jeudi 24 février 2011

Why Justin Bieber is awesome

I sure hope that this tittle will help my Google Rankings because getting my fingers to type this sequence of words was no small achievement...

As a business student with experience in corporate and brand strategy consulting, I think that Justin Bieber deserves my praise. There a many reasons why Bieber is awesome: you can always turn to him when you need a good laugh, his songs make for great drinking games and, most importantly, he is a very talented brand strategist.

It might be a little unsettling to go from historical comparisons between Napoleon and modern China to business strategy, but hey the tittle above says "random thoughts about random things" so don't be surprised if I abruptly hop from one topic to another.

There are many things Bieber does very well from a brand strategy point of view:

  • A compelling story: storytelling is very hip right now. We easily forget names, logos, slogans but what we remember are stories. Stories may be the most powerful and cost effective way to convey a brand message. They are easily memorable, often aspirational or entertaining and encapsulate the brand essence. They are what stays when everything else is forgotten. Most great brands are, to varying degrees, supported by compelling stories: Nike, Apple, Microsoft, Zara, Nespresso, Budweiser etc... Justin Bieber knows that stories speak volumes and is careful to capitalize on his (young boy who started by posting videos of himself singing on YouTube and was later discovered by RnB superstar Usher) as much as possible. Hence his movie "Never say never" (although I can say with absolute certainty that I will NEVER watch it) that is essentially a 1h30 long biography meant to strengthen his brand image. Good move JB!
  • A clear target audience: Bieber does not try to give something to everybody. He knows that his music and attitude are unbearable for people over 16 and yet he sticks to his message because he knows who he is talking to. Well done little man!
  • Strong symbols: Bieber does not keep his hairstyle because it looks good, he keeps it because it is his logo, the visual representation of the Bieber brand. How many brands do you know who have their logo on other people's heads? 祝贺你小朋友!
  • An image that is aspirational without being unattainable: the tittle pretty much says it all. Maintaining an aura of superiority without seeming aloof and out of touch is a fine line to walk. But for now Bieber is walking it just fine. He maintains an image that is perfect enough to create scenes of riot everywhere he goes but he is also careful to stay in contact with his fans (mainly via social networks) and seem "down to earth". To his fans, he is almost like one of them, kind of like the most popular guy/girl in high school: he walks amongst you and yet lives in a different world you hope you could enter but really can't.
Beat THAT Mc Kinsey!

But what really makes Bieber great is the way he relies on his fans to air his brand message. As any brand manager knows, getting a brand message across is a difficult exercise. Success is expensive and customers tend to regard official messages with skepticism. The best kind of media is thus not owned media (media that is paid for) but earned media (media that customers or other persons of influence willingly create).

Just look at what JB is doing on Twitter. Despite the fact that the micro-blogging tool enjoys little popularity with teenagers, Bieber is one of the site's hottest "trending topics". What's more, his fans are entirely devoted to the promotion of his persona. Many of them include his name in their Twitter ID (notable examples include Bieberworld 16, Bieber4eva and 1bieberloveyou) and tweet almost exclusively about their idol. All in all, they represent thousands of touch points that dutifully spread the Bieber brand message at a total cost of 0 dollars!

Furthermore, Bieber has an active profile on Twitter and fans can ask to be followed by him. The lucky few that are chosen by JB (or the intern his agent hired to manage the account) see their own followed base expand exponentially. In show business terms, that means even more people likely to catch Bieber fever. In brand strategy terms, that means higher brand awareness and a proselyte customer base.

Obviously, Achieving Bieber's pop star appeal is no easy exercise, but like Bieber, brands can generate the right conditions and create the right tools to transform their user base into an army of ambassadors. And while attraction between the average brand and its consumer pales in comparison to that between Bieber and 14-year old girls, that doesn't eleminate the potential for earned media. Not every brand can be it's industry's pop-star, but it's high time brand managers took a look at the Bieber playbook.

So let's recap. What is the "3 step Bieber recipe for earned media" ?

1- Generate a desire to talk about your brand by uncovering deep seated customer needs that go beyond customer benefits

2- Catalyze this desire by creating the right tools to turn fans into ambassadors

3- Participate in the discussion and give back

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