The Britney Spears Universe

Our study is titled “The Britney Spears Universe: Social Media and Viral Marketing at its Best” by Andreas M. Kaplan and Michael Haenlein. They researched the marketing strategies of Britney Spears, specifically in regards to her hit single, ‘Hold it Against Me’ and its accompanying music video, as well as the album it was a part of, ‘Femme Fatale.’

Kaplan and Haenlein drew five main conclusions from their study on the Britney Spears marketing campaign. First, they determined that it is important to choose carefully which social media sites to use and how to use them. They say that “while firms that have a lot of information to share might prefer the interactivity of Twitter, others probably see a better fit in Facebook, where infrequent postings are less of an issue…” (30). They also suggest that you pick an application or make your own because social media are always changing and improving, and you would not want to lose an entire fan base because you put all your stock into a MySpace page before Facebook. To avoid this issue, Britney has her own website, BritneySpears.com that operates as a webpage and blog. This is the hub in her “spoke-and-hub model,” the offshoots consisting of her social media platforms. This also helps her “ensure activity alignment and media plan integration,” keeping her information consistent across all media platforms which is especially important for her since she gets her information to the public solely through social media and does not give press releases (31).  The fourth conclusion is to be active and interesting, making the fan base feel connected and valued. Their last conclusion is to be unprofessional and honest, by which they mean that the posting on Britney’s social media all are written in the tone of her voice, whether she is actually writing them or not. For example, the only Twitter posts that are actually written by Britney are signed ~Brit, but the rest of the posts still should maintain a sense of her personality as well.

Britney used many techniques leading up to the release of ‘Hold it Against Me,’ all of which were executed over her multiple social media platforms. Before the song was scheduled to release, a demo tape ‘leaked’ on YouTube and Britney responded to it on Twitter: “Heard an early demo of my new single leaked. If u think that’s good, wait til you hear the real one Tuesday. ~Brit” Kaplan and Haenlein state that “this posting, combined with the demo tape, resulted in substantial press coverage of the single even before its premiere (28). Britney also went against traditional album release strategy and released her music video after the song had already been released. By doing this, Britney was able to post updates on Twitter about the progress of the music video, staying active and communicating with her fans. Beginning two weeks before the grand premiere of the full video, Britney and her team launched “14 Days, 14 Teasers, 1 World Premiere,” which consisted of one teaser trailer a day that were shown on YouTube leading up to the premiere of the video, which was accompanied by a live discussion on MTV.com.

All of this action surrounding the premiere of just one video is a good example of Kaplan and Haenlein’s conclusions about staying active and interesting.

The actual video contains product placement of four products and logos, including Radiance by Britney Spears for Elizabeth Arden, eye-shadow from Makeup Forever, Sony, the 100% owner of her record label, Jive Records, and the online dating website, PlentyofFish.com. While critics and journalists condemned this commercial aspect of her video, fans had only positive things to say because the products all related to the Britney Spears Universe in some way.

Because social media is constantly growing and evolving, we thought it would be interesting to compare the release of “Hold it Against Me” and the Femme Fatale album, from 2011, to the newer release of “Work Bitch” and the Britney Jean album, from 2013. In the three years since the 2011 release, Britney Spears has expanded from 7 million to 37 million Twitter followers and 8 million to 40.5 million likes on Facebook. With this massive gain in online fans, Britney Spears and her team have further integrated social media platforms with her marketing campaigns. On August 20, 2013, Spears launched a countdown on her website, set to September 17, 2013—the release date of her first single, “Work Bitch,” from the album Britney Jean.

Midway through the countdown, she began tweeting in anticipation of the song’s release. On September 10th, she tweeted that the song would be available on iTunes on September 17th. On September 11th, she revealed the song’s writers on Instagram. On September 12th, she revealed the cover art for the album. Finally, on September 15th, she leaked the song in full on iHeart Radio in anticipation of an outside party who was planning to leak the song before its September 17th release date.

Spears also utilized Twitter to build excitement for the release of the song’s music video by first disclosing on August 29th that she was rehearsing for something “top secret next week.” On September 7th, Spears tweeted, “Hot day on set… 😉 A little dirty, little flirty, danced my ASS off. Stoked for tomorrow!” along with a picture of herself in costume.

These informal, frequent updates on both the song and its accompanying music video lent themselves well to Twitter and ensured that their release stayed active and interesting. Four days before the release of the video, Spears posted a sneak peek on her Instagram account.

The music video contains product placement for Christian Louboutins, Fantasy Twist perfume, Beats by Dre, the Lamborghini Aventador, and Planet Hollywood, which is another marketing strategy that Spears has used in the past.

Celebrity branding and marketing has existed since the beginning of the Hollywood star system; however, with the rise of social media, self-branding has become more important and relevant to daily life. In this digital age, self-branding is a way of expressing oneself to a community that may not be your real life community. We present a certain image of ourselves to the online world through the way we post and the pictures we share. The compilation of our online postings makes up how others perceive us, and we have a much greater degree of control over the image we put out to others.

~ Allegra + Sydney ~

Study Citation:

Andreas M. Kaplan, Michael Haenlein, “The Britney Spears universe: Social media and viral marketing at its best,” Business Horizons, Volume 55, Issue 1, January–February 2012, Pages 27-31, ISSN 0007-6813,http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bushor.2011.08.009.(http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0007681311001248)

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