What we can learn about branding from Beyoncé


The first time I listened to Survivor by Destiny’s Child, I was red-cordial high. It was at my year 6 Summer Disco and I was an awkwardly lanky 12 year old spinning out on sugar and the excitement of twirling round a school hall ‘rocking’ the dancefloor. Endorphins flooded my brain and my heart was tingly with excitement (or perhaps a Killer Python overdose, I’m not entirely sure). I’d no idea that the soundtrack playing in the background was going to become on of the most famous tunes in the world, and the lead singer, one of the most prolific entertainers of a generation.

Fifteen years later, Queen Bey is up there on my list of all-time business greats. She created a $US265 million biz out of seemingly nothing. And what’s more, she never has a bad hair day.

I am a proud member of the Church of Beyoncé, so I may or may not be slightly biased, but believe me when I say Beyoncé is not just an incredible entertainer, but also an entrepreneurial force. She’s far from just another flash in the pan celebrity, but has built a brand to be reckoned with and a legacy that will go down in history. She takes creative risks and is known as one of the hardest workers in the entertainment industry. With a household name and an empire in her pocket, clearly this Bootylicious ‘Bey’ knows what she’s doing.

So, how has Mrs. Carter gained the love and respect of so many fans the world over? My two cents is that she’s cultivated what I coin the ‘Bey School of Branding’. There is so much we can learn from Bey’s Masterclass that we can directly apply to our own business branding, and obviously just as importantly, the dancefloor. We all need Beyoncé’s hot sauce.

Let’s take a quick look at a few of the lessons she’s taught us over the years.

  1. BEY KNOWS HER MARKET Queen Bey has been so successful because she know her audience like the back of her mic-holding hand. Her fan base literally stretches the width of our globe and is made up of predominantly females aged between 18 and 34 that enjoy zealously ‘Keeping Up’ with her every booty groove. She does what she does best without trying to please everybody. Bey is not making music for raging rock fans or opera aficionados. She knows her audience, and she delivers.
  2. BEY DOES THINGS DIFFERENTLY When ‘Run The World’ is your business plan, it goes without saying that you’re going to need to do things a little differently to all the other players in the industry (read: every artist on the occasional Spotify ‘one-hit-wonder’ playlist you hit up — don’t deny). Beyoncé dropped her self-titled album without a whisper of promotion and almost broke the internet. No marketing plan. No press leading up to the launch. Just planting a 14-track album like a cat out of the bag to millions of jaw-dropped fans. That’s just how Beyoncé rolls. Because let’s face it, who needs buzz when you can rack up 828,773 album sales in just three days?! Queen Bey’s mode of delivery and surprise marketing teaches us to take risks and think outside the box.
  3. BEY IS A FOCUSED BRAND When it comes to Beyoncé, you know what to expect. A bootylicious goddess with powerful, soul infused songs, meticulously crazy costumes and a good lashing of girl power. Nothing Beyoncé touches is haphazard – every step is strategically considered. Bey has created a focused brand, a brand that knows exactly what it is, why it’s different and why people want it. She avoids being a no-man’s brand and instead delivers a laser-focused brand like it’s no-one’s business.
  4. BEY ACKNOWLEDGES HER AUDIENCE Beyoncé, like most successful artists, has a besotted fan base who name themselves in her honour. The Beyhive are loyal brand evangelists if ever they existed. Beyoncé and her team need hardly lift a finger before every social media platform is positively teeming with gushing adoration of her music, her stance on social and political issues, her hairstyles, her outfits and her general aura. And in return, Bey constantly showers the Hive with love, gratitude, thankfulness and fun little perks to show them that they are the real MVP in her eyes.
  5. BEY DELIVERS A  STORY Beyoncé always has and no doubt always will have something to say. As an expert in carefully crafted brand strategy and story, she has successfully moved away from being purely an ‘entertainer’, and is now seen as a chart-topper, glamour wife, style icon, filmmaker, wonder-Mum, business mogul and empowered feminist. She has a story to share with her audience and that message is often intensely personal, providing an insight into her personal life and evolving story.
  6. BEY INCREASED BRAND AWARENESS THROUGH EPIC CONTENT The recent release of ‘Lemonade’ was aesthetically gobsmacking; a series of music videos and tracks telling unique and empowering stories. Content is king, and Beyoncé is queen, so they are the perfect partnership really. Bey and her team recognise that to build a brand, you’ve gotta give the people what they want. And boy does she deliver!
  7. BEY IS AUTHENTIC If Beyoncé is nothing else (which we’ve clearly confirmed she is), then she is definitely real. She is a meticulous performer that throws her absolute all into each performance, a dedicated star to her fans, able to show vulnerability when the moment calls for it, passionate about her beliefs, and keenly involved in the details of every piece of communication that goes out about her brand. Her digital manager confirmed, “She is aware of and approves every piece of content that goes everywhere all the time.” This quote alone is a massive tick in the box of a woman on a bloody mission to deliver an authentic and genuine brand. She knows that fans deserve transparency and the real woman rather than a PR team of ghostwriters. Her 72.5 million Instagram followers have obviously caught on; she is unapologetically herself — fun, real and honest. Yas, kween!
  8. BEY DOESN’T FOLLOW TRENDS iTunes called Beyoncé’s decision to release her album sans fanfare “unprecedented”. Beyoncé called it “necessary” in order to stave off her boredom with the status quo. Reow! Lesson learned: Don’t just do what people expect you to. Like Beyoncé, if you see potential in producing something new and unexplored, trust yourself and take the risk. Whether she had a ‘ring on it’ or not, Queen Bey singlehandedly turned the traditional strategy surrounding an album release on its head and reaped the rewards of a risk well taken.
  9. BEY TAPS INTO OUR EMOTIONS The brand of Bey makes us feel uplifted, energised and empowered. Her songs and performances are contagiously obsession-inducing. Let’s face it, we’re all a bit crazy in love with the lady. Gush-city!

And that’s what branding is all about. Your clients won’t remember what you said to them, but they will remember how you made them feel. I’m still kind of in awe of Queen Bey, but I also want to be her best friend, and that’s exactly how she wants me to feel. That’s the brand she’s built. Besties4Lyf. Hope she likes the semi-heart necklace coming her way in the mail.

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