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Brand Management

The Strategic Rise Of Female Superbranders

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The Meteoric Rise Of Female Superbranders

Late last year, thousands seized YouTube as Reese Witherspoon climbed into an oversized clothing trunk sent by Witherspoon’s BFF Beyonce and climbed out wearing Queen Bey’s new Adidas X Ivy Park Collection.

Posted on Instagram, the stunt for Beyonce’s new activewear brand was viewed by gazillions.

This is just one of the continuing stream of launches activated by female entrepreneurs over recent months.

Bottom line, it’s not enough to be (just) a music artist or actor anymore. Those gigs are just platforms upon which female stars like Rihanna, Gwyneth, Oprah, Lady Gaga, Awkwafina, Jessica Alba and others have enabled themselves to launch entire marketing and media ecosystems.

Using their celebrity as a platform, these talents have moved over, under, upside and down to touch retail, health, beauty, wellness, book clubs, skin care, fashion, baby food and at the same time, transported themselves from music to film to television and vice versa.

This is a high stakes game in which it is no longer enough simply to have a product or service — that’s simply game stakes — you have to have a YouTube (or other video) presence, pop-in store, TV show, video game, music downloads, memes, print content (book, zine, oversize, lookbook, catalog), a festival, Virtual and Augmented Reality, monogrammed private airplane — and we’ll save the rest for later.

Rihanna, for example, not only pushed out her ninth album last year, but created what The New York Times Book reviewer Hunter Harris calls, “the golden age of Rihanna.”

She became the first black woman to lead a line at L.V.M.H. (via her Savage X Fenty lingerie line), has her own fashion house, Fenty Beauty, and her book “RIHANNA” has been published by Phaidon (retails at $150).

As pop culture phenomenista, Rihanna also captured an entire issue of British fashion and culture magazine i.D. in January 2020, to allow the multi-hyphenate artist and designer to highlight notable women across fashion, art, culture, activism and more.

“For me, this very special issue of i-D represents change and culture,” Rihanna said. “It is dedicated to some of the people who are progressively reshaping the communities across fashion, music, art, and activism — creating a more inclusive and diverse future.”

Dessa, a rapper artist living in New York City, has music as her art, a hit song on the “Alexander Hamilton” Broadway soundtrack, an incredible book titled “My Own Devices,” tours with Doomtree and her group of collaborators — in addition to her blogs, Facebook and Instagram posts, various personal appearances and more. (Dessa is currently launching a new something.) And you probably still haven’t heard of her.

But now you have.

Superbrander Gwyneth Paltrow

It’s Not Enough For Brand To Make Things, You Have To Spread Your Message Across Multichannels

Superbrander Gwyneth Paltrow has held the reins at her growing wellness and lifestyle superbrand goop since 2008. GP softened the viewing public in a 13-part PBS series where she rode shotgun across Spain with food critic Mark Bittman and controversial food slugger Mario Batali. Paltrow started goop as a blog for the multicurious, all the while expanding (and defending) her blog against naysayers. Paltrow has authored several books, has had multiple appearances in The New York Times and recently launched a Netflix documentary series titled, “The Goop Lab” which promises magic mushrooms, healing workshops and everything you need to know about your wonderful V.

You don’t have to be a celebrity or entertainer to make this happen. Comparatively corporate Rose Marcario, who recently stepped down from her position as Patagonia CEO, leaves behind a spectrum of lateral ventures started under her watch that include not only a legendary sustainable clothing brand, but also food group Patagonia Provisions. Tin Shed Ventures funds small, sustainable environmental actions. And a new digital platform that is “part social network, part recruiting tool” titled Action Works that connects customers with environmental activist orgs.

These efforts, in addition to Patagonia’s catalogue of books, films, and outdoor gear, expand Patagonia’s total surround.

These examples are not simply clothing, Wellness, beauty and fashion meccas. They are exhibitions of how direct to consumer and expanding networks have turned flaccid textbook marketing-by-rote on its head.

Amelia Earhardt Brand Strategy

Of course, the above template is not entirely new. A hundred years ago, female aviator Amelia Earhardt broke flight records, wrote bestselling books, gave speeches, talked her way through radio appearances, and designed a luggage and clothing collection before she disappeared into the gaping vastness of the Pacific Ocean.

It’s all about loving your fans and asking them to love you back. Then expand your networks by asking fans to invite their friends. Multiplicity multiplied by multiplicity is key.

In the past, superstars like Madonna (you can pick the star of your choice) released a photo book, a shoe or clothing line, or even created a new vodka between album cycles.

Some of these efforts were random one offs, the beginner’s guide to staying relevant.

Today they are part of the punch list for social cred, legitimacy, relevance and word of mouth (“Oh say, did you see?”).

As mentioned earlier, It is no longer enough simply to be an actor, musician, artist or performer — you have to have a YouTube (or other video platform) presence, pop-in store, TV show, video game, photographs, music downloads, memes, print content (book, zine, oversize, lookbook, catalog) — in addition to the website or APP, the Out Of Home wallboards, Influencers (if you have them), conferences (if you have them), tshirts, posters, water bottles, CRM, social content and TikTok, which has over 800 million active users worldwide (Datareportal, 2020) — more than LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, or Snapchat.

And make sure you have embraced TikTok, which (at over 1.5 billion downloads) is currently the most downloaded app in Apple’s iOS app store.

And also le enfant TikTok, which receives nearly as much viewing time (52 minutes) as its elders Facebook (58.5 minutes), Snapchat (49.5 minutes), or Instagram (53 minutes).

In 2020, we stand solidly in the future of media. What 20 years ago might have been considered as PR-grabbing one-offs have become standard procedure. The Big Idea, a staple of traditional marketing is probably too strident today, too dull for consumers soaked by hundreds of similar products. Nothing kills a product faster than boredom.

The magic rites today are to create bigger numbers not only by buying audiences, but by creating circles. Embrace your circle of advocates, then ask them to help create new circles by seeking out their friend’s friend’s friend or circulating among other new, lateral communities.

Decade 2020 is a mirrorball of creativity: you need many new ideas and you need them right away all the time. Look at the signs — moving creativity in-house, adding auxiliary teams (aka Influencers), spreading storytelling across spontaneous streams in social, digital and traditional media.

Superbranders Do Not Imprison Themselves In A Single Category

Superbranders Do Not Imprison Themselves In A Single Category

Raging superbranders do not imprison themselves in a single category. They build flowers with many petals. When those flowers blossom and grow, they begin to build gardens. Their enterprise transforms itself into a greenfield resplendent with flowers, topiary and rare fruit trees. After which? They start building honey farms.

The future of media will not stay stuck in the past. Modern commerce today lunges after two simple data points: First, for startups, be aware that the public is only even blandly aware of you after they have heard about you from five different places. Second, it takes 100 hours to make a friend. Five places times 100 hours equals an omnichannel media plan that will lead to relevance, resonance and meaning.

(Follow up the sequence with: Do you like us? Will you please tell others that you like us?)

These are like curative powers for performance marketers who forsake long term rewards for short-term engagement.

Trying to keep such a content machine thriving, however, requires systematic intentional content. Ergo, a media ecosystem that drives social, digital and traditional media constantly fed with equal parts relevance, empathy and passion. These wicked smart female entrepreneurs feed the monster because the monster feeds them back.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Patrick Hanlon, Author of Primal Branding

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