When today’s top entertainers aren’t busy birthing memes, selling out stadiums, and signing books, they dominate popular culture by appealing to a new generation of consumers who expect content that is in-the-moment, authentic, and relevant to their respective lifestyles.
Here are three moves brands can steal from the likes of Aziz Ansari, Drake, and Taylor Swift to build their own fan bases in 2016.
Be Diverse & Prolific Or Be Forgotten
In 2015, we saw entertainers widen the scope of their brands beyond their primary competencies. One example is Aziz Ansari, who parlayed his success as a stand-up comic into building a multi-channel brand around the theme of “modern dating.” Between writing and releasing a lucrative book (Modern Romance), producing and starring in a critically-acclaimed Netflix original series (“Master of None”), and continuing to be pop culture’s de facto commentator on modern romance through stand-up and the late night TV circuit, Ansari’s message reached people from all angles, and thus his brand reached new heights. While there is overlap, each piece of content feels fresh and differentiated; the added layers only enhance his reach and his appeal to fans. Beyond expanding their repertoires, entertainers – especially those in the music industry – felt the pressure to produce more “stuff” than ever before. Artists like Drake, who found new ways to stay on the cultural radar, won big in 2015. Incredibly, Drake became the most-streamed artist on Spotify without releasing a full-length album, thanks to two mixtapes and collaborations with the likes of Future, and a Grammy-nominated diss track that was produced in less than 24 hours. Moreover, in the post-MTV era, he released one of the most buzzed about music videos of the year, “Hotline Bling,” in which he presented himself as a living, breathing, dad-dancing meme. Brand learning: Brands can stay relevant by mixing up their approach to content – expanding their storytelling beyond traditional advertising to incorporate short-form and even user-generated content. By diversifying the content mix and enlisting real people to help tell their stories, brands can be more prolific and always-on in the context of cultural conversations.
Relatability Trumps Unattainability
During Hollywood’s heyday and in the decades that followed, celebrities were portrayed as glamorized figures whose lives were largely perceived as unattainable and unrelatable. But as technology and media trends have evolved, so has our perception of the rich and famous. For many celebrities, social media gives us a glimpse into their worlds as they truly exist. Whether it’s Kate Hudson Instagram-ing trips to the dentist or athletes baring their souls in The Players’ Tribune, technology has allowed us to see entertainers in more authentic ways. “Stars – they’re just like us.” Of course, for many entertainers, relatability is a calculated factor in the shaping of their empires. Taylor Swift emerges as the prime example of this trend. Across social media, Swift has sculpted a brand that is fan-centric, down-to-earth, and remarkably in tune to what’s trending in culture. She shares childhood #TBT photos like the rest of us, and once sported a custom T-shirt that referenced an image that went viral on Tumblr. Brand learning: Millennials might not be fans of blatant advertising (some studies suggest up to 30 percent of them have installed some form of ad-blocking software), but brands still have meaning in their lives. Consumers are looking to support companies whose values align with their own, which is where accessibility comes to play. Be human, be real, and be authentic.
Build Your Brand Through Consistent Reinvention
A final commonality among the year’s top entertainers is their ability to appeal to new audiences as their careers evolve. Swift is an obvious example of this theme – and has been ever since she ditched her cowboy boots for pop fame in 2012 – as is Drake, who has effectively blended a conventional rap style with Top 40 choruses (and meme-worthy dance moves) to win over music-fans outside of the hip hop universe. And let’s not forget Justin Bieber, who somewhat-ironically seduced Williamsburg’s hipster crowd with “Sorry,” the neighborhood’s No. 1 most-played song in 2015, per Spotify. In 2015, brands found success by using consumer insights and social listening to identify new pockets of fans to connect with through their marketing. Carhartt, a brand typically associated with durable workwear, catered to trendy urban Millennials with its “Work in Progress” line of products and Oreo continued to shift from moms to Millennials through a snack-sized digital content strategy and a clever eCommerce play that came just in time for the holidays. Another classic brand cashing in on new audiences: L.L. Bean, whose “duck boots” have become a Pinterest darling and are on backorder until early 2016. Brand learning: As culture shifts, brands can stay relevant by keeping an ear to the ground and tracking consumer behavior that may point to opportunities to reach new audiences. With Millennials and Gen Z-ers, what’s “old” can be new again, and traditional brands can find new life by sculpting their marketing strategy and even their products to align with a new guard of consumers.