes happen, brands need to openly own up to them. By doing so, you'll garner far more trust than those who try to sweep issues under the rug.
Balancing Consistency and Surprise
An undeniable aspect of Beyoncé's brand is consistency—her fresh and cutting edge style, her catchy and straightforward pop tunes, her polite and genuine demeanor. It wouldn't serve Beyoncé to veer from any of these foundational aspects of her brand. However, releasing a surprise album with no promotion was just the right move. "Lemonade" was released in April 2016, a long-awaited surprise (her previous surprise release was in 2013) that featured a video for each album track. The album created a new level of intrigue and publicity just in time—before her followers had a chance to get bored.
That example illustrates when and how it is appropriate for a brand to surprise its audience. Beyoncé balances her brand's core consistency with smaller bursts of variety, helping her to create allure without losing longtime fans in the process.
Of course, brands must work to develop recognition and a small base of supporters before surprises can be effective and meaningful. WestJet Airlines accomplished such a feat with its Christmas giveaway. A viral video of it shows Santa Claus asking boarding passengers what they would like for Christmas. Employees then rush out to purchase and wrap gifts based on the passengers' answers, shipping the packages to the plane's destination airport. Customers arrive at their destination to see that their wishes to Santa had come true. Not all brands have the means to pull off this level of surprise, but smaller deeds can be just as effective.
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Building a brand that is consistent, yet knows when to take a risk, collaborative, yet can stand alone, and authentic, even in the face of mishaps, is no easy task. Solid branding takes time, research, and strategy. And though you may not incorporate each of these tactics into your marketing strategy, simply being aware of Beyoncé's multifaceted success can help you draw better ideas for the future of your business. So take a few days to let these concepts marinate, and in time you'll be branding like Beyoncé.