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3 Brand Marketing Lessons We Can Learn From "Formation"


"Okay ladies (and gents) now let's get in formation..."

This weekend was undoubtedly another big one for multi-platinum artist Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, as she surprised the world yet again with new music, stunning visuals and the announcement of a world tour. But this isn't the first time that Queen Bey has stopped the world and changed the game with her infamous digital drops. On December 13, 2013, she (without warning) released her much anticipated self-titled album that included stimulating music videos for each of the fourteen songs. On November 21, 2014, she casually uploaded the dance anthem "7/11" to her YouTube channel and had the Internet eager to recreate this modern day masterpiece which was filmed using a GoPro camera.

And just this past Saturday afternoon, she shocked us all with the very politically driven video for her latest hit "Formation" in which she discusses the issues of policy brutality, social injustice, southern culture and black feminism. Within hours, millions of people knew the lyrics to the song, were determined to learn the flawless dance moves and began formulating their own opinions about the symbolism behind each frame of the video.

Beyoncé has become quite the queen of mystery in recent years, but she has also created a series of case studies that marketers, publicists and media professionals alike can learn from. While we may not have a multi-million dollar advertising or marketing budget, there are few tactics that you can practice in order to execute a successful brand marketing strategy.


1. Practice the drip effect. In mid-January, rumors began to swirl around the Interwebs that Mrs. Carter was slated to join Coldplay on stage during the Super Bowl 50 Halftime show. That same week, she was spotted on the campus of the University of Southern California, rehearsing for her performance. Days later, Coldplay also released their colorful video for "Hymn For The Weekend" featuring the Houston native. Coincidence? Absolutely not. Beyoncé and her team wanted you to think that she was going to simply join the band on stage and perform this up-beat mellow tune. These subtle drops not only started to created buzz, but they raised eyebrows because it is quite rare that she participates in feature projects at random. In the words of DJ Khaled, "she was up to something."

The lesson here: When it comes to large projects or major roll-outs, it's always imperative to provide your audience with morsels of content to keep them engaged and wanting more. Beyoncé's fans (also known as the #BeyHive) are pretty good at following her lead, but even they didn't see this surprise coming.


2. Tell them less, show them more.  Fast forward to February 6th, when Beyoncé  was like, "Hey, screw your Saturday afternoon" and debuted her newest single "Formation." By now, you would think the world has gotten used to expecting the unexpected from Queen Bey, but without fail the Internet still implodes. On the bass-heavy track, Beyoncé comes out the gate swinging -- acknowledging her "haters", and stating that she's going to stunt in all of her regality regardless of what silly rumors they spew her way:

Y'all haters corny with that Illuminati mess // Paparazzi, catch my fly, and my cocky fresh 

I'm so reckless when I rock my Givenchy dress (stylin') // I'm so possessive so I rock his Roc necklaces

In addition to telling her haters where to go and how to get there, she lets us know that she's quite the boss and is proud of it too. Her canvas is modern-day New Orleans, Louisiana, a city that has experienced its fair share of trials and tribulations over the last decade but whose heart still rings strong in its unique and historical culture.

The lesson here: When it comes to storytelling, make sure the message is authentic, especially if your goal is to connect with or empower a specific audience to take action. In "Formation", Beyoncé highlights that she is not only proud of her southern roots, but also very aware of her impact as a black woman in the 21st century. Over the last 48 hours, Beyonce has inspired numerous conversations about race, class and wealth in this country. And although she admits she has made a lot of money over the course of her career, she's not afraid to remain true to herself.


3. Keep the conversation going.  After being completely overwhelmed by the song and the video, the world woke up Sunday morning wondering what could Queen Bey possibly think of next. Was she going to release another surprise an album? Is there a world tour on the horizon? Maybe both? As expected, she shut it down during her Super Bowl Halftime performance - which has raised even more eyebrows and caused an abundance of controversy. And once the performance was over, there was a 30-second spot announcing her new world tour which will begin this spring.

The lesson here: Continue to give your audience them something to talk about, even after the curtain has closed. A great brand is consistent, so now that you've provided your followers with hints and shown what you're capable of, it's important to maintain that momentum. Beyonce will ride this wave until her album drops, and then switch the course of the conversation (like she always does.) In a similar practice, your audience will be more susceptible to any new and exciting activation ideas you may have coming next.

What's the biggest lesson you learned from Mrs. Carter this weekend? Tweet me your thoughts!