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Myth and artist brand management

by michelle on September 24, 2013

Brand managers talk a lot about “essence” “identity” “iconography” and “myths”… They spend hours and countless studies to hone in on what’s “at the center” of a brand – and what the little things are about the product(s) that illustrate that core to the public. They build frameworks and graphic standards guides to steer marketing teams to “stay on message” to “stay on brand…”

Have you done this for your team? Are you just inferring to your publicist what your brand is, or do they know, really, what you are about? Are you expecting your agent to just “get it” or are you telling them what you are about? Does your bio even tell your brand story??

What are you doing to keep your team on the same page about you?

Artists are often understandably afraid to think about their brands because they worry the process of doing that will demystify something magical and integral about who they are. They worry if they know what those things are, the spell will be broken and they will cease to be authentic.

But if you don’t think about those things, then you are reinventing the wheel every time.

And if you don’t think about those things, likely you are devaluing some very important things about you.

And if you don’t think about those things, then how are you deciding what to say? How are you prioritizing?

Do you know what you are about?

Now, some artists are very lucky in that their brand is SO STRONG that everything they do emits the message. They stand for one thing so boldly, that all they have to do is show up and it reverberates from every note, every wardrobe item, every expression, every piece of merch, everything that comes from the artist.

But most artists are not like that – most resist being one thing. They have many interests, that shift over time. They want to defend the intricacies of who they are. And in that resistance, they run the risk of creating brand confusion – or in some cases even conflicting messages.

Like it or not, you represent something to fans. There is an unspoken myth they believe, and you play an important role in their own expression about what is right and wrong with the world. It’s not a bad thing! It is sacred. It is part of the artist-fan unspoken contract…

Often this myth is driven by the context/vibe of the first song(s) your fans heard. For artists who had particular songs that introduced them to audiences, that song IS the foundation for the mythology the fan perceives about the artist. An artist’s relationship with that song, then, becomes vital to career health.

It’s not so bad. Because most often that song IS so good because it represents the heart of where you come from. So be kind to that song. And whenever you feel far from your fans, go back to it. That song IS your friend, even if it’s an oldie.

It is wise to assess every so often what your fans think you stand for, and compare it against what you want to be known for. Are they a match?

If they are not a match, you must ask yourself… Have you tried to tell this about yourself yet? Do you believe your brand can make that shift? Is it believable? How long will it take to get there? What do you need to do? What choices should you make differently to position yourself that way?

If they are a match, you still have homework! You must ask yourself… Are you being ambitious enough? What do you need to do to grow and evolve your brand story? Healthy brands evolve, and evolution leads to new pathways and new fans. Stagnant brands struggle to grow. Make sure you don’t de-volve by getting stuck in the brand that used to be you!

Most of all, remember that having a BRAND IS GOOD.

1) It informs decisions – and actually makes them much easier to make. For you and your team.

2) It is the cornerstone of fan loyalty. Fans stick with the artists they “know” just like they stick with the companies they trust.

3) It affords you business benefits like price flexibility, negotiating leverage, competitive consideration advantage, and increases the quality of partners who want to work with you and what length they will be willing to go for you.

4) It informs the way you communicate with people. Especially in moments when you don’t think you know what to say, you will! And in a fast-paced environment like today, where deals are done over Twitter direct messages in 140 character increments, and miscommunication a constant peril, having the immediate ability to say something “on message” in real-time is essential!

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