NEW YORK: Social word of mouth coupled with the element of surprise have enabled singer Beyoncé to shift over 800,000 copies of her new album in just three days, in a move that turns conventional marketing wisdom on its head.
A simple Instagram video captioned "Surprise!” announced the album which no-one was expecting and which rapidly became the fastest selling item worldwide on iTunes.
In contrast, the record label of fellow artist Lady Gaga promoted her most recent album with interviews, promotional appearances, outdoor advertising and pop-up stores. It sold 305,000 in the two weeks after launch.
"This is very much in line with what's happening right now in marketing, which is this idea of marketing without marketing, or anti-marketing, where you appear to be just delivering your product directly to the consumer without any mediation," Jason King, a musician and professor at NYU's Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, told NPR.
"This seems like a direct gift from the celebrity to the consumer," he added.
Observers hailed the marketing strategy as innovative and even suggested it was a "future blueprint for the music industry".
Forbes said that "the immutable lesson for marketers is that in our advertising- and promotion-drenched world, word of mouth is still the most effective form of marketing" and described social media as "word-of-mouth jet streams".
Twitter reported 1.2m tweets in 12 hours about the new album, with other artists retweeting the news to their own followers, and the mainstream media subsequently picked up the story.
While a brand, or artist such as Beyoncé, with a huge following on social media (Beyoncé has 8m on Instagram and 53m on Facebook) is well positioned to utilise such tactics, others could also take advantage of them.
Music industry lawyer Michael Sukin told the Financial Times that "most artists who have had an album or two out have a very big fan base". King, however, argued that such an approach was "only for the people who've already been the beneficiaries of a lot of major-label marketing money".
Data sourced from Forbes, NPR, Financial Times; additional content by Warc staff