Many professionals talk about the need for personal branding.
Beyoncé is a shining example of how a public figure and a brand can intertwine, but it’s not just people who can learn from the renowned and meticulously built Beyoncé brand. Organizations can, too.
You might not think of her as a marketer, but Beyoncé has plenty of branding experience that modern organizations 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 propelled Beyoncé to the height of her fame is the buildup before a product launch.
This year she heralded her women’s sportswear line, Ivy Park, and the buzz began immediately. However, it wasn’t just a hefty marketing budget or loads of advertising that kicked up interest in Ivy Park. It was the story and the reasoning behind the line.
Beyoncé claimed to “live in” her workout clothes while rehearsing and working, but she found that none of the current fitness brands felt quite right. She sought 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 more than 330,000 views features Beyoncé in her hometown discussing childhood memories of running with her father in 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.
Modern brand managers must employ storytelling to show what their brand is and what it has to offer by allowing some vulnerability to show 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
Organizations can partner with other trustworthy brands to expand their visibility. By collaborating with Pepsi, Beyoncé gained access to a slew of 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, larger audience that otherwise might not have given her much attention. The Pepsi brand reaches worldwide, and its logo is recognized across cultures as representing a consistent and desirable product.
The key is to be honest and ask questions before partnering with another brand. Determine whether that company or organization has integrity and whether it aligns with your goals. Be clear about these goals, as well as any limitations of working with your brand. Express a clear vision that can benefit both parties.
As organizations grow, they invariably relinquish some control over how they are perceived. Mishaps will occur for every brand; it 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 is her authenticity; she shares updates and photos of her personal life and family. Many celebrities are far removed from ordinary life, yet Beyoncé opens up about her childhood and hometown, and she even shared home videos of her wedding day. Through that 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 could have jeopardized her brand and career.
Instead, she came out publicly, exlpaining that a lack of time to rehearse with the orchestra along with the monumental importance of the event prompted her to play it safe with a recorded track. That response—and her courage to be transparent in a dicey situation—helped restore Beyoncé’s brand authenticity.
When mistakes happen, brand managers must own up to them. In doing so, you’ll garner far more trust than you would by trying to sweep issues under the rug.
Balancing consistency and surprise
A vital 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 away from any of those foundational aspects of her brand.
However, releasing a surprise album with no promotion was just the right move. “Lemonade,” released in April 2016, was a long-awaited surprise and featured a video for each track. (Her previous surprise release was in 2013.) The album created a new level of interest and publicity just in time—before her followers had a chance to get bored.
That example illustrates when and how a brand can successfully surprise its audience. Beyoncé balances her brand’s core consistency with smaller bursts of variety, helping her to create allure without losing longtime fans.
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.
In a viral video, Santa Claus asks boarding passengers what they would like for Christmas. WestJet employees then rush out to buy and wrap those gifts, sending the packages to the destination airport. Passengers arrive at their destination to see that their wishes have come true. Not all companies have the means to pull off that level of surprise, but smaller deeds can be just as effective.
It’s no easy task to build a brand persona that is consistent, yet knows when to take a risk; collaborative, yet can stand alone; and authentic, even in the face of mishaps. Solid branding takes time, research and strategy.
Although you might not incorporate all the above tactics into your marketing strategy, simply being aware of Beyoncé’s multifaceted success can help you develop better ideas for your organization’s future.