On March 25th 2015, the worlds biggest boy band shot an arrow through our fragile, Harry Styles-loving hearts. Zayn Malik was leaving One Direction after 5 years of continuously topping the charts and making prepubescent girls EVERY WHERE fall in love with him. It came as a shock to many fans, but if you dive deep into the story of the band, it's not that surprising after all. The signs were all there that the 'perfect' story they had created, had a very unhappy ending coming up. So why did no one know a thing, and why was the band so broken? 3 years on, we bring you what businesses can learn from Zayns departure from One Direction.
1. Image Is Everything.
One Direction gave the perfect front to the world. Mothers of pre-teens thought this band as the 'safe' option for their kids to listen to. Their songs primarily consisted of 'treating girls with love and respect' and barely ever referenced things that would be above a PG-13 rating. And on the outside, they looked like the perfect, shiny boy band that Simon Cowell, and many, many other producers worked hard at maintaining.
Sometimes they slipped, such as the time Zayn was caught smoking pot in a taxi, or Niall let a little too much Irish language out at a fan. But they seemed happy. And why wouldn't they be? They had streams of girls crying over them and had had four consecutive Number 1 albums. But for one band member, it was not at all how it seemed.
Zayn was miserable in One Direction. But not even the fans really knew. And if they had of known, they might of pulled back from ticket and album sales. Which is why we never knew. The people creating and producing the image of One Direction wanted everything to look perfect. No matter how many explosions were happening under the surface, they knew to maintain this level of 'fandom' the boys brought, they would have to keep everything "happy families." And that's what they did. Until they couldn't hide it anymore.
Image is what sells a brand. What we post on social media, how we appear in public and the front we put on is all apart of what we are selling. Image of who we are is what a customer will resonate with, and ultimately turn into sales.
2. When Employees' Are Unhappy, No Amount Of Money Will Make Them Stay
Zayn has come out publicly saying 'he never wanted to be in One Direction.' With signing a contract so young, and an opportunity that promised the world, who can blame him for signing? But speaking to Beats 1, he revealed that the music and lack of artistic input from him made him unhappy within the first year.
"I couldn't give my opinion on this or that because it didn't fit the grain of what we were as a band or what we represented. That's when it became frustrating for me." Zayn told of his frustration.
Lack of growth and career advancement opportunities is a real issue in the 'real world', cited by 27% as the key factor in employee turnover. Feeling inspired and passionate about your workplace is how you truly do a great job at work. Will an employee honestly ever give 100% to a job that they despise? Probably not.
3. The Best Customers Are Loyal Customers
Simon Cowell, in the documentary 'One Direction: This Is Us', spoke about the true effect of One Directions fans and followers.
"There was a bunch of fans, I liked to call them super fans, that really worked hard at getting the word out about One Direction."
Loyal customers are hard to find, but as One Direction learnt, they are golden. Customers that believe in you and your brand will have no hesitation getting the word out about you. Loyal customers will be repeat customers, customers that will rave to their friends about you, and will be effectively some of the most valuable piece of marketing that you will ever have.
When Zayn left One Direction, many fans stayed with him and followed his journey on his solo career. Dedication from his 'super fans' is what made his solo career a success.
Having 'super fans' in business is so important, as your business is likely to change and evolve over the years, and having that constant support may be your lifeline.
4. But Gratitude Goes Both Ways
As with a following as dedicated and committed to the band as these followers were, you would assume they would support Zayn in his move to be away from the band?
Well, sort of.
At first, many fans came out in saying they were happy for him and they wish him only happiness, as he clearly wasn't finding it within the band. However, this turned quickly as Zayn changed his attitude and behaviour towards his former band mates, and the fans that had gotten him to the status he was at.
Publicly having a Twitter argument with former band mate Louis, and also continually expressing how much he disliked the band mates, how he disliked his time in One Direction and talking rudely to fans, started to have a push on his following. Many saw him (including the bands 'creator' Simon Cowell) becoming ungrateful and rude, whether that be how he really felt at all.
Which brings us to how this fits into business. No matter what the situation, gratitude towards your customers, and especially the loyal ones, is imperative to keeping and maintaining a good customer-business relationship. At the end of the day, customers can and will turn on you if they feel the business they are spending money on isn't that grateful to have them.
5. Social Media Is A Force To Be Reckoned With
The band would of gone nowhere if it wasn't for social media. One Direction entered the game when Twitter was still relevantly new, and created solid fan relationships through Twitter that actually gave fans a sense of closeness with the boys. Their following grew tremendously and they without a doubt changed the game when it came to bands using social media to actually generate an income. However, on the flip side of things, social media had moments that did not support them. Forgetting themselves and posting things they shouldn't (like Twitter arguments), or videos of the boys doing something they shouldn't, or even the online slandering they got from people who very much did not like them, social media was both their victory and their downfall.
This is very much the case for businesses, particularly when we rely on social media so heavily to get our brand name out there in the world. One bad review can change our rating on Facebook, a slandering post from a disgruntled woman (even when you have done all you can as a business to resolve the issue) can make you close up shop, such as what this lady had to do. Social media is a scary, confronting and vital part of small business. It is important to learn how to use it to its maximum potential, but whilst also being very wary of the potential problems that can arise within it.
So whether you were firmly a 1D fan or have no idea who they are, hopefully regardless, you can learn something about the business side of what was the worlds biggest boy band.