What My 11-year-old Sister Taught Me About Marketing

Don’t kid yourself, you know who Justin Bieber is. It’s 2011, and the freshly turned 17 year old has an estimated worth just south of $100 million. Three years ago, many of us (me included) had never heard of this kid. So how did a lower-middle class boy with a million-dollar voice rise to riches without the help of a Disney Channel show or famous last name? The answer is effective marketing, of course!

Bieber’s career started when his mother started posting videos of him on YouTube. People started watching and telling their friends, and eventually the right person saw the video. A marketing exec from a record company came across the video and immediately contacted Justin’s mother and begged them to come to Atlanta to record audition tapes and sign him to a record deal. Was there luck involved here? Of course. But more importantly, there was an effective use of the limited means that Bieber had access to. He used the most effective medium available to him, and it worked.

This is where the Justin Bieber marketing machine started production. After finishing the record, Bieber struggled mightily to get DJ’s to play the music of a teenage boy anywhere other than kids stations. So what did the Bieber team do? They built their brand. Bieber acknowledged that his primary target market was pre-teen and teenage girls, and his secondary target was music influencers such as DJ’s and concert organizers. He traveled across the continent playing every venue that he could, and more importantly he interacted with fans and DJ’s in ways that most musicians would never dream of. He went to radio stations and sang requests. He posted videos of everything he did on YouTube. He actually talked to fans using social media, and it all worked. He performed music that appealed to his target, but more importantly, he made fans feel like they were connected to him. And that is why he has some of the most intense fans since Beatle-mania. The goal wasn’t to make money, it was to build the brand that is Justin Bieber.

Once Bieber had this cult-following, his popularity grew exponentially. Kids found out about Bieber before their parents because they heard about him from kids like themselves! He didn’t target parents, because thirty-something’s aren’t his target audience. No person or brand has done a better job of identifying their target audience and communicating effective messages to that target.

Over the last three years Bieber has continually excelled because he has continually built his brand equity. He still interacts with fans through social media, he gives away premium tickets at performances to fans outside the venues who look like they couldn’t afford them otherwise. His music has evolved to appeal to fans that are now high-schoolers, yet has continually attracted the pre-teen demographic. He is collaborating with artists who attract an older demographic to show his versatility and gain fans that previously wouldn’t have considered listening to any of his music.

Don’t expect this act to see curtains anytime soon. The Justin Bieber brand is likely going to be around for a long time.