Instead, on the release date of her new album “Beyoncé,” she told her 8 million Instagram followers: “Surprise!” And all 14 songs and 17 videos from the new album went on sale via iTunes.
Over 620,000 copies of the whole album were sold in the U.S. in the first three days of release. Unlike the majority of iTunes album offerings, customers couldn’t buy individual songs.
The sales figures for “Beyoncé” showed that having no marketing or advertising can yield success in selling entertainment. (Make that some entertainment.) Not exactly a “viral” digital effort, but close.
Having a big brand name such as Beyoncé also helped the plan work. Being incredibly successful at being Beyoncé is perhaps a bigger deal. Supply and demand? It was only her fifth studio album.
Could TV work the same way? Is there a TV or movie star that could sell a show via his or her social media outlet? Music is not TV, which needs bigger financial scale to work. But “Beyoncé’”s success suggests what might be needed going forward in marketing entertainment brands: a different approach.
Selling a new TV show in the ‘50s was nothing like what it is today. Consumers would eventually bump into your show, equivalent to having them go into a three-aisle/one-shelf supermarket.
The selling of music, of course, has also changed radically, mostly because of financial structure alterations. For example, few physical music stores exist anymore.
The selling of a TV show still needs strong concepts, big branded talent, and proven writers and show runners as a base. TV shows, as well as theatrical movies, depend a lot on opening night. Success, coming from so-called sampling, can create additional buzz -- with the hope that viewers watch in the coming weeks.
Netflix has been prodding to drastically alter that model by saying: “Here’s an entire season of this new show. Sample the whole thing.” Still, Netflix does do prelaunch promotion for its original shows.
Right now, testing a Beyoncé-like stealth marketing effort would be suicide for TV shows, especially as advertisers continue to work with ever fewer ratings points. Network advertising inventory continues to be probably the most valuable of any media -- especially in the U.S. and other modern economies.
But something seems fresh about Beyoncé’s non-marketing of a music album. Can TV networks learn from lowering the volume on their sometimes-desperate-sounding on-air marketing?