What Harry Styles Can Teach Us About Marketing
When you need a mystery solved, find a pop stan
‘You know it’s not the same as it was’
In March 2022 mysterious ads appeared in newspapers around the world promoting a website called You are Home.
The ads featured a strange drawing, and at close inspection, you could see it was showing an upside-down room, with a door, small table, and lamp.
The only text on the ads were the words ‘You are Home’ and a web address.
The You are Home website was cryptic as well, featuring a simple homepage showing a tan-coloured door in the center.
A few days later, if you clicked on the door, it would open, revealing a multicolored background.
This door and multicolored background also appeared on a You are Home instagram account, and every day a new picture revealed a different background image behind the door.
Then a You are Home twitter account appeared – and was equally cryptic.
What did it all mean?
I was curious…
None of these things – the ad, the website, or social accounts – mentioned musician Harry Styles.
But his fans – known as ‘Harries’ – immediately began piecing these things together.
They identified that these were all clues to a new Harry Styles album, and shared their theories on social media.
But how did Harries piece that together from a website with a door and a series of random messages?
Well, as journalist Brittany Spanos wrote in Rolling Stone:
“Real pop stans are CIA-level investigators.”
And Harry has been known to leave cryptic breadcrumbs to tease new music before.
Harry and his team went to great lengths to promote Harry’s second album, Fine Line, back in 2019.
It started with a ‘Do You Know Who You Are?” campaign that used a lyric from his song Lights Up. Posters were plastered around Los Angeles, London, and New York City with the same set of lyrics.
Although these posters appeared before Harry had announced his new album, his fans were quick to figure out who was behind them. The logo of Columbia Records, the label that represents Harry, appeared at the bottom of the poster, along with the letters TPWK.
The Harries were able to link TPWK with merchandise Harry had sold the year before that included the quote, ‘Treat People with Kindness.’
And Harry and his team went even further to promote his album’s second single, Adore You.
Their campaign for that song centered around a fake island they created called Eroda, which would become the setting for the Adore You music video.
Harry’s team went to great lengths to promote a tourism campaign for their fictional island, complete with a tourism website and twitter account.
They ran ads on social media, and included reviews, travel tips, and history lessons about the fictional Eroda.
Members of the marketing team from Columbia Records also designed, printed and planted Eroda travel brochures around New York and in Barnes & Noble bookstores to validate their digital efforts.
Eroda’s facebook page also teased clues to other songs on Harry’s new album – with references to watermelon, kiwi and cherries. ‘Cherry Street’ and ‘Golden Way’ were also listed as local attractions.
Golden, Watermelon Sugar, Kiwi, and Cherry would eventually be revealed as song titles on Harry’s Fine Line album.
And the campaign worked – it created massive buzz and curiosity for Harry’s album.
Fine Line would go straight to No.1 on the US Billboard chart, break records, and become the fifth best-selling album of 2019.
So it’s no wonder Team Styles deployed another cryptic campaign for Harry’s third album, Harry’s House.
And it worked.
As it Was, Harry’s first single from the new album quickly broke records when it was released in April, and became the most streamed song in the US in a single day in Spotify history.
Their creative approach shows how curiosity can engage fans – and earn millions.
And be prepared to hear more about Harry’s House and Harry Styles over the coming weeks and months. The new album was released on May 20, and if early reviews are any indication, it’s going to be his biggest hit ever.
Fun Fact: Another surprise from Team Styles in promoting this album? A feature interview in Better Homes & Gardens, with Harry on the cover. It’s not the magazine you would expect a 28-year-old pop star to target, but that’s probably the point.
*Many thanks to Abby Gardner for so generously sharing her insights on everything Harry Styles with me. Check out her newsletter and podcast, We Have Notes, for the latest pop culture news.
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I’ll keep saying it: Communication matters.
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That is the million dollar question at the heart of Rebekah Vardy’s libel case against Coleen Rooney, dubbed the ‘Wagatha Christie’ trial in the UK.
Will Coleen Rooney’s use of the word ‘account’ save her millions?
We’ll find out…
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