Get Justin Bieber in Your Classroom to Teach Media Literacy

Justin Bierber, Justin Bieber, Oh Justin Bierber! Okay, I know he won’t actually visit and give a lesson, but do I have a Media Literacy resource for you! First I must acknowledge my connection with Justin Bierber and my particular biases.

I have been to Stratford Ontario on a number of occasions over the years to see theatrical productions at the Stratford Festival. In those visits at no time did I have any contact with Justin or his mother. That being said, he is a talented young person, who reminds me of Donny Osmond ( I can remember those early appearances on Andy William’s TV show, as well as his teen heart-throb career).

Like Donny Osmond, Justin is a safe pop idol for tweens and early teenage girls. This calls to mind a number of points. How long will Justin’s career continue before he be on “Dancing with The Stars” ? Will he be a Miley Cyrus pop guest or a Dancing Donny ?

More importantly is the topic of his target audience and marketing, social media, constructed reality, values and beliefs, and media literacy. Here comes that resource and potential lesson. If you haven’t read How Justin got so big by Susan Krashinsky (From Saturday’s Globe and Mail, Published on Friday, May. 28, 2010 4:06PM EDT) you are missing an excellent in depth analysis of how Justin has been and continues to be so successfully marketed. Furthermore, this article could be used in whole or in part in a classroom to explore and discuss the topics I identified above.

Here are some quotations from the article, followed by some questions a teaching strategies to consider:

Social Media

Online, the video for his song Baby is YouTube’s third most viewed of all time. And nearly 2.7 million Twitter followers watch for messages from the Biebs, even if it’s simply an update on the Lakers game he’s watching.

Justin’s going to be the first artist to become a huge mainstream superstar based on the Internet and not based on anything else,’”

If I see he’s not Twittering, I tell him, ‘Get on your Twitter.’ Because it’s how his fans relate to him.

Marketing and Constructed Reality

Keeping up that intense feeling of personal connection via the Internet is incredibly important in marketing to the Bieber demographic, says Rob Bowman, who teaches popular music at York University.

Pattie Mallette was responsible for her son’s first marketing campaign. After Stratford Star, she posted grainy videos on YouTube that showed Justin singing at home. It was all out-of-the-mouths-of-babes R&B – songs by Chris Brown, Ne-Yo and Usher.

And yet Biebermania was concocted – it is the product of a carefully engineered marketing campaign that plucked a downy kid from small-town Ontario and relocated him to a hip-hop hotbed in the Deep South. In Atlanta, young Justin was transformed from the runner-up of a local talent competition to everybody’s boyfriend in what seems like no time.

I also felt like, Usher, being African-American, brought a different sensibility to Justin, a different amount of, I would say, credibility within the black community,”

Values and Beliefs and Target Audience

You’re appealing to a certain adolescent group who’ve got fairly innocent notions of romance,” explains the specialist in soul music and Grammy-award winner for best album notes. “These 12- and 13-year-olds … it’s a huge part of the bonding aspect, this innocent crush.”

On one level, this kind of popularity is an old story. Bieber fans who beg for a reply to their tweets that will make their dreams come true are kindred spirits with the be-legginged 11-year-olds who pressed their lips to New Kids on the Block posters or the screamers in the audience for The Ed Sullivan Show who wept while reaching for their favourite Beatle.

Keeping up that intense feeling of personal connection via the Internet is incredibly important in marketing to the Bieber demographic, says Rob Bowman, who teaches popular music at York University.

As you can see this is a very well thought out marketing campaign that is based on social media. They target audience, while no different than previous generations, are part of the 21st century’s digital generation. Educators need to understand this generation as well as the marketers. They have a responsibility to help this generation understand marketing and become Media Literate.

Possible questions ( with some links provided):

All mass media has business interests. How have business interests influence/shaped the way Justin’s musical talent is presented to the public ?

What is a demographic group ? What are the characteristics of the Bieber demographic ?

Check the definition for VALS marketing categories then take the VALS survey and identify in which category you belong.

A music video is both a form of entertainment and a commercial. Explain.

How does the Justin’s music video Baby appeal to a specific VALS category?

Does Justin’s appeal include both girls and boys ? Explain with references to the video.

Justin is not the first popular male singer to attract large female audiences

Explain the following terms: Bobby soxer Teenybopper Crooner

How are these audiences from different generations: a) similar

b) different

Michael Bublé and Justin Bieber competed for the 2010 Juno. How is Michael Bublé’s demographic different from Justin’s ? Explain

Do you think it is fair to compare performers who may have different demographics ? Explain.

DeGeneres has announced she is starting her own record label, with 12-year-old Greyson Chance as her debut artist.

What are the similarities between Greyson and Justin ?


Putting aside talent, in your opinion, whose marketing approach will be more effective ?

State your reasons.


After exploring the marketing methods used to build Justin’s success, what is your attitude towards:

a) the musician b) the marketers ?

State your reasons.

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2 thoughts on “Get Justin Bieber in Your Classroom to Teach Media Literacy

  1. Pingback: Surreal Thursday: Caravaggio at the Beach 2 « Dark Pines Photo

  2. Pingback: Big News: Benedict Cumberbatch & Justin Bieber « Dark Pines Photo

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