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What Boy Bands Taught Me About Digital Marketing

Published: August 13, 2019       Updated: April 23, 2024

4 min read


As an elder Millennial, I grew up in the prime of 90’s boy band-ology. I was the quintessential target demographic for pop music of the time, and I spent several years dedicating every inch of my bedroom walls to posters of my favorite group. I went to the concerts where you could barely hear the music over the screaming. I had every piece of merchandise I could convince my parents to let me add to my collection, and I taped (yes, VHS taped) all of their TV appearances. I was dedicated—and, ultimately, devastated a few years later when they stopped making music. 

Now as an adult, I still consider myself a fan. The group has not made any new music in about 17 years, but I still buy merchandise (which is actually still being produced) and follow the members’ careers across social media. When I reflect on this fandom through the lense of a digital marketer, I begin to see a lot of things that make sense. Boy bands have been the purveyors of some of the most successful marketing strategies of all time. 

Backstreet’s Back...Again

Every few years a new boy band rises to fame with a new generation. It feels somewhat formulaic, but no matter how much the way we consume music and pop culture changes (no more lining up at the CD store the morning of a new album release or standing in line at a Ticketmaster outlet), the ebb and flow stays the same. History has shown music executives that the appeal of a boy band is timeless, much like modern digital trends that seem to cycle through every time there’s a new meme.

While the tools and best practices of a digital marketer continue to evolve, the principle is the same: deliver the right message, to the right audience, at the right time to build trust. Focus your marketing strategy on doing just that and you will be able to grow better no matter what the latest marketing fad is. 

Take Your Content in More Than One Direction

The songs I listened to on a cassette or CD are now available on YouTube and in my streaming library. It’s still the same song from 1999, but in 2019 I can experience it as a video or digital audio. One of my favorite group’s most popular hits is now a virally popular meme to announce the forthcoming month of May every year. Modern artists have sampled their music in current popular songs. All of these things have kept boy bands relevant, even if they haven’t created any new material. 

Repurposing content is one of the most important pillars of an effective digital marketing strategy. This is particularly true with long form content that you invest a lot of time and resources in creating—like eBooks and product demo videos. Putting an asset on a landing page and hoping people find it over time is not ideal, so get creative and think about other ways that content might be consumed across different channels and formats. 

Be *NSYNC With Your Audience 

From The Beatles in the ’60’s to One Direction in recent years, boy bands (and the marketing executives behind them) recognize that young women have a lot of socioeconomic influence and buying power. They don’t waste any energy trying to market merchandise that does not align with the wants and needs of their target demographic. 

Being able to answer fundamental questions about who buys from you (that is, creating buyer personas as part of your brand strategy) is vital to being able to effectively communicate to (and ultimately convert) them. Who are they? What are they looking for? Why should they buy from you? 

As young women get older and have more expendable income to spend on merchandise and reunion tours, boy bands have become an ultimate case study in target marketing. 

New Kids In The Community [Marketing]

My fandom existed before social media. I joined the official fanclub, which meant I got a physical newsletter in my mailbox, and I could visit their website for any news or updates. As a sign of the times, fan communities began to grow in the form of fan websites and chat rooms. Today, these fan communities still exist but in the form of Facebook groups, fan podcasts, and Twitter hashtags. And, no surprise, they’re highly engaged and active. 

Community marketing is all about engaging your audience and focusing on the perceived needs of existing customers in a non-intrusive way. Typically, digital marketing is focused on attaining new customers, but it’s important not to neglect your existing ones. Pay attention to your community and find opportunities to delight them (a la the HubSpot flywheel) and ultimately turn them into advocates for your company or product. 

Whether you love boy bands or hate them, they are a marketing force to be reckoned with. So the next time you roll your eyes when you hear those timeless 5-part harmonies on a wedding reception playlist, just think about how much you can learn. 

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