Say what you want about them personally, individually, and collectively, but Beyoncé and Jay Z are marketing & branding geniuses. Since 2013, their strategies have gone further than any other artists in any genre of music. First, let’s take a look at the journeys:
The Carters’ Marketing Prose, 2013 – Current
So we had Magna Carta Holy Grail on July 4, 2013. Jay Z inked a deal with Samsung to give away 1 million copies of his album to Galaxy users 3 days before everyone else.
December 13, 2013, Beyoncé unexpectedly dropped her Self-Titled album, including an entire visual album, creating full blown music videos for each song.
The two joined forces for a joint tour in 2014, called On the Run, a song featuring both artists on Jay’s MCHG album. Fans got a movie trailer-esque video to market the tour, and tickets went on pre-sale exclusively through Bey’s website, and for Chase credit and debit card customers. On September 20, 2014, the entire concert performance from their last 2 stops in Paris, France was shown to HBO viewers.
February 6, 2016, Bey released Formation as a single on Tidal, and performed it during Super Bowl 50’s half time show. Literally right after the show, The Formation Tour was announced. A few short months later, on April 23, 2016, the Lemonade film / visual album was broadcast on HBO, and the album was available for purchase thereafter.
In June 2017, people started seeing billboards and posters alluding to a 4:44 project from Tidal. An ad also showed during the NBA Finals. Shortly after, Jay confirmed it was his new album, which debuted on Tidal exclusively on July 2nd, 5 days before any other streaming service or retailer had access to sell it. Following the launch, Jay also debuted a series of music videos weekly on Tidal.
The On the Run II tour was officially announced March 12, 2018, and got started on June 6. Yesterday, on a Saturday afternoon, the couple surprisingly dropped a 9-track joint album called Everything is Love, including a music video for the album’s 2nd track, Apeshit.
Fans got wind of the new album after Beyoncé took to Instagram to show a clip of the music video, and 2 photos from the shoot as well. Streaming exclusively on Tidal to start, the album will more than likely be available via other music platforms within the next few days (although Bey did take a shot at Spotify on their track Nice).
The Carters’ Marketing Moves, pre-2013
Now that we have a historical timeline, it’s amazing to see how creative the two have gotten over the last 5 years. Not to say that their prior marketing efforts weren’t on par.
Bey’s first visual album, B-Day Anthology, came out in 2007, and initially was a Wal-Mart exclusive. Then we got the double album, I Am… Sasha Fierce in 2008. Her 2011 album, 4, however, was leaked in its entirety. I’m curious to know who did it, and I wonder if they can still work in the entertainment industry.
The 2009 unveiling of Jay Z’s The Blueprint 3 coincided with his huge multimillion dollar deal with Live Nation to start RocNation. 2011’s Watch the Throne started as a 5-track EP, and turned into a full album. It was available for pre-sale exclusively through Jay’s lifestyle website, Life + Times, followed by a deluxe version only being available via iTunes and Best Buy for a month after the premiere.
How Are They Marketing Differently?
One recurring theme here is exclusivity. The Carters love making deals limiting their media to specific retailers and websites. The music industry has evolved since the Napster days. Artists have had to get scrappy and figure out ways to keep record sales and interest up in the age of piracy and streaming services. Choosing to strategically partner your album or tour tickets sales with one or two retailers could be scary for some. They’re bold enough to take those risks.
A large part of that success is due to their fanbase. It’s become, somewhat, a game for the fans (and the critics) to try to figure out what they’re doing before they do it. The couple is known for being clever, dropping clues and hints in the most subtle ways. We look for any alternate meaning being a tweet or an Instagram post, and we’re still caught off guard. But we also take action immediately (buy, buy, buy).
I love that they are always open to trying something new, in the name of innovation. In marketing, no strategy is guaranteed. But there’s certainly an art and science behind it. It took them years to crack to code and come up with a formula, but it works.
Regardless of if you like their music or their business savvy, I encourage you to think more like The Carters in terms of thinking and moving differently. What can you do to keep your customers guessing? What brands can you partner with for maximum impact? What will you do differently for your next product or program launch? A new question to start asking ourselves, H.W.T.C.M.: How Would The Carters Market?