As most in the movie theater for the showing of the documentary “Never Say Never” , watched in awe as its subject, Justin Bieber, flipped that wonderful hair off his wonderfully cherubic face, I watched in awe as his first-class management team, including Usher and Scooter Braun, skillfully carried out the tenets of Branding 101. It’ s not without good reason that this flop-top-pop star has become the successful brand he has, the reason or, rather, reasons, being as follows.
1. Overnight never happens overnight.
While it may seem that Justin Bieber and any number of other strong brands magically appear overnight, this is not the case. It takes laser focus on a clear objective delivered consistently and with due diligence over a period of time to win hearts and minds, especially in this very competitive, noisy marketplace. Justin did his time playing in shopping malls and in parking lots from Cleveland to Syracuse, and visiting radio station after radio station with his finely tuned act, all while remaining conscientiously attentive to his musical concept. Brands that succeed, be it an Apple or a Jet Blue, a Boyz II Men or a Bieber, ensure they stick to the basics, do the basics well and never veer from what they want to stand for in the minds of consumers.
2. No detail is too small
The experience–and reputation–of a brand is the sum of its parts, no matter how big or small this part may be. Even with its breadth and depth of inventory, Zappos wouldn’t be Zappos without the quick and friendly e-mail follow-up or its super easy return process. Be it his vocal coaching, his hair stylist, his back-up singers or his choice of public relations initiatives, those in charge of the Justin Bieber brand, including Justin himself, know that one inauthentic move, one missed detail, one non-Bieber incident, could make non-Beliebers out of his fans
3. Tell your own story
If you don’t say it, who will? Except maybe the millions of people on YouTube or with Twitter accounts. The best brands grab hold of the message they want to communicate and they communicate it in a style commensurate with the image they want to evoke. Take Unilever’s Dove brand, for instance. Starting with its brilliant “Evolution” video, in which a lovely young women is morphed into a stunning, but unrecognizable version of herself by means of make-up and heavy photo-shopping, the Dove brand team continues to build on its idea that every woman deserves to feel beautiful just the way she is. It’s a campaign that’s lasted and, more important, outlasted its many online parodies. “Never Say Never” was a brilliant way for the Bieber brand team to tell its story and, just as brilliantly, get it out there when the media wind was at its back. When you’re on a roll, do what you can to keep the momentum going.
4. Keep good company
Or, said another way, the company you keep can help define your brand. Gatorade gets a burst of branding energy from its association with professional sports brands, and Visa, a healthy lift from being associated with the Olympics brand. These alignments are smart because they’re in line with how these brands want to be–and are–perceived. In similar spirit, Justin Bieber’s brand image gets serious street cred from his association with American recording artist, dancer, and all-around super-star Usher, not to mention the likes of Miley Cyrus, Jaden Smith and Ludacris.
5. Oh, yes. Make sure you’ve got a good product.
I did say I enjoyed watching “Never Say Never,” didn’t I? And although it was partly because I appreciated the branding acumen of the Bieber team, the kid can sing. He’s personable. He’s professional. All in all, he’s good at what he does and he is what he says he is. At the end of the day, if a brand can’t deliver on expectations and do what it’s supposed to do competently, if not better than all the rest, well, it should keep its day job. Justin, in my branding book, you’re doing okay, kid.