As a creative, you tell yourself you have one job; to create. But you know that’s not true. Especially with all of these “marketing gurus” pushing their fan base growth methods and social media tactics on you, you’re well aware that there’s much more to being a successful artist than making a hit and cashing out.
A buzz word that’s thrown around constantly by these "gurus" on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and even at music conferences is “Brand”. The idea that you have to tell your story to get noticed and people will become true fans. You may have heard this once or twice. Maybe 100 times.
Okay, but it’s not that simple. Nothing worthwhile ever is, so why is brand strategy being treated like a passive exercise where you just have to, as most people say, “think about who you are, and be authentic”. Like it’s some sort of self-awareness light switch that will all of a sudden make you famous because you know yourself.
There’s a lot more to it than that. If it was that easy, I wouldn’t have a job. However, it can be broken down into a framework that provides the steps to do it yourself.
So why is brand strategy so important? And why does it seem like it costs tens, or even hundreds of thousands to build? Is it not reserved for massive corporations who have hundreds of products and spend millions of dollars on marketing? Is that not the job of the major labels to create these strategies? Do us little guys even need to waste our time with creating another document that will likely sit deep within the bowels of our computers, never to be implemented?
We absolutely do! And you will very quickly realise it’s not a waste of time and it can be done for free! Admittedly not as effectively, but as a brand consultant I have to say that...
I always like to ask this question to clients, friends, and even myself from time to time.
“What if I told you that your confidence is directly related to your success, and that being self-aware is the most important piece of the confidence equation?”
Would you take the time required to develop that self-awareness and build a plan to execute against it? I definitely would. And I have…
Before I go any further, let me define what a brand strategy is, since almost everyone on the internet gives a very high-level and frankly useless explanation of it.
A brand strategy, or “your brand”, defines what you stand for, a promise you make to your fans, and the personality you convey. Not only does brand strategy help you stand out from your competition (other artists), but it helps you stand out from every other person or business. It’s how you are DEFFERENT, and you need to figure this out before you do anything else.
A clear brand strategy allows for more deliberate decision making, better overall marketing and positioning, and builds a foundation for future growth. It inevitably builds equity over time and when its contents are authentic and unconventional, it’s far less likely that marketing efforts will fall flat on their face.
Alright, so you get the point. It’s important. But what does a brand strategy consist of?
I will outline below the 5 main sections of a brand strategy and how to define each.
This is always where I start with every client. Whether they are an artist or a business, story is very important. It gives an unbelievable amount of context to who you are as a person and why you do what you do.
Of course you know your story, but no one else does. Write it down, tell someone about it, discuss key events with people often that are relevant to your career. Doing this will not only get it out in the open, but you will realize things about yourself that are very important to building a brand.
What does your life look like when you’ve accomplished your ultimate goal? This is not a specific goal, but a vivid description of what your life looks like at that time. Who’s around you? where do you live? What type of music are you creating? Have you expanded to do more than just music?
Be specific here. It’s a lot easier to give directions when you know the destination.
What do you really care about?
This question is a hard one for most people, simply because they always gravitate towards the low hanging fruit. Honesty, integrity, loyalty. I always call people out on these.
“Honesty… So you never lie? Ever?”
You need to think deeper and put yourself in specific situations. How would you act if your manager stabbed you in the back? Would you lash out or stay calm and fix the problem? If so, that’s composure. That’s a core value of yours. Use it and uphold it!
Tip: you should have no more than 8 core values. You can't just list all of the good qualities that come to mind. You're not a saint!
This one seems logical, but a lot of people have a hard time putting their finger on their own personality. No, you’re not as funny as you think.
The best way to do this is to assess yourself by defining your voice and tone, then asking people that know you well.
“Hey mom, how would you define my personality in 5 words or less”
If she says you’re a spoiled brat just ignore that and tell her to elaborate.
Ask as many people as you feel necessary, and ask yourself continuously "do I really feel as though I am that way?", "is this a positive personality trait that I can focus on to create a brand that gets attention?"
5. Visual attributes
This is the fun part. Defining your style and how people see you from an aesthetics perspective. It’s definitely not the most important aspect of branding, which is a common misconception, but it has its value.
The fun part about this is you have control over it. However, if all of a sudden you start wearing grills and gold chains when before you were wearing polo shirts and khakis, you might want to check yourself.
Define your style and how that translates into the visuals you use on your digital platforms as well.
find inspiration and put your own twist on it.
These are 5 of the most important aspects to creating a brand strategy, and the best part is, it's the second most valuable thing besides your music. There are a lot more steps, and it gets very specific when you start building out contextual communication methods for each individual platform. Or when you build out promotional frameworks that operate based on releases, tours, projects, collaborations, etc. But spending your time on these 5 will give you a ton of confidence and the ability to actually build a fan base.
By defining each of these you will realize a lot about yourself. I guess this is why the artists and business owners I work with call me their therapist…
Be authentic, be honest with yourself, and stay true to your craft and sound. It is only clearly defined sense of self-awareness and consistency that build great brands over time.
Now go get it!
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