Just in case you stepped away from the Internet for the last few days, one of the world’s most powerful couples may be on the outs, and that could have significant implications for the combined marketing juggernaut the two of them have created over the last eight years.
According to rumors, Beyoncé Knowles and Jay Z (aka Sean Carter) are having marital problems, to the point where some are speculating that it will soon be splitsville for the music superstars. Combined, the couple is reportedly worth $900 million, so monetarily speaking, both sides have a lot to lose. But that doesn’t mean that either will walk away a loser -- at least not from a personal-brand standpoint.
Dan Schawbel, a personal-brand expert and author of “Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success,” said Bey and Jay have reached that rare level of fame and creative success where they are all but impervious to bad PR.
“They’re like Bank of America -- too big to fail,” Schawbel told International Business Times. “They were already successful even before they got married. They already have so much content out there, platinum records. It’s not like they’re going to lose all of that. They’ve both had strong personal brands for decades.”
Schawbel said that pre-marriage brand history is key, creating a more even playing field, and neither side is likely to see a measurable fan exodus in light of a divorce. “Even when this tour is over, they can always just go back on tour,” he said. “Their fan bases are so huge.”
Not all power couples enter into their partnerships on such an even playing field, and that discrepancy can follow celebrity pairs back into their post-relationship careers. Tom Cruise was one of the biggest box-office draws in history when he started dating the less-famous Katie Holmes in 2005. Two years after their extremely messy divorce (in which Holmes won much of the public’s sympathy), Cruise is still making summer blockbusters, whereas Holmes has been relegated to decidedly lower-profile projects.
If a couple’s personal brand does take a hit, reinvention can play a key role in nursing it back to health. Many commentators speculated that the careers of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez were finished when their movie “Gigli” flopped in 2003. Both stars did fall off the map for a while, but neither went away for good. Affleck is now a noted director, whose 2012 film, “Argo,” won a Best Picture Oscar. All things being equal, Affleck might be thought of as the winner in the breakup, but Lopez has scored several dance hits, been a judge on “American Idol,” and is the official Global Ambassador for L’Oreal Paris, which is not too shabby. Sure their cute portmanteau, Bennifer, is a distant memory, but their post-breakup careers symbolize two things American pop-culture consumers love: redemption and the art of the celebrity comeback.
“You can always come back,” Schawbel said. “You might not come back at the same level, but you can come back at some level.”
For now, a divorce between Beyoncé and Jay Z is nothing more than a swirl of rumors, and there are not many verifiable facts to confirm or deny them. What we know for certain is that a newspaper cited an anonymous source who claimed Jay Z and Bey will break up after the end of their current “On the Run” tour. But then, said newspaper was the New York Post. Still, if a breakup does happen, it wouldn’t exactly be a surprise given Jay Z’s rumored cheating and the limited shelf-life of a typical celebrity couple.
As Schawbel points out, Bey and Jay will be fine in the grand scheme of things, but “fine” is a relative term. If we’re forced to talk about a Bey-Jay breakup in terms of winners and losers, Jay has more reason to worry than Bey does. Beyoncé’s last album, called “Beyoncé,” has sold 3 million copies since its release in December last year. Jay Z’s “Magna Carta Holy Grail,” released six months earlier, has sold only about a third as well. Mr. Carter doesn’t fare much better on social media either: Jay Z has 3 million Twitter followers compared to Beyoncé’s 13.5 million.
So in the end, Jay Z’s cachet may come down a notch if the two break up, but admittedly it’s a pretty high notch to begin with. Adds Schawbel: “Once you’re a household name, it’s pretty hard to lose.”