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Beyoncé, Red Lobster and Harvard Business School: Unlikely Bedfellows?

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What do mega star Beyoncé, seafood chain Red Lobster and Harvard Business School (HBS) have in common? For a brief stint earlier today, a little more than usual. An enterprising reporter at stumbled upon a quirky little tidbit of not-quite news—namely, that typing “Red Lobster Boston” into Google Maps returned a result suggesting that a branch of the chain restaurant glorified in Bey’s latest song could be found on the HBS campus.

It’s not true. “I had no knowledge of this and don’t understand how it could happen, because there’s no Red Lobster on this campus,” Jim Aisner, HBS director of media and public relations, told the reporter with a laugh—reportedly after typing the search term into the map tool himself and seeing the business school pop up.

Beyoncé, Red Lobster and Harvard Business School


In case you haven’t been following along, Beyoncé released a new song and video—entitled “Formation”—a day before performing it live at the Super Bowl halftime. In the song, she sings about taking a man to the sit-down seafood chain for post-coital cheddar bay biscuits. (For what it’s worth, she tackles a few weightier issues as well, including race in America, Hurricane Katrina and police brutality.)

According to a report, the restaurant chain saw a 33 percent increase in sales on Sunday over the previous year as a result of the star’s surprise endorsement, which occasioned 42,000 Twitter mentions in a single hour and propelled the brand to trending status for the first time ever. (A couple of hours after the halftime show, Red Lobster tweeted out this gem: “Cheddar Bey Biscuits” has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? #Formation @Beyonce.”)

HBS, for its part, wasn’t going to be left out of a potential trending opportunity. “As we confirmed this morning, there is no Red Lobster on campus. “Sorry @Beyonce fans,” read the school’s Twitter feed not long after the story ran.

Neither Red Lobster nor Google returned’s request for comment on why HBS might have popped up in search results for Boston-area outposts. As of this writing, the anomaly has been corrected. Red Lobster’s own website offers the following message in response to the same query: “We’re sorry, there are currently no Red Lobster restaurants located in your area. We look forward to serving you in the future as we continue to grow and expand across the country.”

An HBS Case in the Making?
What remains to be seen is whether more of a true connection could emerge between the former Destiny’s Child star, the Lakeland, Florida‒born restaurant chain and the Boston business school. Will HBS employ its famed case method to examine the marketing phenomenon that unfolded around the Super Bowl “Formation” performance, its biscuit endorsement and Red Lobster’s resulting spike in sales? Or perhaps around how Red Lobster could have made even more of the opportunity?

It’s certainly plausible. In fact, Beyoncé has made her way into HBS classroom discussion before. An August 2014 case by HBS Professor Anita Elberse and Stacie Smith examined the December 2013 release of the star’s eponymous album. That case dug into the unorthodox release of the album—by Beyoncé’s company Parkwood Entertainment in partnership with Sony Music’s label Columbia Records—without any prior promotion.

Elberse, for her part, specializes in studying the power of top-tier entertainment stars.  She even teaches a course as part of the school’s executive education offerings—called “Business of Entertainment, Media and Sports (BEMS)”—in which real celebrities sit side by side with entertainment executives to examine how to turn a star’s brand enterprise and influence into profit. According to a Forbes piece last week, basketball star Dwayne Wade, linebacker Brandon Marshall and supermodel Karlie Kloss, among other celebs who chose to remain anonymous, have taken part. Elberse has used the Beyoncé case as teaching material in the BEMS course.

Wouldn’t it be a coup if Elberse could convince Bey herself to drop by when she next teaches the BEMS course, slated for June 1 to 4, 2016? HBS: That gives you a few months to find a spot for a Red Lobster on campus.