5 Unbeatable Lessons in Branding You Can Learn from Musicians
They might teach you how to dance like nobody’s watching or sing in the rain, but if you’re a marketer, musicians can also teach you a thing or two about branding.
After all, top musicians are among the biggest brands in the entertainment world, often transcending geographical and linguistic boundaries. Nike has to spend billions on branding; Beyonce gets the same for free.
So what can you learn about branding from your favorite musicians? I’ll share some answers below.
Align your brand image with your market’s aspirations
What image comes to your mind when you think of Taylor Swift? Is it any different from your mental image of Metallica?
Of course it is. Apart from the obvious difference in music, there is a stark contrast in Swift’s and Metallica’s brand image. You’d likely describe the former as bright and youthful. The latter would be edgy and aggressive.
This contrast isn’t just a function of their musical genres. It’s also a result of their carefully constructed brand image.
Musicians – at least the successful ones – construct their brand based on their target market’s aspirations. This aspiration can be material (such as owning an exotic car or a big house). Or it can be reaching an emotional state (such as “happy” or “desired”).
This is why you see rappers shoot music videos with exotic cars in the background (material aspirations) and why pop videos usually have a bright, dream-like effervescence (emotional aspirations).
If you’re a marketer, think of what your customers aspire to (material or emotional). Highlight this aspiration in your marketing.
For example, Coca-Cola ads usually show happy, contented people – an emotional aspiration.
Control every brand touch-point
Has your favorite artist ever been accused of “selling out”?
In pure marketing-speak, an artist “selling out” is essentially the artist going off-brand. An indie band performing its songs at a Walmart event doesn’t impact its music. Rather, it impacts its brand image.
This is why top musicians are known for controlling every aspect of their music marketing. From the kind of outfits they wear to the kind of festivals they perform in, everything has to be “on-brand”. They know that a single off-brand appearance can shatter their carefully constructed image.
This is a compelling lesson for marketers. It’s easy to think of branding as just the way you design and advertise your products. But in reality, it is much more than that. Every single touch-point – from the packaging to the sales process – contributes to the brand image.
Make a list of every situation where the customer might have to interact with your brand. This includes:
- Packaging and product design
- Retail platforms (online and offline)
- Marketing – paid and organic
- Customer service and after sales support
All of these should espouse your core brand values.
The foremost example of this, of course, is Apple. From their retail stores to their packaging, every touch point has a distinct “Apple feel”.
Collaborate with other brands
It’s hard to go through a music playlist these days without encountering that familiar term – “ft.”
Cross-collaboration is a dominant phenomenon in music these days. Rappers collaborate with singers, producers with rappers, and rock bands with pop stars.
Besides artistic reasons, the purpose of these collaborations is to let one musician’s brand piggyback off another’s. This often happens when two musicians have somewhat similar, but distinct brands.
Individually, they might not be able to tap into the other’s audience. But with a collaboration, they suddenly get access to each other’s brand.
This is something you can try out with your business as well. Find a business with similar brand values and an overlapping audience. Work with them to produce a product that would appeal to both your audiences.
For example, the fashion brands Supreme and Louis Vuitton are similar in that they are both aspirational and have limited availability. However, one dabbles in streetwear (Supreme) while the other deals in high fashion (Louis Vuitton).
The collaboration between them led to the Supreme x LV range that brought both their audiences together – without straying off-brand.
Use targeted publications as a branding vehicle
Do you ever wonder why artists agree to appear in one magazine but reject another?
This has more to do with money or the quality of the publication. Rather, it’s about the publication’s own brand perception and target audience.
Top musicians don’t see magazine/show/festival appearances as just a way to get exposure. They also see it as a way to complement their brand. This is why you’ll see an up and coming rapper on a late night show, but not a daytime show – the latter doesn’t align with their brand image.
Keep this in mind when you’re choosing what press outlets to promote your business on. Don’t just look at their pageviews or engagement. Rather, consider all the following:
- What is this outlet’s brand perception?
- What is its target audience? Do they align with our product’s audience?
- What values does this outlet espouse? How do they correlate to ours?
Essentially, you want audience and brand fit, not just exposure from your marketing efforts.
Push your brand with better content marketing
“Content marketing” might feel like a recent term, but that’s exactly what musicians have been doing for decades.
With the internet, however, some musicians are pushing the boundaries of “content” even further. Not only is this earning them new fans but also helping them build better brands.
For example, consider Beyonce’s latest release, OTR II. Instead of releasing the entire album, Beyonce built up hype by posting a teaser on her YouTube page:
This was complemented by a landing page on Tidal.
Every aspect of this album had the same aesthetic quality – darker and more nostalgic. This was a sharp contrast from Beyonce’s last album Lemonade.
Yet, the new album feels more cohesive every customer touch point is “on-brand” – a valuable quality for any brand pivot.
Think of these innovations when you’re creating your content marketing campaigns. Getting traffic is nice, but also consider if your content pieces complement each other and your brand.
- Is this content piece related to my existing content pieces? If not, why?
- How does this content piece affect my brand?
- If I’m doing a brand pivot, how does this content piece contribute to it?
This will help you run content marketing campaigns that not only get you more traffic, but also promote your brand.
Top musicians are powerful brands in their own right. Because musicians often take bigger creative risks than businesses can, they can teach you a lot about innovative branding strategies. Start with these five lessons. Then analyze your favorite artists to see what you can learn from them.