What we’ll cover:

Branding lessons from the superstars 1

Branding Lessons from the Superstars

Establish a narrative

Important to any brand is the narrative which underpins it. This is the central ‘story’ behind the project or the plotline you’re trying to sell to the world. Post-Hannah Montana, Miley Cyrus was faced with the issue of making music that would sell on a mass scale and moving beyond her Disney princess stereotype. Love her or loathe her, Miley’s antics (and new image) at the VMAs and in her video for ‘Wrecking Ball’ changed the public perception of her. Whether intentionally or not, she rebranded herself by changing her narrative from a gentle country girl, looking out optimistically at the world, to one of complete contrast: a rebellious young adult, with a penchant for pop tunes with aggressive lyrics and sexualised hooks. The whole world started talking about Miley Cyrus and ‘what had happened to her’; the publicity created by changing her narrative undeniably helped her to become an international star. In 2017, Miley made her return to music after a hiatus for a couple of years. This time, with tracks like ‘Malibu’, Miley changed her narrative once more. She promoted her new material with an aura of ‘reflection’, detailing how she struggled with fame and documenting her issues with drug use.

Be bold

Nobody is more polarizing in the pop industry than Lady Gaga; whether she’s dressed in meat or as condom you can’t deny that Gaga goes big and she goes bold. Gaga’s stylistic choices are designed to shock but they also come with added meaning; notably her risque dress sense linked directly into the sociological issues of fame brought up in her album ‘The Fame’. Learn from Gaga, she’s bold but she underpins it through a deeper narrative that is reflected through her music.

Set up your image and style and roll with it, and just keeping rolling with it

Ed Sheeran is just ‘that ginger with a guitar’ and Liam Gallagher is ‘that angry bloke with the mod cut and the long anorak’ – but these styles work, they’re natural,  they’re effortless and that’s why people love them. Think about how you want to look, settle on something and then rock it – after all, the Gallagher brothers and Oasis came to define the entire genre of Britpop.

Endorse the right things, be authentic

As you get bigger you’re going to get offers for product endorsement and advertising opportunities. Think carefully about how these brands fit within your style and narrative. For example, you’d never have found Miley Cyrus promoting safe-sex throughout her crazy teenage years nor the Gallagher’s advertising hairspray or gel. Your brand and the product brand should match and work effortlessly together; just because there is a huge pay cheque on the table you need to make sure that this does not actually have a negative impact on your career. You’re fighting for authenticity, you want fans to believe you are who you say you are – don’t give them a reason to doubt you. Nicole Scherzinger’s work with herbal essences is heavily sexualised and you can see similar themes within her music videos (that’s why it works) – consider the stylistic comparisons between her advert titled ‘Honey I’m Strong’ and music videos ‘Your Love’ and ‘Try With Me’.

Tie everything in, make your mark with graphics

Once you’ve built your brand, think about how your graphics and album artwork fit within it. The legendary graphic designer Storm Thorgerson, responsible for Pink Floyd’s’ Dark Side of the Moon’ cover, was famous for layering context and storytelling into his album art. Make sure your logos and branding are featured across all your social media platforms and making them all tie in to promote the same material.

Adapt to survive

When you’re growing as an artist you are going to have to deal with unexpected events and issues; it is going to be necessary at times to tweak your image and creative direction to suit the changing circumstances of your music career. Think about what happens when a band member leaves or your personal circumstances change – for example, Miley had to grow up at some point! Notably, Take That have had to deal with a changing number in the group for many years after Robbie’s decision to leave as well as Jason Orange’s in 2014. Take That responded by using the concept of ‘three’ to brand their new album – using this difference to highlight a change in musical style. It was something the band have done before. Their album artwork ‘Progress’ plays on the fact  it was the first time the band returned to a complete five-piece since their initial break-up, and refers to the progress they’d made in their music and their relationship with one another.


Like the products you choose to endorse, the artists you choose to collaborate with also impact on your branding – their style and what they stand for become associated with you if you choose to collaborate. Don’t just choose someone because of their fanbase, think about what they can do stylistically for your career. Ed Sheeran’s discovery is closely associated with his work with the up and coming grime scene and has helped him never to be defined as a simplistic ‘pop star’. Also consider Jess Glynne, who helped launch her career with a successful collaboration with Clean Bandit (launching their career in the process) on tracks like ‘Real Love’ and ‘Rather Be’ –  the group’s musical arrangements showed off Glynne’s vocal range with both styles intertwining effortlessly.

Read our full article on Collaboration here

7 Stand up for something – become known for that good thing

Your brand and your identity will inevitably take a hit and be challenged if you turn down charity work and aren’t deemed to be philanthropists. Take part in charity concerts, try and get in on a charity single and even donate proceeds to disasters. This attitude  might seem a little forced and contrived but you should want to do these things anyway. If there is something you feel particular strongly for or there is something that has directly affected you, then push them and give those issues real attention.  For some people, Bob Geldof is known for his role as the lead singer of The Boomtown Rats, for whole other generations Geldof’s is a political activist responsible for Band Aid, Live Aid and ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’.

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