A great brand takes a lot of brains to come up with, and even more to execute properly. You need great ideas to create a brand, and you need some know-how and a whole lot of determination to make it happen.
However, a good brand goes hand in hand with good music and a successful career. You can find examples of great branding by simply observing many of your favorite artists; their social media presence, their art, right down to the way they dress is carefully tailored.
Some artists give you the impression that they have a great brand and a major vision for it, whereas other artists have a more off-the-cuff style that gives you the impression they don’t care all that much. But they do.
It doesn’t matter how punk you are or how funk you are, everything you do contributes to your brand as an artist whether you intended it to or not. Branding comes down to the way your audience perceives your band/artist.
Let’s look in to some lessons we can learn from some of the biggest artists in the world.
1. Arcade Fire: Make Mainstream Marketing Look Guerrilla
Arcade Fire’s brand has been firm and powerful since the day they burst onto the mainstream with The Suburbs. From the super creepy macramé heads to the suspenders – they’ve kept some elements of their brand the same for 10 years.
If something is working for your brand, it can be a smart move to keep that thing involved in your brand until it stops working.
However, the thing that is most interesting about Arcade Fire’s branding and marketing efforts is not their suspenders – it’s their ability to take mainstream marketing and make it look indie and come off as a guerrilla marketing effort.
There is something inherently cool about a DIY marketing campaign. They took super standard marketing moves: teasers, interviews, and publicity, but made them seem DIY.
For example, when they released their last album, Reflektor, they launched a gigantic sidewalk chalk campaign – chalking their Reflektor logo in major cities around the world. New York, Sidney, Toronto, Chicago, etc. It was a big undertaking.
Nobody knew that it was Arcade Fire’s doing until they released the artwork announcing their new album, and the logo was the same as the sidewalk graffiti.
They also threw a secret concert/party with a formal dress code, but nobody knew about it until social media blew up about it the next day.
They released little bits of various tracks as teasers, building towards their release.
Of course, the album was huge when it came out, and due in no small part to their super strong brand and marketing campaign.
2. Vulfpeck: Creating A Carefully Curated Brand That Is Easy To Maintain
One thing a lot of artists struggle with is the cost of maintaining an effective brand. Graphic design, photos, ads, they all cost a lot of money.
You need to keep your brand consistent over the course of years. Sometimes you’ll have the money to do so, and sometimes you won’t. So if you can create a brand for yourself that is easy to maintain, you’re much more likely to continue making that brand stronger.
Full disclosure, Vulfpeck is my favorite band. For their music, first and foremost, but I am also convinced that Jack Stratton is a marketing genius.
Their brand is based on DIY everything. Their records are recorded and mixed by the band, their videos are shot and edited by the band, their album art is designed by the band, and even their typeface is their own.
Even the way their voice on social media is designed for ease of use: no flowery language, just plain and simple. It’s beautiful.
Their fans (me!) go crazy for every little thing they put out. Recently, they released their signature font as a merch item. A font! That’s incredibly strong branding.
If you haven’t already, go check out their YouTube presence and then venture over to their Facebook page where their brand is on full display.
The most important thing to take from Vulfpeck is their well-curated, completely DIY brand. Everyone can learn from DIY that was done so right.
3. St. Vincent – Smart Product Placement
Indie darling St. Vincent has a beautifully maintained and carefully curated brand. With bold lines and angular designs that pair nicely with her music, St. Vincent is another artist who has primarily done things herself.
Sometimes product placement can feel like selling out, but St. Vincent paired with Intelligentsia coffee to put out a signature coffee, and it just felt right.
When you know your audience and you know what your brand is supposed to look and feel like, you can create product placement and merch that makes the brand stronger. High-end coffee was bound to test well with her following of hipsters, so the move made sense.
To tie a few examples together, Vulfpeck partnered with Goodhertz Inc. to put out their signature Vulf Compressor. Considering Vulfpeck’s fanbase is peppered with musicians, this form of product placement makes total sense. People want that Vulf sound, so they put out something people can buy to get it!
Avoiding cheesy marketing moves by taking normal marketing and getting creative will boost your brand and keep your audience interested.
4. Taylor Swift – Treat Your Fans Well
Taylor Swift has one of the best brands in the industry, and she needs to. As the highest earning artist in the world, her brand never stops moving.
The best thing about Taylor Swift’s brand is how she treats her fans. She’s always giving away memorabilia and gifts to her long-time and active fans. But more than that, she gives her time generously when she meets fans.
For example, she personally invited 89 fans to each of her homes to pre-listen to 1989 with her and give her feedback. That experience alone would make a forever fan.
People are way more likely to purchase things from a friend than a stranger. Because Swift makes fans feel like friends – while still maintaining her rock star image – her army of followers will remain loyal fans and consumers.