How did Coldplay achieve worldwide success? In addition to producing music capable of conquering several generations, the British band uses a careful marketing strategy for its communication and gigs. Let’s see it.
With over twenty-five years in business, Coldplay are one of the most acclaimed pop-rock bands of the new millennium. Capable of selling millions of records and performing in completely sold-out stadiums and halls around the world, each new album and subsequent tour generates enormous hype.
This is certainly due to the musical abilities of the band members, the quality of their performances and the charisma of the frontman, Chris Martin. But the promotional activities for the release of a new album or the marketing strategies implemented during concerts play an equally fundamental role.
In the past, the British band has implemented multiple marketing and communication strategies to interact with its fans and take advantage of this relationship to advertise its activities through them. The new “Music of the Spheres” tour is no exception.
Between synchronised glowing wristbands, giant balloons thrown into the crowd and plenty of colourful lights – Coldplay are using well-established tricks to engage their fans. But these gigs also feature new marketing elements. Some are already successful; others weren’t planned; others have sparked controversy.
In this article we will analyse together some of the communication and marketing tactics used by Coldplay in recent years to promote their records and engage fans during concerts.
Table of contents
Coldplay and social media interaction
Coldplay are considered by insiders to be the pioneers in the use of social media to advertise their activities. They were the first to use the event scheduling feature offered by Facebook, thus announcing their concert dates directly on the platform.
They also cleverly capitalised on Snapchat’s early success, shooting photos and videos in which they shared their everyday life during world tours.
It is therefore not surprising that today the British band is particularly active on TikTok. The Chinese app, by its nature, rewards content that pushes the user to watch the video until the end and often several times over. Coldplay’s posts, including live performances and particularly emotional moments of interaction with fans, exploit the algorithm in this way and are therefore disseminated and shared thousands of times.
The interaction with fans and the creation of an emotional bond have always been the cornerstones of Coldplay’s marketing and communication strategies. In 2015, for example, the band decided to create a video of one of their songs by combining short films made by its fans. They then asked to share everyday moments from all over the world and, two years later, they used these clips for the “Amazing Days” video posted on YouTube.
Coldplay’s “scavenger hunt”
But how does the promotion of a new album actually happen? Usually, the announcement of a new record on Facebook and Instagram involves publishing cryptic images that inform followers of the imminent arrival of something important, and then later releasing other more detailed information.
However, a less conventional strategy was used to promote the release of “Ghost Stories”. On this occasion, Coldplay mainly used Twitter – creating a real transmedia scavenger hunt.
The supporting staff of the band hid nine cards handwritten by Chris Martin containing the lyrics of the nine songs that would make up the album in nine libraries around the world. In addition, referencing the famous film “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (2005), they inserted in one of the envelopes a golden ticket with an additional plane ticket to London, the debut city of the new tour.
The initiative was promoted almost exclusively on Twitter, where the hashtag #LyricsHunt was sponsored. The band’s account subsequently tweeted additional information to help participants in the treasure hunt.
This strategy had multiple results. Not only did Coldplay announce the new album in an original way, making people talk about them through word of mouth and not simply with the content posted from their profile, but they created an event that allowed them to directly involve their fans – making them part of a unique game – and at the same time increase the number of followers on Twitter, a social media at the time not so used by the group and its own fans.
But the interaction between the pop-rock group and their fans doesn’t stop on social networks. Indeed, it is during the live shows that the British band has implemented the most successful strategies.
Interaction and emotionality at Coldplay gigs
Coldplay have implemented multiple marketing strategies during their concerts aimed not only at engaging the public during the event, but also aimed at spurring UGC (User Generated Content).
The group focuses mainly on sensory marketing: strategies aimed at establishing positive emotions and feelings through the stimulation of the five senses.
The band led by Chris Martin has been collaborating for some years with the production company SD Concerts CR in order to create unique sensory experiences during each concert. One of the first took place during the “A Head Full of Dreams” tour. During the North America leg, each spectator was given a remotely controlled LED bracelet. The scenic effect obtained during the concert was relaunched on social media, magnifying its scope.
Another Coldplay success story dates back to 2016, during an exhibition in New York. On the notes of “Adventure of a Lifetime”, the staff released giant and colourful balloons.
The audience at the concert thus had the opportunity to play with the balloons, creating a scenic effect which – combined with the lights projected from the stage and the notes of the song – generated a strong emotional impact, so much so that it was shared on social networks and on the main portals of news dedicated to the world of music and beyond, increasing Coldplay’s media exposure.
These strategies to boost engagement during concerts have spread rapidly and are used by many artists around the world. In addition to increasing the emotional experience of the public, they allow UGC to be used for further advertising activities. But Coldplay didn’t stop there.
The theme of inclusiveness
Inclusiveness towards minorities or people with disabilities is a very important issue for the newer generations. Focusing on it allows you to include a new target of people in your audience and improve the perception of your brand. This not only applies to companies but also to public figures and artists who can thus create immersive experiences suitable for everyone.
During the dates of the most recent international “Music of the Spheres” tour in Latin America, Coldplay – in addition to having spoken Spanish for the entire duration of the show in order to be more understandable to an audience not particularly accustomed to the English language – also distributed to deaf spectators equipment that allowed them to still be able to enjoy the concert.
Special backpacks with sensors that vibrate in sync with the music have allowed people with hearing impairment to physically hear the songs. In addition, a sign language interpreter was projected on a big screen so that the lyrics could also be understood by everyone.
This gesture, in addition to attracting a previously excluded demographic segment, has allowed the generation of a positive sentiment towards Coldplay, fuelled by the sharing of photos on social networks and word of mouth.
However, inclusiveness does not only concern disabilities. Coldplay have a worldwide reputation and fans spread all over the globe. It is often logistically difficult for many people to go to concerts and the band is aware of this. In Italy, for example, the band has announced four concerts in Milan, a city that often hosts major musical events, thanks to the availability of large venues and transport connections with other surrounding cities and European capitals.
Two other dates, however, have been announced in Naples, a city with a population of about 3 million inhabitants but where concerts by international bands are not very common. Coldplay chose this city personally. Roberto De Luca, president of Live Nation (the organiser of Coldplay shows in Italy), said that it was Chris Martin who asked to verify the possibility of performing in Naples, in order perform in a new location.
In this way, the band can reach a demographic segment usually partially excluded from their concerts and receive positive sentiment in return.
Coldplay, secondary ticketing and scarcity marketing
As we’ve seen, Coldplay always generates a lot of hype when they advertise a new record and their own gigs. It is therefore not surprising that tickets for many dates sell out quickly. However, sometimes the tickets are not only bought by fans, but also by so-called “scalpers”, people or companies who buy high volumes of tickets and then resell them at a higher price in the secondary ticketing market.
Up until a few years ago, the major sales platforms did not impose limits on the purchase of tickets. So, albeit indirectly, they favoured this practice. It was precisely a 2015-2016 Coldplay tour that uncovered the Pandora’s box and generated such a strong uprising from consumers (who had been struggling with this issue for some time) so as to cause the opening of investigations and, subsequently, to push all major sales platforms to impose a nominal ticket and a limit on the number of tickets that can be purchased by a single person.
But what does all this have to do with marketing? While this is not an intentional strategy by Coldplay, the band has benefited in some ways. The scarcity and difficulty of grabbing a ticket have in fact generated such a hype around the event that even those who would not properly define themselves as fans want to participate in their concert at all costs. In short, the logic and psychology that govern scarcity marketing and FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) made the Coldplay concert the unmissable event par excellence – the place to be.
Coldplay and the allegations of greenwashing
Not all communication strategies developed by Coldplay garnered a positive response.
Coldplay has repeatedly shown attention to environmental issues and problems related to the sustainability of concerts and major live events. During the promotional phase of the new world tour dedicated to the album “Music of the Spheres”, Coldplay announced that – thanks to the partnerships with various companies – the concerts would be totally eco-sustainable. However, some of these collaborations turned out to be greenwashing operations.
But what does it mean specifically? Let’s start with the definition. The Cambridge Dictionary identifies the term greenwashing as the set of communication and marketing techniques pursued by companies, institutions and organisations with the purpose of enhancing the positive effects of some initiatives and at the same time trying to hide the negative environmental impact of others or of the company as a whole.
In this specific case, the band has partnered with the Finnish oil company Neste: thanks to the company’s renewable fuels, the band was able to halve the emissions of their transports.
However, the company also produces palm oil and between 2019 and 2020 it was responsible for the demolition of more than 10,000 hectares of forest in Indonesia and Malaysia and was also accused of corruption and violation of workers’ rights.
The criticism obviously overwhelmed Coldplay, accused of being “useful idiots for greenwashing”. Further controversy arose following the collaboration with BMW, the German car manufacturer that supplied the band with forty very low-emission electric batteries to power the concerts. However, the company was accused of lobbying to prevent the European Union from setting 2035 as the deadline for CO2-emissive vehicles.
Coldplay immediately ran for cover, apologising for the mistake and assuming responsibility: “When we announced this tour, we said that we would try our best to make it as sustainable and low carbon-impact as possible, but that it would be a work in progress. That remains true. We don’t claim to have got it all right yet.”
However, this situation also has a positive side. Coldplay’s response made it possible to limit the damage: the apology and the assumption of responsibility for the mistake made have mended relations with the disappointed fans. Sometimes brands avoid responding to accusations so as not to fuel further controversy, but by doing so, they end up ignoring the issue. Coldplay, on the other hand, faced it in order to explain it and clarify their position.
Coldplay have achieved worldwide fame thanks to the ability of their songs to speak to different generations, their engaging and spectacular concerts and their careful marketing and communication strategies that make every initiative of the band an event with a strong emotional impact, allowing to forge a solid relationship with fans who, in turn, amplify their success.
From the most classic social media posts to interactive and transmedia initiatives, Coldplay are very active on the web. But even during live gigs they create unique shows, which fuel word of mouth on social media. These initiatives do not always have the desired success, but the British group is undoubtedly an interesting case study to better understand how to establish a lasting and transparent relationship with the audience.
Are you a Coldplay fan? Have you ever tried to buy a ticket for one of their concerts? Or do you prefer other musical genres, but are you still interested in understanding the reason of the global success of this band? Let us know in the comments!
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