A common misconception about celebrities is that they keep changing and re-inventing themselves. Yes, they do change the packaging and their content every 2 years or so by going for that new haircut and adding that en-vogue beat to their newest single or collaborating with that new hip producer, but if you consider their image and branding you couldn’t be more stable. And that’s an important explanatory factor of their success. Some celebs literally look, dress, talk and sing exactly the same over decades, only the title and cover picture of their albums change. And that results in a stable image. And if there’s one thing audiences feel comfortable with and adhere to, it’s stable images.
People see ‘predictability’ as an important element of trust. That implies that once you’ve been put in an archetypical ‘box’ such as ‘rebel rock star’ or ‘teenage schoolgirl’ or ‘womanizer’ or ‘hippie singer-songwriter’ or ‘gangsta rapper’ (to name but a few successful archetypes in celeb land), people have trouble accepting facts and actions that are not in line with this expectation pattern. This unpredictability becomes unpleasant and fans are lost in the process. People often reduce celebrities to a 1-dimensional icon they aspire to. In fact, that’s why reading tabloids is often an unpleasant experience for fans: this ‘consistent’ image becomes shady and the image of a personality becomes that of a real person – and that’s when celebrity marketing becomes very tricky to control. Fact of the matter is, the history of pop culture has taught us that celebrities who change their image are not as successful as the ones who have stable archetypes.
Hot tweetaway: #Celebrities who change their image are not as succesful as the ones who have stable #archetypes insit.es/1tUMedR @HakimZemni #bandsnbrands
Compare today’s Mick Jagger with the sixties’ Mick Jagger: same haircut, same attitude, same facial expression, same voice, same vibe. If you would watch the concerts you would hear the same crowd-pleasing and -teasing quotes in between the same songs, with a similar sound and an equally stable Keith, Charlie and Ron in the back. Even their place on stage has not changed (Keith on the right, Ron on the left). Same image and branding in other words. More wrinkles that’s true and a shakier voice, yes, but definitely the same and extremely stable image.
Now think about Britney in 1999, 2007 and 2014. She sky-rocketed her career as a Disney-kid-gone-mainstream-pop by successfully tapping into the image of the perfect and sexy teenage schoolgirl singing about boys and coming-of-age love. Huge crowds followed her iconic road to success. But when Britney went ‘bad’ and shaved her head in 2007 general disappointment, disbelief and in some cases even flaming hatred from fans were noted. This is not what they expected from ‘their’ teenage schoolgirl. This is not ‘predictable behavior’ from a ‘pop princess’.
Had the ‘rehab-rebel girl’ Amy Winehouse undertaken this action, this might have brought more popularity and relevant buzz as she would have confirmed what she was famous for. But for Britney, this shaving exercise lost her a lot of appeal and fans overnight; flocking en masse to similar and more predictable alternatives like Avril Lavigne, Jessica Simpson, Mandy Moore and Hillary Duff. It wasn’t until Britney got back to her ‘original’ image and revived the old Britney that a true comeback was achieved. A case that clearly illustrates that sticking to your image is what it comes down to. Even now, we have trouble imagining Britney as a mom (she has two children) and as a grown up ‘woman’ (she has been 30+ for a while now) and that’s all caused by that teenage-girl-archetypal image we boxed her in.
So, what can Brands learn from Bands?
What this means for brands is simple: stick to your image. No matter what. All marketers know it: stay true to your root image, be consistent (and patient) and sooner or later you will capitalize on this consistency. If your image is ‘being cool’, then by all means keep your cool. If you target youngsters today, keep targeting youngsters 20 years from now and do not ‘cohort’ and follow your original target group. If you are a challenger in the market, don’t stop challenging once you’ve achieved taking over users from the dominant brand in the market. Constantly ask yourself ‘what would our founder have done’ or ‘which spirit did we actually launch the brand in’.
This is easier said than done, though. A lot of companies lose touch with their core values and connection with their users in the growth process. Marketing teams succeed to each other every 2 years or so in most companies (in fact, chances are that consumers and users are more loyal to the brand than the Chief Marketing Officer). This leads to a lack in consistency and to disoriented consumers. A lot of brands even have trouble pinpointing their archetype in the first place and do not know how consumers are ‘boxing’ them these days. Thorough consumer research and continuous connection with your most loyal fans and users is step 1 of this process of course: know what you stand for. The next step then is to keep this archetypical image consistent and keep communicating and interacting without changing.
Red Bull is a great example which needs little to no introduction. It is a brand that was launched back in the late 80s under the slogan it still uses today (Red Bull gives you wings, obviously), in a blue-and-silver can that has remained unchanged, a recipe that has been kept identical and secret throughout the years and a marketing approach that successfully keeps everything ‘surprisingly consistent’: adding an element of surprise to an ever-consistent image is thé reason to believe in the Red Bull branding. Today Red Bull is the undisputed commander of the global energy drink market, and it has been for a number of years already.
So, a suggestion for a next marketing team meeting: take the time to collect, print and gather all campaigns, logos, products, websites and communication you have ‘aired’ to consumers in the past 5 years and ask yourself ‘where is the consistency?’, ‘what do we stand for, looking at all this?’, ‘are we predictably surprising?’, ‘what message(s) are we putting across?’, ‘is everything aligned?’. If anything: this ‘stable archetyping tip is a plea to not change for the sake of changing.
Hot tweetaway: Dear marketers, don’t change for the sake of changing #stablearchetyping insit.es/1tUMedR by @HakimZemni via @CoolBrands #bandsnbrands
The question we are trying to address in this #bandsnbrands series is simple, really: What can marketing learn from celebrity marketing? Tune in on these celebrity-inspired tips, tricks & ideas and discover what brands can learn from bands!