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Five Creative Marketing Campaigns We Love! 🤩

Written by: Jadon King

Think about your favorite album. Do you remember the anticipation? The long days spent waiting from the first announcement to the last few seconds before Spotify refreshed with a new classic? There were the leaked snippets, the rumors and conspiracy theories on Twitter, the listening parties somewhere you weren’t. Or maybe the album was a surprise drop! But whether you waited a few months or a few years for your favorite artist to drop their next album, all of those albums had one thing in mind upon their announcement: a strategy. Labels spend countless hours and dollars on planning an album’s release from beginning to end so that when the album releases, fans are locked in and ready to listen. Marketing campaigns have become an extension of an album’s aesthetic as a result of our fast-paced, Internet-fueled world; artists and labels know that billboards alone won’t get the job done anymore. So instead, they do things like host scavenger hunts, and pop-ups, and post cryptically on social media. It’s an opportunity not only to promote the record but give fans a memorable experience they’ll tie to the album for the rest of their lives. With that in mind, we’re breaking down some of our all-time favorite album rollouts! From intriguing to pure fun, these campaigns were not only memorable but effective! 😁

Dua Lipa ran 2020 and it was no accident. Her team at Warner was meticulous in crafting her image as “an undeniable global force” and took advantage of the world lockdown in 2020 to propel Dua to new heights. One of the first artists to release an album during the pandemic — Lady Gaga, Luke Bryan, Haim, and others all pushing back their release dates — Dua got the benefit of everyone’s attention. The album’s campaign started at the end of 2019 when Dua Lipa appeared on the EMAs for a viral performance of the album’s first single “Don’t Start Now”. Just weeks later, she announced the title of the album via an IG post of a new tattoo: the words “Future Nostalgia” inked in cursive on her lower left bicep. And this was only the beginning! ⭐

Dua’s team was focused on creating viral moments while everyone was on their phones. This led to the largest-ever collaboration between TikTok and a UK artist, #Levitating ending the year with over two million creations and five billion views. Dua Lipa also hosted a four-part livestream concert called “Studio 2054”, with everyone from Elton John and Bad Bunny to FKA Twigs and Miley Cyrus appearing as guest performers. The stream hosted over five million people and holds the record for the highest viewer count of a paid livestream, as well as the highest ticket sales for a paid livestream by a female artist. The efforts by Dua Lipa’s team clearly paid off; she was the most-streamed female artist of 2020 and Future Nostalgia garnered a whopping twelve billion streams in addition to being the longest-running number-one album in 2020! 🤯

With the Band as a company is in fact a Harrie, so this one means a lot to us. It all began with simple newspaper ads around the world. These mysterious ads led fans to the website just a few days before the album announcement, which featured an image of a door. Tech-savvy, hyper-curious fans examined the website’s code which had hidden coordinates to newspaper offices in cities that correlated to Harry’s top streaming markets. Clicking the door led to shifting visual patterns, each change triggered by a Tweet from a Twitter profile with the same name as the website; after the album was released, fans quickly realized each Tweet was actually a song lyric! Once the album was announced, opening the door led to the album’s cover art. Harry also announced that the lead single, “As It Was”, from the album would drop on April 1st, just a few days after the album announcement. The single went on to grant Harry the record for the most streamed song in 24 hours by a male artist in Spotify history. The house theme continued when Harry appeared on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens in April, as well as through a collaboration with Spotify that allowed listeners to furnish their own digital version of Harry’s house. 🏠

Upon release, Harry opened nine pop-up shops around the world where fans could purchase limited edition merch items specific to their location, as well as an album zine, album box sets, and even an exclusive orange Harry’s House vinyl. He also hosted a small, garden themed listening party for fans in New York City where there were all sorts of Harry’s House themed activities before a silent disco! The buildup paid off; in its first two hours on Apple Music, Harry’s House set the record for the most first-day streams for a pop album released in 2022. Logging the biggest first week for an album at the time (he previous album beating Adele’s 30), debuted at number one on Billboard, and had the largest week for vinyl sales with 182,000! This beat the record set the previous year by Taylor Swift with Red (Taylor’s Version). At industry awards, Harry’s House kept the party rolling! It won Album of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Album, and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical at the 2023 Grammys! 🏆

Taylor Swift is undeniably a trendsetter and her marketing campaign for her album reputation is no exception. It’s also an example of working smarter, not harder. On August 18, 2017, Swift completely wiped her social media accounts, instantly sparking theories about upcoming music. Following the wipe, Taylor posted silent, black and white CGI videos of snakes which instantly got everyone’s attention. The media and fans would only have to wait five days for an answer. Swift announced the album’s title and revealed the cover art, sticking to the black-and-white aesthetic, her slicked-back hair and hard facial expression working well with the darkness of the snake motif. For the tour following the album, Taylor partnered with Ticketmaster to make sure real fans got tickets instead of bots. Fans had to get in a digital line to get tickets based on where they were seeing Taylor, and could jump ahead in line via engagement on social media or buying reputation merch. And a few very, very lucky fans that were (reportedly) handpicked by Taylor from Twitter got to go to her homes in London and Rhode Island for an exclusive listening party almost a full month before release! 🐍

Swift’s social media wipe set a precedent for other stars and countless have done it since in efforts to promote new work or simply rebrand. What was ultimately so effective about this campaign was its simplicity; no celebrity had wiped their social media before and that alone was reason enough to give Taylor our full and undivided attention. The campaign is especially genius considering the album’s title and newspaper motifs present on the cover art, with Taylor using the media’s obsession with her personal/professional life to promote an album made in response to media scrutiny. The reputation marketing campaign is just another example of Taylor’s golden touch. The album was met with overall positive reviews, sold two million copies worldwide in its first week, and won an AMA for Favorite Pop/Rock album, a Billboard award for Top Selling Album, among other wins and a myriad of nominations. 🔥

Travis Scott’s rollout for Astroworld will be forever iconic. Named after a Houston amusement park beloved by residents until it closed in 2005, the album’s cover features the entrance to Scott’s version of Astroworld: a huge, golden, inflatable head fashioned to look like Travis himself. The image was recognizable since, leading up to the album’s release, the giant head popped up across Los Angeles, Atlanta, New York City, and Houston. LA residents got lucky; the first head popped up without warning on top of the famous Amoeba Music record store, the others soon to follow. In the week following the album’s release, Scott shut down Six Flags Magic Mountain in California for a private listening party with friends, family, and lucky fans who got to listen to the album and ride rollercoasters to their hearts content. The listening party ended with Travis dropping the “STOP TRYING TO BE GOD” music video which features everyone and everything from Kylie Jenner and a rapping sheep to Travis riding a dragon and baptizing people. 💫

The nostalgic theme park aesthetic combined with Travis’ dark, psychedelic music sensibilities were an unlikely match made in heaven; the album went on to win the BET Hip Hop Award for Album of the Year, debuted at number one on Billboard 200, and sold 270,000 pure units in its first week, scoring it the second-biggest first week of the year after Drake’s Scorpion. Oh, and did we mention every song on the album made it to the top 200? The album lost to Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy for Rap Album of the Year, which many considered a huge snub since Cardi’s album only did half the numbers Travis did in the first week. But the Grammys are always hotly debated and fans ultimately acknowledged that the album’s impact extended beyond industry awards. 🤝

Anticipation might be a powerful force, but so is surprise. And when Beyoncé dropped her groundbreaking visual album Lemonade out of nowhere in 2016, surprise us she did. She made the album between 2014 and 2015 and released the lead single “Formation” for free on the streaming service Tidal, along with a music video which she published as unlisted on YouTube. Meaning, the video was unable to be accessed by the search bar, and the only way to see it was if your friend had the link or a website embedded the video. The day after the song’s released, Beyoncé performed it during her Super Bowl 50 halftime show and — immediately after the game ended — aired a commercial announcing the Formation World Tour. Following the album/film’s release, Beyoncé released a box set titled “How to Make Lemonade”, which included a double vinyl and a coffee table book chock-full of behind-the-scenes photos tracing the album’s creation. The album was a Tidal exclusive for three years before eventually being released to other streaming platforms with the addition of the original demo of “Sorry” as a bonus track. 🍋

The album and accompanying film is a triumph, examining topics such as infidelity, generational curses, black feminism and culture, and ultimately, hope and redemption for the future. The album’s reception shows just how deeply the album resonated with fans and critics; it was highly praised and earned countless nominations and accolades. At the Grammys, it took home Best Urban Contemporary Album and was nominated for several other awards, won in three categories at the 2016 BET Awards, the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Album, and even won Best Urban Contemperary Album at the 2017 Grammys. The film also drew critical reception and acclaim. It won the AMFT Best Music Film, the African-American Film Critics Association Best TV Show - Special or Limited Series, the VMA’s Breakthrough Long Form Video, and the Black Reel Awards Outstanding Television Documentary or Special. It was the best-selling album of 2016, selling over 1.5 million records in a year, and is now triple platinum. 💿

5SOS started the promotional campaign for their third album with a bang: a worldwide promotional tour — dubbed 5SOS III — that sold out in three minutes. The boys played intimate venues from Singapore to Paris, including a collab show with Spotify taking place in their homeland of Australia. The band’s top streaming fans were invited to the Spotify Fans First Event in Sydney where they got to see an acoustic set, similar to a later event they hosted with Tumblr in New York. The album also got a documentary from Apple Music, which premiered on the day of release, as well as an intimate release show titled On the Record: Youngblood Live that was recorded for fans to watch later. However, one of the 5SOS Fam’s favorite marketing tactics was the series called “5SOS Cocktail Chats” that the band posted on their YouTube channel. And it’s exactly what it sounds like! 5SOS chatting about the album while sipping cocktails. 🥂

What we love about this campaign specifically is how rewarding it was for fans. The promotional tour and small shows, the video content and singles, all of it pointed to something fans could tangibly want and look forward to. There were no mysteries to solve or hidden coordinates to find, just music. And the fans responded! The album debuted at number one in Australia (their third number-one debut at home) and beat out Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s Everything is Love in the US, making 5SOS the first and only Australian band with three number-one albums on the Billboard 200. The titular song “Youngblood” was Australia’s 2018 song of the year at the ARIA Award, won ASCAP’s Pop Music Award, and has been streamed over 1 Billion times. The ARIA Awards also named 5SOS their 2018 group of the year! 🩸

While tactics may vary, one thing is incredibly clear: artists reap the reward when they put their fans first and give them an experience they can tie to an album. While it’s unfortunate that the music industry inherently turns art into products, that’s the world we live and work in, and lackluster marketing campaigns relying on an artist’s existing clout won’t cut it anymore. The campaigns examined here are prime examples of how, by understanding what fans want, artists can create entertaining and meaningful experiences that enhance their album, not just promote it. These experiences are what bring fans back again and again, creating lifelong fans who get to witness the evolution of an artist they love. Is there a marketing campaign we missed that you find unique? One that made release day that much sweeter? If so, follow us on X, Instagram, or TikTok to let us know!

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