What Adele's Record Sales Can Teach Us About Being Universal

Business.com / Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Adele's massive sales show that her brand is universal. How can businesses learn from her example in order to become universal themselves?

What Adele is managing to accomplish with her newest album, "25's" sales is not only impressive, it’s downright unimaginable.

For years, the music industry has seen a steady decline in sales, as consumers have been presented with an increasing number of ways to listen to music digitally.

Despite this, Adele is bringing in a massive number of record sales. What’s most impressive, however, is that "25" is not only blowing recent competition out of the water, but is also breaking sales records that stood before this sharp decline.

These sales numbers show that Adele is universal in her appeal. Looking at her road to this status, however, it is clear that this was not by accident. Instead, it is at least partially the result of very intentional marketing efforts.

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With that in mind, what can businesses learn about being universal from Adele and her massive record sales?

Effectively Use Multiple Channels

In order to understand Adele’s ability to market herself so universally, you need to look at the push leading up to and following "25’s" release. You will see that Adele’s strategy boils down to one key factor: understanding and fully utilizing a variety of marketing channels while remaining true to her brand.

A huge part of what makes Adele’s record sales even more impressive is her immense level of global success. With globalization becoming increasingly important, businesses are now looking more than ever to expand their reach to a worldwide audience. This presents new and unique challenges that need to be considered in order to successfully expand the customers you reach. In this regard, Adele is a fantastic example for businesses to follow.

One of Adele’s best marketing moves actually came nearly three years before "25" was even released. In 2012, Adele recorded the song, “Skyfall” for the James Bond film of the same name. In terms of bringing Adele’s music to a massive audience, it’s hard to imagine a better opportunity than this. The film took in more than $1.1 billion worldwide, and the song was highly praised and awarded.

Finding ways like this to reach global audiences is a fantastic way to gain more universal brand recognition. While it is unlikely that you will have an opportunity as perfect as James Bond, there are still many opportunities that you can seize that will bring you to a worldwide audience while remaining true to your brand’s identity as Adele did through this partnership. Opportunities like this are a fantastic way to branch out and reach new demographics.

For Adele, these channels included a teaser commercial in the UK during the highly viewed program, "The X Factor", followed by the simultaneous release of "25’s" first single, “Hello” as both a music video and downloadable single, hints about the album on social media, a subsequent official announcement, and TV appearances like "Saturday Night Live" (both as a musical guest and with the hilarious use of her music in a sketch), "The Late Late Show with James Corden", and a televised concert.

These platforms allowed Adele to reach larger audiences, and the varying strategies used with each medium, especially TV appearances, allowed her to market herself to people without previous interest.

Possibly Adele’s greatest success in her use of social channels was also her largest gamble. Despite the overwhelming amount of people moving to streaming services such as Spotify, Adele did not release "25" on any of these platforms, sticking with physical and digital sales, instead.

For most artists, this decision would result in losing revenue and exposure brought by streaming. For Adele, however, this decision shows a deep understanding of her customer base, and where her greatest revenue potential lies.

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Similarly, your business needs to understand which channels are working most effectively, and use tools like analytics to make decisions about which to target. The importance of this is highlighted by Villanova University’s school of Business.

“Once you understand what is happening in your business, you can begin to formulate important questions that you want answered, such as ‘What is causing the average sales price to dip in certain quarters,’ or ‘Are these expensive marketing channels worth the investment?’”

Without this understanding, you may be unwisely spending your time, effort, and money on strategies that are not the most effective when, instead, you could be putting these toward something far more effective. Think about different ways your target audience may prefer interacting with your products or content, and give them options.

Grow Without Betraying Your Foundation

As you expand your reach, it’s also important to hold onto the audience you already have. Otherwise, you’re simply treading water. You need to ask yourself how you’ve earned your existing customer base, and why they have specifically chosen to support you, then use it to maintain your customer base, especially as you try to push new products or services to a more universal audience.

Adele did this masterfully with the release of "25’s" first single, “Hello”. The song, and its accompanying video distinctly fits musically and thematically within Adele’s established brand. Much like the songs from her previous album, "21", “Hello” is a heartbroken anthem about a love now lost. By keeping within this familiar thematic range, Adele has been able to remind existing fans what drew them to her music previously.

It’s not good enough to only reconnect with your established supporters, however. Simply retreading the same ground is unlikely to result in substantial growth. In fact, doing this actually leaves you open to the possibility of previous customers feeling fatigued by your brand or product. Instead, you need to find ways to take these existing elements and improve upon them. 

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“Hello” was able to do this incredibly well. While it stays incredibly true to Adele’s past work, it still shows growth. In the past, her songs have been accusatory, placing the thrust of blame for the loss of love on her former romantic partner. Now, however, Adele is turning that blame inward.

If you want your business to be able to reach and market universally like Adele has, you need to follow this example. Stay true to the core of what has made you successful previously, but don’t let yourself become trapped by simply repeating your past efforts. Instead, use this as a solid foundation to build upon.

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