The Marketing Genius of Beyonce Knowles
You don’t consistently produce hits for more than 2 decades with just a great voice
Beyonce Knowles quite simply knows how to make songs that her audience should be singing along to yesterday. It is all about the message, the timing, and the audience.
A Bit of Background
Beyonce has been around for decades. First, in a group called Destiny’s Child (that dates as far back as 1990), then later as an individual artist. In its prime, there were three ladies that made up Destiny’s Child. Some would argue that they were equally talented. But only Beyonce made it into the new era to become a pop icon.
Her songs (when she began individually) were spread around the world from day one. And while she hasn’t been given much into the many other things celebrities do to retain attention, she has stayed in the limelight focusing on music. And it looked quite effortless.
Some would argue that it is because she has a great voice. But there are myriads of people who have great voices that never make one hit song (even after they are famous for something else). There are those who don’t go beyond one hit song. The voice is important. There are things she does with her voice that anybody can’t just try it. I once listened to one where she made five modulations and she never broke the flow. But there are others who can pull such stunts too.
Some would argue it is beauty. I agree beauty is necessary for that industry. But having it alone won’t make you successful for a prolonged period. And yes she is also married to a rich producer and musician. But there are lots of other power unions like that. What is even more interesting is how long (and stable) her marriage has been thus far.
And if you think it is because of the wealth, there are those who started with a lot more and are still nowhere to be found after a few years. If you think it’s a combination of the three — voice, beauty and wealth, I know musicians who currently have that who are not close to the level Beyonce is. In fact, all those at the top of the music industry have all three factors (or at least they pretend to). And yet, Beyonce stands tall among everyone.
The Big Secret
The secret of Beyonce (in my opinion) is her marketing. Whether it is her own making or a marketing consultant (or a team of consultants), I have no idea. But I think that her results show that her marketing is not accidental.
There are five elements in her marketing I noticed that separate her from every other musical artist.
1. A Defined Audience
You will be surprised by how many musical artists lack this. Even some popular musicians do. This is why they have to make scenarios and circumstances to sell their music. They have to go on shows, do interviews and the like. Beyonce has dropped an album without saying a word. And in minutes, the world was already in on it. I think she has done that more than once.
You don’t pull stunts like that if you don’t have a defined audience. A lot of people even have a sort of well in their soul that only Beyonce’s song can fill. Only very few artists have that quality. And it is because Beyonce sings for a defined audience. What’s her audience?
Beyonce sings for the strong independent woman and everyone who loves strong independent women. And I don’t mean that in the way extreme feminists put it today. She has been wise not to get drawn into such extreme arguments. She just sings for the regular person in this niche regardless of what they believe.
If you have this idea of a strong independent woman for yourself, there is at least one song by Beyonce that would have you in love with the artist. She doesn’t sing for herself. She doesn’t sing what she likes. She sings what fits her audience. She has done it in various forms and styles over the years and is still doing it. But her core audience remains the same. To do this for as long as she has done it has to be deliberate.
2. The Consistent Message
Beyonce’s message is very consistent. You listen to ‘irreplaceable’ from several years ago to ‘brown skin girl' recently, the message is just clear. The message is in every song she makes whether directly or indirectly. And it is one simple thing:
That’s it! Her songs one way or another, with different contexts and scenarios, find a way to inspire confidence in the woman who believes in being strong and independent. I have yet to listen to a song by Beyonce that doesn’t have an undertone of that message. Her major hit songs are songs that have demonstrated this message in a trending way.
If she wants to make a hit tomorrow, she just has to think of how to inspire confidence in the modern woman who needs to be strong and independent. And it is about women of all ages. But in certain cases, she picks specific scenarios that appeal to a certain age group to make the music about.
I hope you noticed how the message ties to the audience. This is why nobody has been able to compete with her. Her voice is already trademarked for that in people’s heads, even though they may not be able to articulate it.
Think about a song like ‘brown skin girl’. While lots of people are coming out to speak against racism, she made a song that inspires confidence in a girl with brown skin. That to me is more than all the noise and gibberish people “condemning racism” have done in the last 20 years. The message is strong and consistent.
3. The Ability to Incorporate New Styles Into Her Style
Beyonce has a style of music, but it is not rigid. Her style is basically all the stunts she does with her voice. But she has built this amazing ability to be able to adopt new and trending styles of music into her style.
The most profound for me was when a new style of rap music began to evolve and suddenly became popular. (This led to the rise of rap artists like Desiigner). And she picked that up and made songs out of it. She made it for her audience with the same message she has always had.
There are lots of musical artists that faded because they couldn’t adapt to new styles. Beyonce has done it at least twice. The consequence of not being able to adapt to new styles is:
- People get bored with the same old stuff
- You will get cut out of the young generation (who become the trendy raving fans)
- Even the big players of the industry will get enticed by the trendy artists and forget you
The worst part is when you try and flop, then everybody really abandons you. But Beyonce hasn’t flopped once by taking up a new style.
4. She Doesn’t Starve Her Audience
There are artists whose work people like. There are other artists whose work people need. A big pop star once posted a funny picture of hers on Instagram, and someone made a usual comment that gained the attention of the pop star. The comment basically called the celebrity a funny name and told her (quite authoritatively) to make some music. It was a sense of “we are starving for your music”.
If you starve your audience for too long, they look for food elsewhere. If they get the food they crave or even better, they may not come back to you. This means if another person’s music begins satisfying them the way your music does, then you are gradually getting irrelevant.
Beyonce doesn’t let her audience starve. At least, not for long. There has been a consistent flow of new releases. No prolonged or incessant breaks. The speed at which she came back after pregnancy and birth is amazing.
There are other strong contenders to her pop icon status that have on and off moments. Yes, everybody takes breaks but there are many who have walked away or claimed to walk away only to walk back in.
Consistency doesn’t sound like much but it is an important marketing tip.
5. She Sings About Relatable Situations
Almost all musical artists at the top of their game sing about real-life situations. But some of them miss it by some inches here and there. The purpose of singing real-life situations is to have people relate to it. If people cannot relate to the situation, the purpose is almost defeated.
Not everybody owns a supercar. In fact, most people don’t. Not everybody owns a big house or has a successful relationship (at the moment). But everybody (almost everybody) has experienced heartbreak in one form or another. Beyonce sings for what her audience has either experienced or is experiencing. And pain is the easy answer to that. Someone once said that pain is what everybody in this world has in common.
She does songs that relate to people’s pain. The experiences she sings about are more of painful ones than happy ones. So, the songs are mainly the “rise from the ashes” type. But sometimes it is not about rising from the ashes and instead, it is about “chilling in the ashes”. I believe there is no limit to how the structure can be re-molded.
Beyonce’s songs inspire confidence to anyone who relates to the idea of a strong independent woman through an experience they face often or have had in the past.
That is the big secret. And it is an absolute marketing genius. In this world, relatable sells. It’s like being with a doctor. If you can describe the ailment even better than the patient, the patient will trust that you have the cure. This is applicable in lots of situations in marketing.
Many times we look at the corporate and commerce side of marketing as the only case study for marketing. But there is marketing in every industry. Everywhere you look someone is doing something to capture an audience and sell something. And if you draw inferences from those they help you put your own pieces together in ways you haven’t thought of.
I have always been impressed with Beyonce even though I rarely follow up with her performances, events and stuff. But getting to look critically at the way she makes music and how she has managed to be consistently successful is amazing. Her principles can be applied to any business:
- Define your audience
- Have a consistent message
- Adopt new styles
- Don’t starve your audience
- Create relatable content