How much real-world influence does a popular entertainer really exercise?
Normally, that’s an incredibly tricky question to try to answer. Why? Because there are just so many variables in play that it makes proving air-tight causal links between pop culture and real-world behavior virtually impossible. Besides that, artists and entertainment creators often try to downplay the link between the products they create and the effects of their material on people in Wichita or Kennebunkport or Saratoga Springs.
Every so often, though, that cause-and-effect link is so clear, so obvious as to be undeniable. And we had one this week, courtesy of Beyoncé’s new single “Formation.”
It no doubt helped, of course, that she performed the song in front of an estimated 115.5 million viewers on TV at the Super Bowl 50 halftime show (which Plugged In’s Bob Waliszewski has already written about here.) Even so, the (racially controversial) song has gotten plenty of traction online, too, with YouTube viewers watching the “clean” and “dirty” versions of “Formation” more than 18 million times in their first three days online.
And all that exposure has led to a rather odd cause-and-effect story. Specifically, prompting people to go to Red Lobster. Yeah, you read that right: A new Beyoncé song has inspired people to get in touch with their inner seafood lover.
It all stems from a profane, too-graphic-to-print-here lyric about sex, after which Beyoncé says she’s gonna “take his a– to Red Lobster, ’cause I slay.”
Result? The day after the video’s release, Red Lobster saw sales spike 33% compared to the same day last year. Meanwhile, Twitter mentions of the venerable seafood restaurant totaled 42,000 in a single hour after “Formation” debuted online.
The franchise wasted no time connecting the dots itself, tweeting (awkwardly) “‘Cheddar Bey Biscuits’ has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? #Formation @Beyonce.”
In this particular case, it’s impossible to miss the media-behavior correlation. Hear a lyric uttered by Queen Bey, get a hankering for shrimp scampi. “Honey, we should go to Red Lobster. We haven’t been there in a long time.”
Most of the time, as I mentioned above, it’s harder to connect such dots. Still, this breathtakingly weird correlation (Beyoncé and Red Lobster? Really?) is a reminder that the entertainment people see, hear and engage with can influence their actions in the real world—sometimes in ways a lot more problematic than hopping in the car for a spontaneous jaunt down to a seafood restaurant.