I’ll never forget May 18, 1999. I was an antsy, nine-year old girl, waiting impatiently for my dad to pick me up from school. I remember bolting through the doors toward his truck and buckling myself in as fast as I could. We drove straight to Wal-Mart to buy my long-anticipated copy of the new Backstreet Boys album, Millennium.
I sprinted through the aisles to the electronics section, but to my disappointment, Millennium was already sold out. Trying to hold back tears, I noticed the cassette version still on the shelf. I settled for it until the CD came back in stock — nothing was stopping me from listening to that album on repeat.
Needless to say, my homework didn’t get done that night.
Within a week, Millennium sold over 1.1 million copies and became the best-selling album of 1999.
Fast forward twenty years later, and the Backstreet Boys are still larger than life. Their most recent album, DNA, dropped on January 23, 2019. It is the Backstreet Boys’ third number-one album and first in 19 years, the last being Black & Blue, which debuted in 2000.
If my nine-year-old self heard that statistic, I probably would simply burst with pride and carry on listening to the album.
But my twenty-nine-year-old self is wiser. That fangirl grew up to build a background in advertising and public relations and earn a master’s in online communication. I’ve worked in brand management for several corporations, and currently teach social media and digital strategy at one of the top universities in the nation. And through the lens of this expertise, I see DNA’s success differently.
The world might think it was Backstreet’s voices, talent, and irresistible charm paired with lucky timing that shot DNA to the top, but this is only partly true. After all, they released three albums between 2005 and 2013, and while they were numbers ones in my book, Billboard thought otherwise. So why did these albums fall on the charts while DNA soared to #1?
DNA is the Backstreet Boys’ first #1 album in the new age of music and content consumption.
I attribute this achievement to their marketing team and record label’s flawless execution of calculated, integrated marketing communications (IMC).
Allow me to geek out for a second here. In my marketing courses, I teach my students about IMC. With a wealth of channels and media at a marketer’s fingertips, IMC refers to how all of these outlets consistently work together to promote a brand. This ranges from social and digital content to public relations, promotions, and experiences.
BSB’s team recognized that getting DNA to #1 required a more aggressive, innovative, and streamlined promotional strategy than Millennium and Black & Blue. Today’s music landscape is nothing like 1999.
In 1999, my dad physically took me to purchase Millennium with my allowance. But in 2019, DNA dropped in an age where their aptly-named millennial fanbase not only has buying power, but new buying behaviors.
I didn’t hear about DNA from Carson Daly. TRL is no longer our lifeline to our favorite artists. Hell, a lot of us don’t even pay for MTV. We’re part of the cord-cutting generation.
Today, we learn about all things BSB (and all artists we love) in the palm of our hands. The Backstreet Boys brand itself, plus each of the five members, are empowered with channels that we can engage with, follow, and share in real-time. I don’t have to send fanmail to express my Backstreet love and devotion. In 2019, I do this with a tweet. We can stream DNA in an instant on Spotify, so no, you won’t find us rushing to Wal-Mart.
But I admit that I’m one of those people who has to have a physical copy of my favorite albums. RCA recognized this group of super-fans by providing a free copy of DNA with the purchase of a ticket to the #DNAWorldTour, the first of many brilliant marketing tactics I want to spotlight.
Like a proud teacher, I am so impressed with how RCA has effectively demonstrated an IMC for BSB and DNA. Here are some of the components of their promotional efforts that helped the Backstreet Boys rise to #1 and ensure a successful album launch, world tour, and everlasting career:
Before Taylor Swift made it cool, the Backstreet Boys were all about promoting their music with street art. In 2017, they launched the DNA era with their first single off the album, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.” As a refreshing deviation from digital marketing efforts, this mural adorned an alley in Melrose, California and became a fixture for fans and the ultimate selfie station. They even made sure to paint a hashtag to promote social sharing. I made the trip to California and got my pics!
P.S. Don’t Go Breaking My Heart was later nominated for a GRAMMY!
Music Video Premieres
As I mentioned, BSB can no longer rely on TRL to make a big splash about their music videos, but that hasn’t stopped them. They drive views to their music videos by implementing YouTube premieres. This creates a countdown on YouTube, which ramps up excitement for fans as we anxiously wait for the clock to strike midnight.
This format also creates real-time conversation within a YouTube chat where fans can watch and discuss the videos as it premieres. In case you missed it, here’s their second video from DNA,“Chances.”
Plus, the end of the No Place video includes an endslate that reinforces the album release date. Such a smart little touch!
BSB 23 Chromosomes
It’s no secret that video content is king. The BSB team created a brilliant micro-content video series to tie into the theme of DNA. The series is called BSB 23 CHROMOSOMES and suggests that the Backstreet Boys are made up of 23 chromosomes which are told with every video.
There is a video for each Backstreet Boy, along with major milestones and elements that have created their success. Shot in an interview-style format, the group discusses their iconic fashions, harmonies, tours, residency, and of course, their fans. Although they are only about one to three minutes long, the videos creatively tell the BSB story in a meaningful way over time.
And since they are part of a 23 video series, fans anxiously await a new video each week. This is a strategic way for BSB to boost longevity with their content.
Embarking on a world tour is the logical next step after releasing an album, and BSB has been hard at work cross-promoting their next chapter. As I mentioned, to instantly bolster album sales, BSB fans automatically received a copy of DNA with every ticket purchase. That’s right — every single ticket. So if you bought four tickets, you received promo codes to redeem four free albums. And if you only needed one copy, the group encouraged you to share your promo codes with others in the BSB Army.
I love this cool infographic the team made to promote this bonus.
After two years in Las Vegas, fans all over the world are so anxious for BSB to be out on tour. That’s why the boys decided to kick off their tour internationally with shows in Europe, Asia, and Canada! This will likely be an exhausting tour with all of the travel, but as long as there’ll be music, they’ll be coming back again! I am so thankful these men continue to tour, create music, and perform. I also thank their families for being along for the ride!
When DNA dropped on January 25th, it felt like the entire world heard the news. Live TV appearances and performances on Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Ellen, Live with Kelly and Ryan, GMA, etc. made sure of it. Plus, the launch was also covered by iHeartRadio, POPSUGAR, and countless other outlets.
To be fair, I don’t even think I can begin to cover the consistent flow of social media content promoting DNA and the Backstreet Boys in general. There has been SO much (and email too)!
Every launch, performance, and milestone has been captured and shared. The main social account also does an amazing job resharing content from each Backstreet Boys’ individual channels to keep conversation going. Not to mention, the group is incredibly engaged with fans via retweets, replies, and comments. I’m so happy to see the group’s emphasis on social media as it is essential to maintaining their relevance.
Integrating hashtags into their content has garnered countless impressions for #BSBDNA and #DNAWorldTour. And when the album went to number one, the team strategically started promoting #BSBDNA1. YES!
The group just reached 2 million Instagram followers and are less than 10K away from 1 million on Twitter!
One of my favorite promotional strategies was BSB’s release of DNA themed GIFs on Instagram! They also revealed the name of their second single by encouraging fans to find it in a GIF. So fun!
Live Streaming Parties
What better way to celebrate the new album than with a live streaming party and Twitter chat?
There’s no fanbase better than the Backstreet Army! I love the fact that the team created a DNA World Tour Facebook group for fans to discuss shows, reminisce, and have complete fangirl moments with total strangers. It’s all about building relationships, and BSB fans share a special bond.
We live in an experience economy, and fans love to go beyond just listening to BSB — they want to hear and see them live! Twenty-six years strong, BSB is still creating experiences to cross-promote DNA.
Las Vegas Residency
After a two-year, 80-show run, the Backstreet Boys just wrapped up their Larger Than Life residency. I was lucky to attend in February 2019 and they definitely were promoting DNA! I also had the pleasure of going for my bachelorette party in 2017 — #BriannesBackstreetBach.
Meet and Greets
I definitely have to throw this in here. BSB continues to make time for their fans with their meet and greet experiences! This was one of the best nights of my life.
There ain’t no party like a Backstreet party! As if their energetic Vegas shows weren’t enough, fans could continue Backstreet bliss, you guessed it, at the Chateau… “Chateau” happens to be one of my favorite songs on DNA!
How do you know when you’ve created a legacy? Amidst promotion of DNA and their Las Vegas residency, BSB was honored with their own exhibit at the GRAMMY Museum entitled Backstreet Boys: The Experience. I’m visiting the exhibit in June! I’ve intentionally avoided any previews of the exhibit so I can fully take it in in person.
Perhaps the most creative and strategic part of the exhibit is the #BSBMosaic where fans can share their own BSB photos for a chance to be featured on the wall. In the social media marketing world, this is called user-generated content, or UGC. Pick me, pick me!
If you were unconvinced that Backstreet was back, would a Super Bowl commercial for Doritos change your mind?!
Other brands are taking advantage of the DNA theme. A company called My Heritage realized they could capitalize on the BSB’s fanbase by partnering up for a promotion. The video is not only genius but absolutely hilarious. I hope the boys share their results when they come in!
And just for kicks, how about a quick collab with Blue Man Group?!
The Backstreet Boys are adored all over the world, but the group is giving some extra love to Asia in the DNA era. They released an exclusive version of DNA with bonus tracks just for Japan. Lucky for me, I visited Japan for my honeymoon recently and picked up my own copy!
Not to mention, BSB also made a trip to Japan to celebrate the album release! That’s dedication! Gotta love ’em.
My recent honeymoon also included a few days in Hong Kong. As my husband and I tried to navigate through the train station, everything of course seemed foreign to me. Until I saw this poster. Of my loves. Thousands of miles from home. It was fate! But in this moment, I was just in awe to see DNA being promoted so heavily even across the world.
P.S. you have to check out this adorable announcement about new Asia tour dates being added!
It’s one thing to have a presence on social media and beyond, but it’s a whole different ball game to actually have a strategy. This is my favorite part about content creation!
Although technologies have changed, the Backstreet Boys fuel their content engine by doing the same thing they did 26 years ago. They engage with their adoring fans simply by being themselves. They’re as handsome and goofy and talented as ever.
Their content humanizes the group, making them even more lovable to their fans. They balance professional, polished content with raw and real behind-the-scenes views, nostalgic throwbacks, relatable selfies, family snapshots, and countless other BSB moments.
Seriously, how could you not just love them?!
And even after becoming the best-selling boy band of all time, the Backstreet Boys are still so humble and grateful. Here is a thank you video they dedicated to their fans for helping get DNA to #1.
And yes, the fans happily showed up to buy the album. But the real credit goes to the Backstreet Boys for continuing to delight their fans with music, and to their teams who work tirelessly to make sure their music does not go unnoticed. I’m so happy the Backstreet Boys are getting the promotion and brand love that they so deserve.
I learned about brand loyalty, fan engagement, and ambassadorship from a textbook studying the world’s most successful brands, but I think the Backstreet Boys taught me about these ideas first. And 20 years later, I’m still learning from their impact.
Here’s to keeping the Backstreet pride alive!
If you haven’t already, head on over to their website to get tickets to the #DNAWorldTour, which kicks off May 11th!