How Beyoncé Shocked Some Of Her Customers

 

 

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

When you love a brand, you think it’s yours.

You think it understands you, feels you and plays a vital role in your life — often that of a picker-upper.

The people behind the brands are sometimes greedy. They want everyone to love their brand. They want that love to spread across different demographics and, indeed, across different nationalities and ethnicities.

Sometimes, though, it’s hard to spread your brand along so many dimensions and have it still retain its essence.

You can’t be all things to all people. It’s so embarrassing when politicians try.

When some of the brand’s faithful realize that their beloved brand isn’t what they thought it was — or even that it’s more than they thought it was — they may fall into a pained stupor.

It’s like a spouse that suddenly takes up cycling and insists on wearing those tight shirts advertising an Italian cheese. It’s like your dad suddenly listening to Kanye.

Should that change your feelings for Kanye overnight?Something like this happened to Beyoncé at the Super Bowl.As Saturday Night Live beautifully records it, so many white people thought she was theirs.They didn’t want to think of her as, you know, black. They wanted to think of her as someone who sings along with their status as, say, single ladies.Instead, here she was in her pre-Super Bowl video and her Big Game performance being not only strident, but political.

 

 
Cue lamentations in the cubicles of the world. Cue dull Anne Taylor garments being rended.

What did this mean?

Could these white fans be seen to love the Beyoncé brand anymore? Could they still love someone for her solidarity with their existential pain, while ignoring her solid black credentials?

It’s always risky when a brand extends beyond its supposed norm. At what point does it become overreach? At what point does the brand suddenly look like it’s trying too hard — a fatal error for any brand.

In the end, though, only one thing matters: Does it feel authentic?

Brand authenticity is astonishingly slippery. How authentic was Coke when it released an ad showing gorgeous white people delivering bottles of sweet, fizzy liquid to indigenous people in Mexico?

How authentic is a brand like the NFL when it claims to support action against domestic violence, while at the same time seeming to turn a blind eye to it?

Your brand can only go so far before it begins to feel like a struggle or before it loses some customers in favor of a greater goal.

In Beyoncé’s case, what she did felt entirely authentic, even if some claimed to be shocked, shocked by this sudden militancy.

Of course, Saturday Night Live played it for laughs. Beyoncé, though, is playing it to take her brand to a higher plane.

It seems like perfect timing to me.

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February 14, 2016

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