Now I Understand Why He’s STILL So Famous.
I am not a fan of Justin Bieber. I’m not. I don’t hate him either. Hating him would mean that I would have to care to some extent about what he does and how what he does affects me. I don’t care. To me, there is no legitimizing of his hype. He’s a good singer but there are millions of good singers and half of them are probably better than him. I don’t get the hype. Or should I say DIDN’T? But, I am just a person. An insignificant drop in the barrel of his millions of fans across social media (I’m struggling here at seventy-one on Twitter. Ha ha!)
I remember the first song that I heard from him – “Baby”. I heard it the first time and I was like “Okay. Cute song.” But then I heard it again. And again. And again. AND AGAIN. I didn’t want to hear it after that and that was the point that Justin lost me as a potential fan. Through the years, I, along with the rest of the world watched him grow into adulthood and needless to say, the ride wasn’t the best.
He started getting into trouble – fighting people, spitting on people, using racial slurs – and even I felt that it was just beginning to get sad. But then I also wondered “Why is this boy STILL so famous?” “Why has he not sunk into obscurity as is the norm?” “Why are hoards of young girls still into him?” My theory – Really Solid Marketing Strategies.
It’s public knowledge that Justin was discovered by Scooter Braun. By accident. He took him under his wing and before he knew it Justin was signed by his (Braun’s) label. Usher Raymond came into the picture and more or less became Justin’s mentor. Scooter Braun is a powerful name in the industry and I figure that he could make anyone a star. But products sell really well when there is a celebrity endorsement involved. Because the life of a celebrity is so public, the Ordinary Joe feels that they can identify with them and as such trust their opinions and their standpoints. Equally, they may want to emulate them a bit and would be willing to try the products that they do just to be closer to them in some way. Usher did that for Justin. I believe that without the added endorsement of Usher, Justin probably would not have been able to maintain the blow up that he got in the beginning. In other words, he may have very well become a one hit wonder. This is not bashing his singing in any way. Justin can sing. But like I said before, there are half a million people who probably sing better than he does but they may not get that same push even though they get signed to a label. They don’t have that star endorsement and they fade away quickly. It’s kind of like when two companies have the same product and need to analyze their online impressions (let’s just say). One may have the benefit of expensive software and one may not have software at all. Ultimately, the company with the software will do better because they have a secret ingredient that sets them apart.
So, with such powerhouse backings, it was really hard early on to not be sold on Justin’s talent. It worked in his favour. His first album did really well, debuting at number one on the Billboard 200s in 2010 (Wikipedia, 2017). “Baby”, in my opinion, was the blast off song for him (even though he already had millions of views on YouTube pre-“Baby”) and even that song was a part of a very calculated marketing strategy. Remember, when Justin first sang that song, he was 15. However, he looked pre-adolescent. So, before we had all the information that we had about him or at least I had about him), we thought that this cute little man was talking about his first love. His voice didn’t help matters. It was adorable. I like to think that Scooter and Co. knew that would translate better than just introducing another 14 or 15 year old to the music world. There was marketability in his late development. The song itself is very “teenage” in its delivery. So, in a very smart way, Justin was introduced to us, and later labeled, as a teen heartthrob.
Beyond that, I was reading his Wikipedia page and something that Scooter said confirmed everything that I was thinking:
“Long before the November 2009 release of My World, his YouTube videos attracted millions of views. Braun recognized the appeal. Before flying him to Atlanta, Braun wanted to “build him up more on YouTube first” and had Bieber record more home videos for the channel. “I said: ‘Justin, sing like there’s no one in the room. But let’s not use expensive cameras.’ We’ll give it to kids, let them do the work, so that they feel like it’s theirs”, recalled Braun.” (2017)
Scooter knew. He knew how integral building a social media marketing campaign was to the success of Justin’s career and he took advantage of that. He did the groundwork before so that when My World 2.0 came out there would already be a customer base there. The Marketing arena, and the blogging world, knows how important building a base before the product is launched is to having a successful product and Scooter executed that flawlessly. Also, he used the fan base to do the heavily lifting (or sharing) on his behalf so that he would have to spend less money on PR work. Smart move.
After taking off and having himself concretely established, there was a point in his career where he started wearing baseball hats turned to the side and big chains (Wikipedia, n.d). At this point, he was clearly projecting black culture. This is expected because his manager and mentor are black and their forte is Hip Hop and Rhythm and Blues. Also, he spent his teenage years with them so of course he would be influenced by them. I wonder though if this was not an attempt on Justin’s part to sort of shed the heartthrob image that he was associated with. He probably wanted to try a more adult shade of RnB and move away from this “Pop-py”, middle school love sick, puppy love sound but he couldn’t do that because his fan base knew him for a particular brand. This is the issue with when a brand becomes popular, almost a cult classic, and wants to change drastically later down the road. This is also the problem when you try to brand a human being like you would brand carbonated beverages or cake. Justin was bound to grow up sometime and so would his thoughts, his writing styles and his feelings. His experiences would also add to the person that he would become. Scooter did TOO good of a job with marketing, it would appear.
Then came a really dark period in Justin’s life. Fights, spitting, racist slurs, being unappreciative of fans, awful friends, getting arrested. The incidents came one after the other. Being an observer, you had to wonder what was going on with him. He came off as a very sweet guy in interviews and in tweets and in his music but here it was he had turned into a jerk overnight. What was happening was that the human was separating from the brand and Justin the brand that Scooter created wasn’t really Justin the person no matter how much they tried to push that. Some of his fans left, albeit a small number of them, unimpressed by what was going on. The Marketing magic had worn off. Others were way too into the spell to quit and they were the overwhelming majority that stayed. I think in their minds the Justin that Scooter built WAS the real Justin and anyone who thought differently was a hater.
He lay low for a while (two years) and then he was back with a vengeance. And blonde hair. This was a far cry from the Justin we had seen in 2013. He released “Sorry”, “What Do You Mean” and “Where R U Now?” and he now acts his age. You can believe that he’s 23. It would be useful to note that he moved across labels as well (Def Jam Recordings after the disbanding of Island Def Jam Recordings) so that may have something to do with his change of image (a whole new label is an opportunity for a whole new image).
I need to say that I like this version of Justin more than what was shoved down our throat. Unlike most teenage girls, I didn’t like him because “Baby” was overkilled. He was everywhere. I know it wasn’t his fault but it didn’t help that he was on every radio station that you turned to. He was annoying. However, outside of me, there was a marketing machine that did an excellent job with presenting something that already existed (an adolescent with an extraordinary voice), repurposing it and making him a global phenomenon. He was breaking records everywhere thanks to his “Beliebers” and thanks to the ground work that Scooter Braun did early on.
Justin Bieber is a product of a very good marketing machine. That is why he is still as famous as he is and that is why the hype around his image is still so large even after all the nonsense that he has done. Scooter and Usher should be very proud. I am very impressed. And very irritated that it is working so well.
Let me know what you think in the comment section below. Do you think Justin’s talent has been the secret to his success or do you agree he is a product of a really good marketing campaign? Did you like Justin when he first came out? What do you think about him now? I want to hear from you on this. Let’s have a conversation.
Until the next article!
Justin Bieber. (2017, May 21). Retrieved May 22, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justin_Bieber