If you’re like me, you may have relegated Justin Bieber to teeny bopper status as a more successful, solo, Canadian version of Menudo (only with better hair).
Well, I was wrong.
On advice from Guy Kawasaki, I recently checked out the movie Never Say Never. Guy said it was the best marketing movie he had seen. I have to agree. Every brand manager in the country should check it out and become Beliebers. Here’s why:
He started with a great product.
I’ll admit that I assumed Justin fell into the American Idol camp of people who “applied” for celebrity status instead of working for it. He didn’t. He studied, learned, played, and sang. He started playing the drums at 3, had his first public show at 9, and was busking by 11. While he may have had a natural inclination towards fame, he actually worked his butt off to become a skilled musician before fame was ever in the cards. Music was his passion and focusing on the passion created a better product.
He didn’t rush to market.
If Justin Bieber had been a product developed by a publicly traded company, he would have been shipped right after the Youtube Beta to hit forecasted revenue targets. They would have spent more time developing the Facebook page than the musician. They would have negotiated a partnership with Disney, created branded content with First Choice Haircutters and had a duet with Connie Talbot all before he was 10. He didn’t.
Yes, he’s young. But he’s a grizzled veteran who’s probably been singing longer than Pauly D has been DJing.
He created a new category.
Even I know he was discovered by Usher but that was only after every major record label turned him down. The experts thought he needed a platform or gimmick to sell his product because that’s what had worked for Miley, Britney, Justin and others.
He (and admittedly, his advisor Scooter Braun) didn’t want to do be the cute kid on a Nickelodeon show although that would have been tempting at the time. They were willing to create their own category instead of following the “Best Practices” of those who preceded him. Do you really think he would have succeeded musically if he was first introduced as a pre-pubescent male on a spin-off of Hannah Montana? I don’t think so. He did it his way.
He’s social to the core.
We all know that next to Lady Gaga, he’s embraced social media better than anyone. Millions of followers and friends. But what’s lost in the numbers is that those are just the tools he’s used. His real strength is the commitment to being social. He didn’t just hire an agency to create a social media platform, he actually had a willingness to connect with people long before he was tweeting. To quote Scooter Braun, “There isn’t a DJ in this country who hasn’t met Justin Bieber.” A brand that has a willingness to connect in person naturally succeeds when they connect through social media.
Customer service that surprises and delights.
In every city he performs in, his team distributes free tickets to unsuspecting fans (cue the shrills of excitement from gaping mouths filled with braces). When he sings Lonely Girl – apparently, a song of his – he calls someone on stage, gives them flowers and serenades them.
“Little things go a very, very long way. And the moment we forget that I think it’s over.” (Scooter Braun)
As a Canadian, I’m proud of his success and hope he doesn’t become the MySpace of the music industry. He’ll have to innovate to stay ahead of the competition. He’ll have to continue to listen to and connect with his customers. And he’ll have to simply keep working. Only 45 more years to retirement!
Want to have a laugh at Justin’s expense? Check out Gordon Pinsent reading from JB’s memoirs.
Update: Since I wrote this, I realized that Guy Kawasaki also wrote about this subject for OPEN Forum. It can be found here.