Beyonce: Bootylicious or Business Genius?

beyonce-marketingPop stars trading on “pretty” is nothing new. Since video killed the radio star, pop icons have separated themselves from also-rans by being prettier, edgier, or more visually interesting and entertaining. Production became not only a tool, but a necessity of the trade. Better production meant better sound, and that dynamic made celebrities out of both top producers and the hitmakers smart enough to work with them. Brands were born, and the music industry created bidding wars for top names. Since Madonna and Cher, all the best single ladies dropped their last name and put their first name up in lights.

When Destiny’s Child burst onto the scene, you didn’t have to be an industry insider to know who carried the most star power. After the eventual breakup of the superstar “girl group,” Beyonce’ rocketed to fame on her own.

Initially, her inherent sex appeal, camera love, and stage presence carried her, but pop music has a lot of good looking women who love the spotlight. Friends, associates – even critics – say it is  Beyonce’s business acumen that keeps her at the top. (And I’d argue marrying Jay Z has helped both of them.)

Even Harvard Business School has taken notice. According to Businessweek, HBS is offering a new class unit that asks students what they would do if they were working for Beyonce’.

The class is based on a marketing strategy case study co-authored by Anita Elberse, a professor of Strategic Marketing in Creative Industries, who asks students how they would handle the “surprise” release of Bey’s latest album. The recording was downloaded more than 617,000 times in less than three days. Not bad for tracks that were released exclusively on iTunes.

Now, not everyone could manage that. You need a massive amount of market presence and name recognition to get there, but the question is … how would you handle it? That’s a key question in any industry. Too many focus entirely on getting to the top, without any idea of what to do to stay there. A lesson, it seems, they could start learning from Beyonce’.

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Filed under Juda Engelmayer, Media, Public Relations

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