Wow… It’s been a minute. Over the past three weeks, I left home, moved to New York City, signed my first lease, and began my career as a merchandise assistant for Macys.com. It’s been exciting. It’s been stressful. It’s been a lot. Now that I’m here and somewhat settled, it’s time to get back in the game. After taking a second to look at the variety of things that I already do, this new position looks like it will be an exciting, new notch on my belt. With that said, I think this is the perfect time for one of my branding lessons.
In previous discussions, we’ve taken in-depth looks at the brands of artists like Lana Del Rey and Frank Ocean, but now, let’s look at [your] brand. This lesson is inspired by an article I read on Jay Z, one of modern pop culture’s purest examples of a [mogul] in motion, that really opened my eyes to the importance of developing longevity and expanding your brand in innovative ways. This is a big subject, so I’m breaking the lesson up into four sections for your reading convenience. Let’s get started.
If I listed all of Shawn Carter’s track record, this lesson would take so long that you’d drop the class, so I’ll shoot straight to the point. Jay Z has studied the game and its greatest players and used that knowledge to develop himself into an extremely well-rounded businessman with a net worth of $450 million. A large chunk of his power has come from strategically managing and developing his empire the right way. I’ll give you guys a sneak peek at my notes from [Branding 102 - Longevity & Expansion], taught by the one and only Prof. Carter.
I. Be Effectively Translatable
Lesson: When Jay Z dropped his first album, Reasonable Doubt, back in 1996, he got mad respect from his early fans for the rawness of his lyrics and the complex nature of the writing, however, that complexity limited his reach to a broader audience. When it came time for his sophomore album, In My Lifetime, Vol. I, he switched things up a bit and started trying to translate his messages into a more “appealing” dialogue, which some fans and critics described as being too mainstream, and even selling out. Despite that mixed criticism, Jay eventually found the perfect balance between mainstream and street mentality by lightening up the language a bit, yet still keeping the meaning just as deep. Once he found a way to maintain his authenticity and still reach those other audiences, his following grew and strengthened.
Application: Whether you write, rap, make art, or make money, find ways to ensure that your offering remains true to your brand identity, but can still be appreciated by different groups. There’s power in numbers and the more people that ride for your cause, the more added value you gain. Make your work provide an [experience] that an audience can appreciate in its entirety, even if they aren’t completely familiar with your industry, field, or craft. You might be the brand that changes their entire view on an area of work.
Disclaimer: Depending on your personal brand identity, mainstream may not be in your DNA and that’s okay. Mass followings aren’t for everyone. Look at Janelle Monáe or Lana Del Rey. They’re amazing artists, but they’re nowhere close to sitting next to Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, or Justin Bieber.
Like I said, I’m not going to pile it all on you guys at once, so let Lesson I sink in and class will resume tomorrow at 9 a.m. (or whenever you guys return).