Singer, songwriter, and actress, Ariana Grande is more than just a pretty voice. With millions of fans (and even more in ticket sales), this pop star rose to stardom not just because of her talent, but also because of her digital marketing campaigns. Let’s take a look at Ariana Grande’s marketing strategy and see what we can learn!
Sweetener: Marketing Success with a Sweet Mixed Reality Campaign
It takes a versatile team to turn a good singer into an absolute pop icon, which Grande definitely is. The team behind Ariana Grande’s marketing strategy knows her fan base doesn’t just want to consume content – they want to be engaged in the experience and get a more intimate connection with the singer.
So when Ariana Grande started promoting her new album, Sweetener, in August 2018, Island Records and Landmrk – a location-based VR platform – teamed up to market her music to new and existing fans alike.
Grande and her team engaged her fan base by sending them on a treasure hunt across the UK to find “Sweet Spots” (hotspots).
When they reached the hotspot, the fans deciphered the code on a billboard and entered it on the official website. For the fans who weren’t in the vicinity of actual billboards, Landmrk created virtual billboards, as well.
The reward? Prizes like tour tickets, Sweetener CDs, merchandise and selfie filters.
Have you found a Sweet Spot yet? We’ve hidden them all over the UK – find your nearest one here for the chance to win an exclusive Sweetener album bundle and tickets to see @ArianaGrande live!! https://t.co/Y2N2Qzhoil #unlocksweetener pic.twitter.com/OGtBBemgiz
— Island Records (@islandrecordsuk) August 31, 2018
(You may be asking, how did Ariana Grande’s marketing team coordinate her country-wide treasure hunt experience? This sort of thing can be a data nightmare! Luckily, AE’s fan marketing software easily powered the back end and helped the team easily track and engage fans!)
The fans couldn’t wait to get started with the OOH (out-of-home) experience that would bring them closer to the singer. Thousands of fans entered the competition and shared it across social media, primarily Twitter and Snapchat.
And since Grande had gone silent on social media after sharing a teaser of the new song, Island Records drummed up enough excitement for fans to re-engage with even more vigor than before.
we’ve hidden @ArianaGrande Sweet Spots all over the UK! Click here to find your nearest one and enter the code to unlock an exclusive selfie filter and the chance to win a very special Sweetener ticket bundle ???https://t.co/Y2N2Qzhoil #UnlockSweetener pic.twitter.com/3PcikTWQub
— Island Records (@islandrecordsuk) August 28, 2018
Was the campaign successful?
Sweetener debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200, and earned 231,000 units in its first week. 127,000 were from direct sales.
The album was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album Grammy Award in December 2018.
Standing Up For Something and Voicing Her Opinion
In an era with more scandals than ever before, a lot of pop stars are shy to voice their opinion. While this is something their PR advisors may suggest, it’s not what consumers and fans need.
In fact, an overwhelming majority of consumers are asking brands to stand for something. Otherwise, there’s nothing Millennials and Gen Z fans (which compose a majority of Ariana Grande’s fan base) can relate to.
In addition to Grande’s excellent vocals, she’s also vocal about social issues her fan base cares about.
it ain’t feminism if it ain’t intersectional
— Ariana Grande (@ArianaGrande) March 8, 2019
Speaking Up with Social Media
In addition to tweets in which she expresses her point of view, she’s vocal about gender equality in her work, as well.
Some may criticize her lyrics, but Grande’s song “God Is a Woman” resonated with her existing fan base and attracted new fans. Frequently covered in feminist media and acclaimed for the empowering approach, this hit wasn’t a mistake. It connected Ariana’s passions perfectly with her fans.
Grande accurately pinpointed what moves her generation, which makes for the majority of her fan base. And the fan base responded – it was her lyrics on the signs at the Women’s March.
ariana x women’s march 2019 pic.twitter.com/aOoN0RHqNO
— alli (@forevergirlalli) January 20, 2019
Unlike other stars who produce hits, but don’t have the consistent brand personality to justify it, Grande has been consistent in speaking up about a variety of societal issues.
Among other events, she participated in the March for Our Lives, advocated Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ rights.
Every one of her fans has arguments to prove that she did deserve Billboard’s 2018 Woman of the Year award.
In the marketing era where values come first, Ariana Grande established the right foundations for the digital music marketing success that followed.
Key Digital Music Marketing Takeaways from the Sweetener Campaign
After the Manchester tragedy, Ariana Grande’s British fans felt particularly close to her. Island Records used the increased traction Grande got in the UK because of it to connect with that segment of her fan base with the AR Sweetener marketing campaign.
In order to promote the Sweetener music marketing campaign, Island Records also got in touch with fan groups which participated in spreading the word of the campaign.
Winners of the campaign were contacted on October 26, 2018, but even those who hadn’t won the prize had fun and enjoyed sharing the selfies and details about their “hunt” on social media.
Once again, Grande and her team showed that they don’t just understand music, but they also understood what their audience wanted.
And with the treasure hunt popularity of Pokémon Go a few years ago, it didn’t take a marketing wizard to realize fans couldn’t wait to hit the streets and win prizes that’d get them closer to their favorite singer.
Self-Love and Pop Culture: The Marketing Success of the Album, Thank U, Next
According to her fans, when Grande dropped Thank U, Next, everyone was shaken.
The song was released after the death of Grande’s ex-boyfriend, Mac Miller, and her high-publicity breakup with Pete Davidson, a member of the SNL cast. For a while, it seemed like Grande couldn’t catch a break.
Everything changed when she turned the negative publicity that came from her romantic life falling under the scope into a message of self-love and positivity with her hit single: Thank U, Next.
“thank u, next” by Ariana Grande becomes her fastest-selling song worldwide surpassing 11 MILLION units. This is also her 4th best-selling track. pic.twitter.com/4fh8CdyIK2
— Pop Alarms ? (@Pop_Alarms) May 27, 2019
Unapologetically (and in a way that meant her fan base could relate to her experiences) and gratefully, Grande sang about her exes, thanking them for what they had taught her. Finally, she wrapped up the song by saying that she’s her first and biggest love.
Music Video Packed With Pop Culture
Thank U, Next was a big deal when she first teased the song with a tweet, but no one was prepared for the viral hit it turned into when she published the music video. (Well, no one except Ariana Grande’s marketing team of course!)
— Ariana Grande (@ArianaGrande) November 24, 2018
After teasing the fan base with headlines announcing that a Kardashian would star in the video and posting Mean Girl-esque behind-the-scenes photo on social media, Grande’s fans were more than ready to see the video.
Promotion was done across multiple social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) with the video being published under YouTube’s premiere feature.
There were enough pop culture references in the video itself to invoke curiosity even in the people who weren’t her fans, with the thumbnail being a recreation of the scene from Mean Girls. Other references in Thank U, Next included Legally Blonde, 13 Going On 30, and even appearances from Troye Sivan and Kris Kardashian.
Grande told a great story of gratitude and self-reliance, and both the message and the story resonated with her fan base.
Key Digital Music Marketing Takeaways
Grande’s team used the attention already on Grande because of Miller and Davidson to promote her single to a fan base that responds well to the topic of heartbreak and empowerment.
They built up anticipation before publishing the video, ensuring that everyone’s ready to hear it. And ready they were.
Pop cultural references were a nice touch for Gen Z and Millennials who respond well to nostalgia and will recognize the generations’ favorites Grande recreated for her Thank U, Next video. This campaign was definitely one of the top successes of Ariana Grande’s marketing strategy!
And after the release of the video, Grande’s team didn’t stop. They published additional behind-the-scenes content and sparked conversation across social media. With the rise of Thank U, Next’s popularity, it’s just a matter of time before it reaches the ultimate level of viral success and becomes a meme.
Was the campaign successful?
There was quite a buzz surrounding the release of Thank U, Next.
Since its release in November 2018, the video was viewed over 287 million times on YouTube alone. There have been millions of mentions of Thank U, Next both in the context of the song and the dismissal of haters or exes.
And since the song’s release in November, Thank U, Next got over 1 million certified units/sales in the US alone.
It’s a great song, but it was Ariana Grande’s digital marketing campaign that helped turn it into a viral hit.
Honorable Mention: Dangerous Woman Music Marketing Campaign
Ariana Grande’s marketing approach doesn’t shy away from personality or transparency.
Nothing shows that as much as returning to the Dangerous Woman tour with a documentary – Dangerous Woman Diaries – showing what happened behind the scenes and Grande’s inspiration for the album.
In December 2018, when all eyes were already on Thank U, Next.
— Ariana Grande (@ArianaGrande) September 22, 2016
This showed that Grande’s marketing team was focused on the subject at hand (the popularity of Thank U, Next) but didn’t forget how popular Dangerous Woman was, and what significance Grande’s personal journey had for her fan base.
By re-engaging fans with a mixed-reality approach that proved its usefulness with Sweetener, Grande’s team partnered up with Google and Landmrk to set up promotional billboards throughout the US and Canada.
So while Ariana Grande is a great singer, she’s also a marketing superstar.
By finding new ways to connect with old and new fans alike, she’s at the forefront of the digital music marketing revolution we need in 2019.
We can’t wait to see where she’ll take us next!