Justin Timberlake: Actor, Musician…Marketing Genius?

Justin Timberlake has been in the public spotlight for almost his entire life, beginning as a child star and now as a multi-talented entertainer.  But his recent marketing campaign to promote his comeback album, the 20/20 Experience, was unlike any other project he’s taken on. To promote the two-part album, (Half the songs were released in March, and the other half this October) Timberlake orchestrated a long, calculated marketing scheme. Most artists leave it up to their respective agencies or labels to push their albums for them, but it was Timberlake himself who took control of the marketing.

When Justin became a part-owner of MySpace, he was quick to promote the upcoming album with a splash ad that took up the entire login page. His first single from the 20/20 Experience, “Suit and Tie” immediately jumped to #3 on the charts.  He also appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live for a week straight, aka “Timberweek”.  There, he reunited with longtime buddy Jimmy Kimmel and performed comedy skits, danced, played instruments, and Justin also played songs from the new album.  In addition to that and other late night TV appearances, Timberlake was featured in advertisements for Bud Light Platinum and Target.  He hosted Saturday Night Live for the 5th time as well, joining elite comedic company such as Tom Hanks and Steve Martin. As if this wasn’t enough, his memorable performance at the VMA’s cranked up the hype even more.

His efforts clearly paid off, and the first part of the 20/20 Experience opened with 968,000 records sold in the first week.  28 weeks later, the second part of the album sold 350,000 records. Both of these releases were easily good enough to open at #1 on the album sales charts. Going all the way back to the Billboard 200 charts from May of 1991, Timberlake is just the 20th musician to score two No. 1s in a 12-month span of time.  Nearly half (47%) of his record sales were digital.  According to Keith Caufield of the Hollywood Reporter, the 20/20 Experience is “only the 19th album to sell more than 900,000 copies in its first week of release since SoundScan began keeping accurate count of record sales 22 years ago”.  What other artist can spend 7 years away from music and come back to such gaudy sales figures?

Based on Justin’s overwhelming success, you could expect to see other artists imitate his personal branding strategies in the future.  Capitalizing on primetime TV spots with large audiences fueled his album’s campaign and was far more effective than simple, traditional advertising.  In today’s day and age where artists are finding it increasingly difficult to sell records, Justin Timberlake is making it look easy.

Oh yeah, he also brought N’SYNC back.  Is there anything he can’t do?


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