Are you treating everything you ship as its own branded product? This is the mark of a world class creator. Not only making things, but also building, protecting and nurturing the symbolic, social and emotion capital around those things. Because brands, at their most anthropological level, are deliberately designed semiotics. Intentionally crafted communication tools. Cultural symbols and signposts that transmit social behavior, interpret intangible qualities and inform people’s mindset.
CONTENT BRANDING — Building, protecting and nurturing the symbolic, social and emotion capital around your work
Musgraves is a phenomenal singer, songwriter and performer, for numerous reasons. She sings like an angel, looks like a supermodel, dresses like a princess, and writes about progressive and controversial issues. No wonder she’s won tons of awards and dubbed as the new country music legend. But after seeing her in concert, something occurs to you. Something that only a small percentage of artists execute effectively. Every one of her songs is its own branded product. Kacey has her umbrella brand as an entertainer, but underneath that, each song is like a horizontal line extension. A different item within her category. Creatively, each song has its own tone, atmosphere and feel. And also commercially, each song has its own target market, unique selling proposition, shelf life and purpose. For example, when she sings about lonely weekends, key lyrics, themes and landscapes connected to that song are beautifully rendered on the screen behind her. Reminding the audience exactly what idea she’s conveying with that particular tune. When she sings about being happy and sad at the same time, you notice that the tearful smiley face memes that are connected to that song appear on the merchandise in the lobby, and even on a few of her audience member’s bodies as tattoos. Reminding the audience exactly how to keep the feelings of that song alive after the show is over. When she sings about space cowboys, butterflies or trying to break out of a small town, everyone in the crowd participates in those songs with specific dance moves, hand gestures, callouts and interactive behaviors. Reminding the audience that each tune joins them together for a unique experience that they can’t get from any other artist.
I come from a long line of merchandisers. Every generation of my family, going back to The Great Depression, was in the business of promoting and selling their wares. Shoes, hardlines, cookware, apparel, gifts, closeouts, discount goods, problem inventories, they’ve peddled it all. When I started own company years ago, I followed suit. The only difference was, my product was intangible. As a writer, , instead of selling shoes, I sold ideas. I carried my truth to market, every day. And that meant I had an obligation to ask one question, over and over: What’s that called? And any time I witness something, I name it. I give it a phrase, a brand, a title, a label, a handle, a designation, a moniker or a signature.
Content branding is in my blood. When you come from a family of merchandisers, that’s what you do. You name things. Also, I want to do justice to the things I notice. When I see something that’s a beautiful reminder of what could be, I want to make it easy to share with people. But the big reason I name things is, when you name it, you create the category. When you create the category, you set the standard. When you set the standard, you own the mindshare. When you own the mindshare, you become the superior voice. And when you become the superior voice, anyone who follows will be compared to you. Coin a new word, create a new world.
Artists don’t typically tend to think about their work through the game of of content branding, but maybe they should. Brands may be the symbols of the capitalist system, however branding doesn’t have to be a dirty word. It can simply be a tool for getting your words out into the world. How are you making it easy for people to invite your brand into their lives?
Build a consistent, unique, recognizable body of work as an artist
Connect with audiences through unique creative experiences
Make your work easier to share, productize, license and monetize
Extend the average amount of leverage from everything you produce