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Olivia Rodrigo: More Than a Disney Princess, A Marketing Queen

By Marta Matias | 6 May, 2021

If you haven’t heard of Olivia Rodrigo, then you’re probably living under a rock. The 18-year-old actress and singer-songwriter went viral on TikTok with her song Driver's License and just released her debut album – Sour. Her singles broke several Spotify records and created countless viral TikTok trends, setting her up to be the breakout artist of 2021.

It might be true, she didn’t come out of nowhere. But, she came onto the scene brutally and turned us all into heartbroken teenagers again, breaking records that no other artist has broken before with their first release.

Olivia became an overnight online sensation due to a mix of relatable lyrics, the emotion behind them and very effective marketing and PR strategies. From the typical teenage love triangle drama, to all the gossip fed by it, to the media promotion the whirlwind surrounding her put Olivia on top. But today we’re leaving the gossip to the tabloids and analyzing the marketing strategy behind the release of her first album – Sour – on May 21st.

In times of a pandemic where there can’t be crowded concerts or worldwide tours, Olivia did something innovative; A #SourCarWash hosted by Spotify in LA. Wilking Experiential worked with Geffen Records, Spotify and Taco Bell to promote a Covid-safe, engaging, and fun car wash for fans to celebrate the release of Sour. The extremely creative experiential campaign translated online into a heavy amount of user generated content and engagement.

The event was put on in partnership with Sour Patch Kids. The partnership actually started out as a Twitter meme! This is a prime example of excellent use of social media. When Olivia revealed the name of her debut album, Sour, the brand reacted immediately which translated into one of the biggest partnerships the brand has ever had. The Olivia Rodrigo Sour Patch Kids custom mix was brought to life in a matter of weeks by 360i, Mondelēz International and Interscope Records. It is safe to say that the partnership was a success – besides generating engagement with an organic social media giveaway of 12 signed boxes, 2.5k boxes were distributed at Olivia’s car wash launch event and in celebrity PR packages. Fans also took advantage of the exclusivity, waiting for 4-hours at the Sour Patch NYC store selling out the product within the first hour of opening! Moreover, the partnership got conversation going and created even more buzz… as there are now rumors that Olivia’s next album is going to be called Sweet based on the brand’s slogan "First they're sour, then they're sweet". This campaign is a good lesson to all Marketers and Social Media Managers out there!

Going back to those the PR Packages, this was another really smart move from her team. The packages were sent to different celebrities and artists who have a large reach but a different target audience than her, which allowed for more people from new demographics to learn about Sour that probably wouldn’t know about Olivia otherwise. You probably saw one of the unboxing: Kim Kardashian’s video went viral after her daughter North saying, while she was recording, that Kim never listened to the song, which generated shares of the video and created awareness towards the package and, consequently, the album.

And that’s not all – to promote her second single Déjà vu, Olivia’s team also gave away free strawberry ice cream in a promotion campaign for the single where she literally mentions how she ate it with a spoon for two in Malibu. Olivia also gave personalized purple letters to everyone that was a guest at the BRIT Awards, where she performed.

Moreover, all of these campaigns focused on another thing I find really important when promoting something in the music industry: fan engagement. Olivia and her team made the effort of interacting and integrating her audience in the promotion of Sour, whether it was online or in person in a Covid-safe way. She even sent necklaces to her top Spotify listeners to thank them for their support.

Everyone behind Olivia’s marketing team is shaping the future of music rollouts and the music industry itself, while focusing on fan engagement – that can also be customer loyalty – and in the adaptation to new social media platforms.

The results speak for themselves– Olivia is the youngest artist ever to achieve the Official UK Chart Double and its the first time a debut artist album has claimed it since Sam Smith in 2015. She is also the first female artist to do the double with a debut album since Lady Gaga in 2009 and Sour is the fastest selling album of 2021, overtaking Foo Fighters, and the fastest selling debut album since Lewis Capaldi’s “Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent”.

I leave you with a tweet I found recently that sums up this article: “Olivia Rodrigo’s marketing team must have masters degrees in Gen Z targeting because they always understand the assignment”. And they really do.


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