Cast your mind back to December 13th 2013, you realised you had no money to fund your multi-million-pound marketing campaign, you were stuck. But alas, this was all before Beyoncé released her surprise album of course. Yes, a whole album (with accompanying music videos might I add) in the dead of the night, with no prior warning or tangible marketing campaign; and within 24 hours 430,000 albums had been sold and 1.2 million tweets had been posted in 12 hours. This self-titled album was iTunes’ fastest-selling album worldwide and had the largest single week of sales ever in the iTunes store.
But why? A simple answer would be, being a superstar brings popularity and guaranteed sales, however, many superstars have invested a lot into traditional marketing techniques and have not had this level of success. So how did she do it? She just took a few notes from Cialdini’s 6 principles of persuasion of course.
To the Beyoncé fandom, releasing an entire album with accompanying music videos at a time of the year no one was expecting, felt hugely generous (yes, like a gift) especially at a time of the year when gifts are heavily on people’s minds. Through creating this positive experience for her fans, it made them feel indebted and want to give back, much like the reciprocity principle. As shown by Garner (2005) who found that applying a handwritten post-it note to surveys that had to be completed increased the likelihood of them being completed (69% response rate) and returned along with higher quality responses in comparison to those who did not receive a post-it note (24% response rate) (shown in Fig, 1).
With 1.2 million tweets (it created the feeling that) everyone was either buying the album, talking about it or listening to it, creating the perfect environment for social proof to transpire. Goldstein, Cialdini and Griskevicus (2008) (see Fig 2.) sought whether social proof would increase the likelihood of people reusing towels in a hotel and found that the condition where the message that conveyed a descriptive norm increased the likelihood of compliance with the assumption everyone else was doing this. If this can happen in a hotel just the imagine the feeling of compliance with the weight of the world at your tweeting fingertips.
As a surprise album, it created the feeling of a rapid short-term event, especially with the 1.2million tweets forcing the news and other media outlets to post coverage, this thus created the psychological impression a window of opportunity was limited (an online zeitgeist). Certain opportunities can seem more valuable when they have limited availability (Ciladini, 1993) and although this was not the case with the album, the quick and impactful viral buzz across all social media created this feeling. Fig 3. Shows Otterbring (2016) study in which participants spent significantly more money on products with touch restrictions. With its immediate availability, there was an instant incentive to buy, in a social media environment, providing a heavier psychological motivation for fans to buy the album before their friends so they could be the 1st to share their reactions.
So next time you’re stuck for cash with promoting your next product venture, just get your enormous allegiance of fans to do it for you, some may even pay you for it.
Garner, R. (2005). Articles: Post-It® Note Persuasion: A Sticky Influence. Journal Of Consumer Psychology, 15230-237.
Goldstein, N. J., Cialdini, R. B., & Griskevicus, V. (2008). A room with a viewpoint: Using social norms to motivate environmental conservation in hotels. Journal of Consumer Research, 35, 472-482.
Otterbring, T. (2016). Touch forbidden, consumption allowed: Counter-intuitive effects of touch restrictions on customers’ purchase behavior. Food Quality And Preference, 501-6.