Imagine being so famous that everybody – everybody – knows who you are. Unable to walk down the street without being swarmed by paparazzi, pop superstar Beyoncé needs no introduction.
But in case you’ve been living under a rock since the 90s, I’m going to introduce her anyway.
Beyoncé has been gracing the stage since the age of nine, when she competed in singing shows until her first official group, Destiny’s Child, formed when she was 15. As a solo artist with seven studio albums, five live albums, and three compilations under her belt by the age of 41, this diva superstar is showing no signs of slowing down.
The whole world knows Beyoncé’s most famous moments: the ‘Crazy In Love’ belly dance remains ubiquitous in nightclubs around the world even 19 years later; the lyrics from ‘Single Ladies’ are featured on just about every piece of “girl power” merchandise from here to Timbuktu. Indeed, if he liked it, he should have bloody well put a ring on it.
But unless you’re a super-fan like me, you might not know the side to Beyoncé that drives her whole operation: she is a businesswoman first, and a popstar second. Over the years, Bey has rewritten the marketing handbook multiple times over – and any entrepreneur worth their salt can learn something from the way she does runs her operation.
Read on to find out three times this ‘Irreplaceable’ artist flipped the script when it comes to running a business – and why you should be paying attention. (Warning: this article contains many terrible puns. ‘Sorry’ in advance – I can’t help myself.)
1. Beyoncé fired her own father – and still managed to keep the peace
The first time the world saw the business-savvy side to Beyoncé was in 2011, when she sacked her own father, Matthew Knowles, as manager of her music career. Instead of hiring a replacement, she became her own manager, stepping into her “businesswoman era” and taking full control over her career.
At the time, rumours swirled: gossip channels circulated stories that Beyoncé had fallen out with her father due to him stealing money from her, causing fans to question whether she had become totally estranged from Knowles. No matter where you stood, firing her dad was a ‘Savage’ move.
Of course, Beyoncé was one step ahead of the rumours. She released a statement claiming that “I’ve only parted ways with my father on a business level. He is my father for life, and I love my dad dearly. I am grateful for everything he has taught me.” Regardless of what really happened, her words pacified fans, and earned her respect for making this tough call.
Anyone in business can learn something vital from Bey’s choice to ruffle some feathers in pursuit of her own goals. Playing it safe can be constructive at times, but only bold moves can make you a trailblazer. Without the constraints of her father’s management, Beyoncé had the ‘Freedom’ to create the brand she wanted for herself.
What’s more, she proved that cutting ties doesn’t mean burning bridges. By owning her decision calmly, Beyoncé maintained a positive relationship with her father – and kept her image clean – while following her own path too. In your own company, choosing to ‘Start Over’ doesn’t need to make waves; with the right strategy in place, the ripples won’t last long at all.
2. Beyoncé did away with unnecessary promotion, and broke records in the process
When launching a new product, initiative, or acquisition, you will know just how important promotion can be. Getting the word out effectively can be just as important as the product itself – and the music business is no different.
Throughout history, artists have gone out of their way to market their music in the most innovative ways possible. Most tease multiple tracks, travel the world giving radio interviews, and make guest appearances on late-night talk shows. Others aim to shock with visuals, like Nirvana’s infamous Nevermind album cover back in 1991.
Beyoncé, on the other hand, has stopped bothering herself with all that. In 2013, Bey made an unprecedented move: she recorded her fifth album totally in secret, and spent exactly $0 on a marketing campaign. She didn’t release a teaser track, or give a single interview. Instead, she released the entire album, the self-titled Beyoncé, on iTunes with no warning whatsoever. Afterwards, she announced the release on Instagram – unheard-of at the time – then went back to, well, whatever she was up to that night.
And, guess what? It worked. Beyoncé sold more than 1 million copies in 6 days – a new record for iTunes. Bey’s ‘Superpower’ is knowing what the fans want, and giving it to them in an undiluted format.
Beyoncé’s success gave other artists the ‘Green Light’ to do the same: Drake’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late got the same treatment in 2015, and Frank Ocean’s much-anticipated sophomore album, Blonde, was released unexpectedly in 2016, followed by a surprise third album, Endless, just days later.
As a businessperson, Beyoncé’s trendsetter mentality could be inspiring to you.
Once your brand has enough reach, you might feel that swapping the song and dance for a straightforward approach could serve you better. Keeping consumers on their toes can spark intrigue – so if you’re tempted by costly over-promotion, try considering ways to market smarter, not harder.
3. Beyoncé can spin even the worst publicity into gold
The threat of bad publicity can keep even the most honourable entrepreneurs up at night. A poor review, internal staff scandal, or a mistakenly offensive piece of content could have a serious impact on your company’s reputation. Once the damage is done, though, the right marketing can work wonders at repairing your brand.
Like all major pop stars, Beyoncé is no stranger to bad publicity. While she aims to keep her image squeaky clean by giving few interviews and rarely posting on social media, in 2014, a huge scandal rocked Bey’s brand.
After the 2014 Met Gala, which Beyoncé attended with her sister Solange and her husband, Jay-Z, disaster struck. CCTV footage from the event was leaked to the press, depicting Solange physically kicking and punching at Jay-Z in an elevator, while Beyoncé stood by calmly, not stopping the attack.
Within minutes, rumours began to pile up. Fans predicted that Solange had discovered wrongdoing on Jay-Z’s part, and had reacted viscerally in a seemingly private setting. The entire family remained silent on the matter – leaving unanswered questions on the lips of fans around the world.
Then, in 2016, Bey’s sixth studio album, Lemonade, hit the shelves. Finally, the writing was on the wall: Jay-Z had had multiple affairs, and the couple had almost separated, until Beyoncé decided to forgive his infidelity and stay in the marriage.
Indeed, the lyrics featured in Lemonade don’t mince words. Lines such as “If you try this sh*t again / You’re gonna lose your wife”, and, “You only want me when I’m not there / Better call Becky with the good hair” spoke volumes. Visually, she didn’t hold back, either: the music video accompanying the track ‘Don’t Hurt Yourself’ features Beyoncé taking off her wedding ring and throwing it at the camera lens.
How do you think the album was received? Surprise, surprise, Lemonade’s first week sales beat Beyoncé’s previous record. Bey turned her dirty laundry into a musical goldmine, and took ownership of the story in the process.
While corporate marketing might not enable you to be as, let’s say, imaginative as Beyoncé when it comes to addressing bad publicity, Beyoncé’s strategy proves you can reclaim the narrative. Addressing issues affecting your brand, with the help of marketing professionals, can turn “bad press” into an even stronger, more candid relationship with your clients.
Meanwhile, a clever re-brand might enable you to separate the “now” and the “then” – showing your audience that you are actively moving forward by improving your operations.
Get in touch
If my super-fan ramblings about Beyoncé’s business prowess have made you realise the gaps in your own operation, we can ‘Upgrade U’.
Whether it’s shaking up your entire operation, setting a trend rather than following it, or turning a bad few years into something lucrative, we can help you ‘Run The World’. Say ‘Hello’ at email@example.com or reach our ‘Telephone’ on 0115 8965 300.