Some of the world’s most relevant brands have partnered with major recording artists over the years, achieving massive impact with their audiences and benefiting from the respective artists' credibility and cool along the way.
What sets these particular brands apart from the pack is the fact that they seem to have evolved their own behaviour, taking it that one step further by observing the way in which artists inspire, build and maintain their fanbases, adapting these ideas to become icons themselves.
At a young age most music artists will have already developed and perfected their product, raised their awareness via social media and performances at key grassroots venues, and surrounded themselves with people who can take them to future success.
They are expert brand builders, taking their product from their bedrooms to stadiums powered by vision, perseverance, and instinct alone. So what if we were to put their celebrity aside for a moment and consider them as brand marketing experts. What could we learn?
The principles below aren’t new, but the right combination of ideas – inspired by the approaches of some of the world’s biggest artists to their own brands – could help unlock a level of resonance that eludes many consumer brands today.
A passionate POV
Artists with a clear and passionate point of view inspire more loyalty, deeper connection and more trust.
Nike’s "Just Do It" has inspired millions over decades with its countless reinterpretations of the simple core message that "we all can be champions as long as we try".
An artist like Adele who has always worn her heart on her sleeve has won the hearts and minds of a global audience, selling more than 50m albums worldwide by simply being herself, and in doing so reinforcing the idea that anyone can win, no matter where they come from, as long as they are true to themselves.
Just like Adele, Nike is simple, honest and human in its point of view, as a result resonating with its audiences no matter who they are.
Audiences are inspired by and admire artists who push boundaries and appear to take creative chances.
Kanye West is divisive as a personality. But with the knowledge that he has achieved commercial success, the respect of his peers and the love of his fans, West has a rare creative confidence that sees him constantly experimenting and pushing boundaries.
Like other brands, Red Bull has KPIs and a product to sell – what sets it apart is the way it chooses to do this. Culture Clash, Formula-E team, Air Race, and Studios are just a few examples of a creative confidence, which fuels the brand’s relevance.
Both Kanye and Red Bull have the basics covered and receive immeasurable value from creative freedom.
The ecosystem of influence
Music audiences value referral more than ever before with a majority only checking out new material recommended by a voice they trust.
Ed Sheeran famously started his career by sofa surfing while he played London open mic nights trying to get his break. The artists he came up with went on to become the basis of his network. Years later, having sold millions of records, Ed still sees making "friends" wherever he goes as key to his ongoing success, always remaining connected.
Beats By Dre has cemented a status that far outreaches the influence of its CEO and co-founder simply by building relationships at multiple levels of pop culture. An aggressive product seeding strategy spans from locally targeted activations such as 2015’s #soloselfie or #straightoutta to global TVCs featuring major sporting talents. The brand has a positive association to tap into at all levels, at all times.
The fan mentality
Music fans follow artists who surprise them with spontaneity more attentively and with more loyalty than those who don’t.
Beyonce is true fan of her fans: she goes to great lengths to ensure they remain inspired by her every move. Surprise albums, huge productions, ambitious content and philanthropy contribute to a feeling she cares deeply about those who support her.
With Apple, a brand that embodies the fan mentality, obvious comparisons appear. For many devotees, the month of September means a hotly anticipated Apple product reveal, with thousands of adults acting like a teenage fan would when Beyonce tickets go on sale.
Apple still creates "queue around the block" moments after all these years. It was one of the first brands to treat its consumers like fans, its products like art and its creators like rock stars, repeatedly reinventing the playbook for how brands can think and move like artists.
So how about taking a new approach to creative strategy at your next brand meeting? Consider what would happen if you decided to story-tell like Adele, get out of bed like Ed, create like Kanye or bring it like Beyonce?
Mike Dowuona is managing director and lead creative strategist at Crush