Beyoncé has flipped the traditional marketing model on its head.
At midnight on Thursday, Beyoncé released her new self-titled album as a surprise to fans and the music industry. Columbia, her record label, chose not to follow the typical industry playbook of slowly releasing singles from the album one-by-one, accompanied by a barrage of media interviews and TV appearances. Beyoncé simply posted a video featuring images of her and the cover of the album on Instagram, with the caption “Surprise!” After her announcement on the social media site, the 14-song album appeared for sale on iTunes, as did 17 different videos from it.
Undoubtedly Beyoncé wouldn’t have had much of a problem selling her fifth solo album--according to The New York Times, her last album “4” sold 310,000 copies in its first week in 2011. Her decision to keep “Beyoncé” a secret, however, sends a strong meesage about how product marketing is changing.
In a press release from Columbia, Beyoncé said she was bored with traditional album marketing and that she wanted to release the album in her own way. What she really did, however, was illustrate the true power of social media. Within 12 hours, 1.2 million tweets were posted about “Beyoncé” and within the first 24 hours more than 430,000 albums had sold for $15.99 on iTunes.
"This is very much in line with what's happening right now in marketing, which is this idea of marketing without marketing, or anti-marketing, where you appear to be just delivering your product directly to the consumer without any mediation," said Jason King, a musician and professor at NYU's Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music in an interview with NPR. "This seems like a direct gift from the celebrity to the consumer."
It seemed that Beyoncé would agree with King’s take on the surprise release of the album. “There’s so much that gets between the music, the artist and the fans. I felt like I didn’t want anybody to give the message when my record is coming out. I just want this to come out when it’s ready and [send the message directly] to my fans,” Beyoncé said in Columbia's press release.
Beyoncé's move is not the only recent marketing stunt within the entertainment industry. For the Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues release, Paramount pictures engaged fans with a handful of unusual marketing techniques leading up to the film's December 18 release--including Will Ferrel anchoring a newscast in North Dakota, an ESPN interview with Peyton Manning, and a partnership with Tumblr, AdWeek reports.
It's likely that these new approaches will influence marketing beyond the entertainment industry. At the forefront of both marketing campaigns is the consumer. In an Inc. Live Chat last month, Carrie Kerpen of Likeable Media stressed that this emphasis on the customer in marketing and on social media is key for all businesses.
"It’s about connecting with your customers online and getting them to spread the word," she said. "Worry less about what you need to do and worry much more about what your customers want and what their social behavior is like online. That will help you craft a strategy.”