1. kiltscenter:

    Beyoncé Know(le)s Marketing

    Beyoncé Knowles-Carter—or just Beyoncé to her millions of fans—dropped her eponymous fifth album about a month ago. As my previous post was all about innovation, I thought it might be instructive to look at how “innovative” the new album is. I will stay away from the artistic content of the album—as my 10 year old constantly reminds me, my tone deafness is only surpassed by my stubbornness in not admitting to it. I will focus instead on its innovations in product, pricing, promotion, and distribution.

    From the “product” perspective, the album has its innovative features. It moves away from the notion of an album merely being an expression of the artist’s audio capabilities to one that also reflects the visual imagery of the individual song. My generation may protest that the picture of Aretha Franklin on the cover of the Live at Fillmore West LP more than effectively conveyed the magnificence of her voice, or that Martin Sharp’s attempt to capture the “warm florescent sound” of Cream’s Disraeli Gears vinyl was very successful with the psychedelic artwork. Ultimately, however, the visual dimension represented by cover art is limited. Importantly, in most cases the musical artist does not create it.  

    In the case of the Beyoncé album, the artist plays a prominent role in communicating her interpretation of the lyrics via the music videos. When she croons “And tell me how I’m looking, babe (looking, babe)” on “Yonce,” the video makes it clear that the question is purely rhetorical! Of course, since the launch of MTV, music listeners could also be video viewers. What is innovative about this album is that it bundles the audio (14 songs) and visual (17 videos) experiences in a way that has not been done before. In doing so it recognizes the mobile technology that is at the disposal of today’s consumers that gives them the ability to enjoy the audio-visual experience.

    The second innovative aspect of the album is how it was priced. Rather than the $9.99 that listeners pay when downloading an album on iTunes, Beyoncé cost the music fan $15.99 for the entire audiovisual experience. Importantly, for the first week that it was available on iTunes, consumers could not download the individual songs. If you wanted to purchase it the first week, you had to purchase the entire audiovisual album. This pricing strategy is consistent with markets where there are high and low “valuation” customers. High valuation customers are willing to pay a higher price for getting early access to the product—think hard-core gamers and new video game consoles. The album is supposed to have sold over 800,000 copies in 3 days on iTunes. That’s a cool $15MM in revenues. 

    A week after the initial release, customers could purchase individual tracks on iTunes for $1.29. This allowed for more price-sensitive and selective consumers to purchase individual tracks rather than spending $15.99 on the entire download. Another important aspect of the pricing was the (upfront) monetizing of the music videos. By making them for the album instead of making them for MTV, Beyoncé has been able to effectively make revenues upfront from an activity that previously brought in very little. Again, the idea of bundling to extract value from high value customers and then pricing the videos individually for $1.99 on iTunes was innovative. (Of course, as I noted in an earlier post, Jay Z also has found innovative ways to extract this value, such as in his deal with Samsung).

    The third innovative aspect of the album is how it was promoted. Unlike the usual single released for radio or video on MTV, Beyoncé “casually” announced the release on Instagram. “I didn’t want to release my music the way I’ve done it,” Beyoncé said. “I am bored with that. I feel like I am able to speak directly to my fans. There’s so much that gets between the music, the artist and the fans.” 

    News of the album’s release spread like wildfire on Twitter with 1.2 million tweets about the album in just 12 hours. Not only was very little spent on promoting the album, Beyoncé was able to exploit the power of social media to spread the word. The next day the news media was agog with the news. 

    With the help of my research assistant, Yogesh Kansal, I looked at how Beyoncé’s announcement changed the very nature of conversations about her on Twitter. We looked at the top tweets about Beyoncé the week before release, the day of the launch, and the week after. Using Wordle, we generated the following pictures. Twitter defines top tweets as “Tweets that have caught the attention of other users,” and they have an algorithm to determine this.

    As the above figures make clear, folks were no longer tweeting about Jay-Z and vegan but were heavily focused on the new album. This generated the buzz needed to propagate information about the album very rapidly among her fans.

    The fourth innovative aspect of the album is how it was distributed. To maximize rapid uptake among early adopters, the album was released exclusively on iTunes—a physical album was released a week later. Target, which had collaborated with Beyoncé on her previous album, was miffed and announced their decision not to carry the album at all. Not only did this not temper enthusiasm for the album, Beyoncé rubbed it in by shopping at Walmart, which did carry the album, and dropping free gift cards for several of its happy customers. The combination of the “go-to-market” strategy via iTunes, combined with the pricing and product design strategy, maximized the album’s potential while investing little in promotion.

    There are other innovative aspects to the album, such as the contract between Beyoncé and Columbia Record that created it. These aspects are less transparent and so more difficult to evaluate. But to paraphrase one of Beyoncé’s  earlier songs, not only will she be able to “put a ring on it,” she may end up wearing the crown!

    Photo by idrewuk



  2. Anonymous said: Don't you think it's inappropriate for a so called 'feminist blog' to be making Kim Kardashian seem like a role model? Shouldn't you be posting about women with real strength and intelligence not these fake talentless fame hungry; gold diggers? They are single handedly setting back the feminist movement and I don't think you should support that.


    I’m sorry what did you say about my girl Kim?? 

    She is a woc who turned a man betraying her trust and publicly shaming and embarrassing her into a multi-million dollar industry for her friends and family. She is the Mary of our time. I don’t understand how that is “talentless” or unintelligent. 

    Here is a quick list of 5 reasons why y’all are wrong about Kim Kardashian:

    1. Here are a few charities Kim Kardashian is known to donate to and support:

     2. When Kim’s marriage publicly fell apart and she was being constantly ridiculed by assholes like you, do you know what she did?? She donated twice the value of her wedding gifts ($200,000) to the Dream Foundation because she felt GUILTY that her marriage didn’t work out. Because people were trying to shame her into staying in a loveless marriage. Do you know what Kris Humphries did? Fuck all. 

    3. She speaks and donates regularly at events to help impoverished or otherwise disenfranchised women. Ugh. So fake. Helping out other women. 

    4. Actually, she gives 10% of all her income to charity which is the recommended amount for anyone to donate. As of June 2013, she had earned $10m - you do the math. How much did YOU and your favourites donate last year?? Yeah, sit down. 

    5. When she was pregnant, she was likened to Shamu the orca whale because she put on weight BECAUSE SHE WAS GROWING A BABY INSIDE OF HER. Despite this straight up bullying, she put her family first and continued to eat right for her daughter. How selfish. So weak.

    If you think the actions of one woman can undermine a whole movement, you gotta rethink what feminism means to you.

    Also, never talk to me about Kim Kardashian unless you acknowledge that she is a strong business women who can make the best out of a bad situation. I love Kim K.

    This really expanded my understanding of the “Kim” in Kimye.


  3. Fascinating!

  4. theatlantic:

    In Focus: Chicago’s Freezing Fire

    On Tuesday night, a huge vacant warehouse on Chicago’s South Side went up in flames. Fire department officials said it was the biggest blaze the department has had to battle in years and one-third of all Chicago firefighters were on the scene at one point or another trying to put out the flames. Complicating the scene was the weather — temperatures were well below freezing and the spray from the fire hoses encased everything below in ice, including buildings, vehicles, and some firefighting gear. The warehouse was gutted, but the fire was contained. Fire crews remain on the scene as some smaller flare-ups continue to need attention.

    See more. [Images: AP, Getty, Reuters]

    Amazing icy photos of a frozen fire on Chicago’s South Side.

  5. explore-blog:

    A fascinating etymology of why there is a “b” in “doubt,” animated in kinetic typography. 

    (Source: explore-blog)

  7. Kanye, just like us.

    (Source: rappersdoingnormalshit)

  9. docfilms:

    In honor of our upcoming Studio Ghibli series, we decided to make a gifset that would also serve as an allegory for your upcoming journey.

    This is from the part in Kiki’s Delivery Service where Kiki goes off to train as a witch for a year.

    Just like our plucky heroine, you’ve probably just left everything you’ve ever known and everyone you’ve ever loved to start a whole new life in a big (sometimes scary, sometimes lonely) city.

    When you get here you might bounce off the ground or run into some trees or temporarily spin out of control (metaphorically, of course).

    And that’s okay.

    I cut out the ending bit of the message about Doc, not because I do not love Doc (totally do) but because as a fourth year this is my future. 

  10. buzzfeed:

    Josh Romney in the audience of tonight’s debate.

    (via richardlawson)