A year or so ago noone knew who this guy was. How did a 14 year old from a small town in Canada become a massive global brand in only a few years? I finally gave in a few weeks ago and watched his movie, Never Say Never. I have to say, I was impressed.
Then I got to thinking about the similarities between building a celebrity brand and building a startup. They both start from nowhere and there are a ton of challenges to face. There will always be people who say it can’t be done and it will never work. The truth is this stuff doesn’t happen overnight and every company that is successful has had to dig in and make it happen for themselves. There are a few things that Bieber did that if startups were doing they would see a lot more success.
Even at 14 years old, Bieber knew that uploading videos of his songs to YouTube was a way to get them into the outside world, to build a fanbase, and get discovered. Fast forward two years, and now the 16-year old has since received over 15 awards for his music, released 13 singles, been nominated for a Best New Artist Grammy Award and performed in Madison Square Garden. His videos now have over 1.7 Billion views on YouTube. He has 30 million fans on Facebook (and growing by 70,000 fans a day), and 10.5 million followers on Twitter.
Sure, it helps to have Usher on your side, and you might say that Bieber is an exaggerated case study but the messages are clear; not only this a story about talent (or in the case of a startup, a great idea), but it is about the power of social media, pure hard work, an unbelievable will to win and a ‘do whatever it takes’ attitude.
Lessons that can be applied to startups:
• Your audience dictates your success, not other people. Once you build a strong audience it becomes impossible for industry influencers to ignore you.
• Heavy reliance on social media. YouTube, Twitter and Facebook are all tools to build your fanbase and allows you to build a 1:1 relationship with each fan. Done well, this will be the most important marketing tactic you have.
• Be a real brand. Be authentic, show your ups and downs, give people the inside scoop to develop a deeper relationship with your brand. This is a relationship and you need to communicate. Even in the tough times you can build character and people will love you for it.
• Don’t just be an online brand. People need to see you in other places. They will react to the opportunity to have a deeper relationship with your brand. (i.e. Bieber’s mall appearances)
• Caring and behind honest. From responding to tweets, to giving fans surprise tickets and seat upgrades, Bieber showed us how to build buzz. What might seem like small gestures that are so easy to do, these meant a lot to fans and ended up getting magnified through social media.
• Get a great team around you that really cares and shares your vision. This is one of the main keys to Bieber’s success.
• Start by cultivating a small, loyal fanbase and using them to tell your story. The quality of your audience/fans is way more important than how many you have. Know your audience and be targeted. The quantity will come if you do this right. (Bieber is completely focused on the teenage girl segment and understands what they want)
• Take advantage of every PR opportunity. No PR opportunity is too small. To combat the disbelievers and radio DJs that refused to play his music, Bieber was on the road all the time, performing at radio morning shows, event in the smallest of towns….and of course, tweeting about everything you’re doing really helps. The city by city, small town PR approach actually does work.
• Set a big goal and aim for the top. An idea without goals or plan is just a dream. You need to set big goals and work towards them. (Bieber’s goal was to sell out Madison Square Garden, which he did in 22 minutes)
• An intense will to win. Be prepared to work 24/7..even when you’re sick.
• Align yourself with other superstar brands
• Attitude that anything is possible: Never say never