Last week we lost the iconic and legendary Prince, that magical musician who, standing 5’2″ towered high above the greatest in his industry. Since that time, everyone from my sister (the BIGGEST fan ever) to his best friends, musical collaborators and everyone in between, have been posting their memories and reminiscing about the impact he and his music had on them.
I found the urge to hop on this bandwagon of contributory posts, mostly because I felt they’d fall to deaf ears and get lost in the shuffle. I don’t like hype for the sake of hype, and I really didn’t feel I’d be contributing to the discussion in a valuable way.
Prince was a man of few words, and when he did speak, people listened.
I think he’d appreciate my hesitation. But I also think he’d abhor, to a degree, the contributory gestures being poured out to him. In the early part of his life he was a very controversial musician… pushing the boundaries of his story lines and sending claims of identity and self expression through the roof.
He did the same in the past 15 years, but in a completely different way. In the latter years, as a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses religion, he repelled those earlier years and attempted to guide his fans to a different way of thinking. His viewpoint on God, and his role in relationship with God, was a primary focus. He didn’t celebrate birthdays, and I’m sure he didn’t uphold the tributary expressions of death that have bombarded our society today. Especially his own.
With that said, I held my tongue. I reflected. I called my sister, to make sure she was ok (she wasn’t) and though for longer than I can remember Prince songs have been on rotation in my music players (so much so that I’ve converted cassette tapes to MP3s), I listened with more intensity than before.
I went with friends to see Purple Rain at the AMC movie theater in Times Square, because it came out when I was 14 years old, and it’s rated R, so of course I didn’t see it on the big screen back then, nor did I want to.
Sitting in the theater, you notice so much detail that you can’t see on a television screen. Subtleties become obvious and emotions are in clear view. But I’m a woman in branding, so of course everything I consume also gets filtered through the lens of my industry.
I’ve seen some heated (emphasis added) discussions on social media about Prince and our society’s praise of him, I’ve seen the conspiracy theorists shed light on supposed secrets and I’ve seen true grief. Whenever a life is amplified in such a way we have an opportunity to learn more than before because more is released to us than before.
In that vein, I’ve observed some inspiring, encouraging branding concepts about Prince’s personal branding. I’m sure I’ve recognized them in previous years, but the past week has compelled me to put pen to paper for them. Out of many, here are 5 that I think are most beneficial to us in today’s business climate:
- Create for the fun of it. When word of Prince’s death hit the news one of the most immediate questions on everyone’s mind was “When will the music in the vault be released?”
It’s long been rumored/shown that Prince was in a constant state of creation and his former producer has even stated that they created full length videos that were never made public. Whether we do or don’t get to experience what Prince created we can be sure of one thing: Being in a constant state of creation made him great. Your brand should do the same!
- Always be honest. In a time where there is so much noise and clutter to be heard in the world, especially online, it was always refreshing to see someone live their truth. When being interviewed (and he did few interviews) it was rewarding to see Prince take a moment to think about the answer that he would give, and he didn’t tout politically correct jargon for the sake of popularity. He stated his truth, and when challenged about whether it would make him unpopular, he confirmed that there was no other way for him to be. It’s a hard-pressed core value to find these days. Your brand should do the same!
- Use Space. I love this concept because I’ve been guiding brands to do this for years in a similar way. Prince once stated that Space is a sound he learned from Miles Davis. I liken the silence of space to the openness of words and images on a page. It must be used, or everything else surrounding it will in essence drown it out. Without space everything from your mind to your emotions to your physical freedom, are limited. Space gives you the room to breathe and be, and invite others in. Prince knew this. Your brand should do the same!
- Reign, and name, your domain (pun intended, duh). Elvis had Graceland, Michael Jackson had Neverland, Google has the Googleplex and Prince had Paisley Park. Celebrities naming their homes is nothing new, but why should this inspiration be reserved for the rich and famous? I think naming your home can lend itself to a remarkable home (brand) experience. A couple of years ago I remember hearing Oprah say that her home rises to greet her and I thought… “I need that”. It’s a fun concept to play around with. If your home rose to greet you, what would its name be?
- Change your mind. Prince did few interviews, and of those few even fewer were allowed to have recording devices. Why? Well, he once stated that he didn’t like tape recorders or furious note taking at his interviews because like anyone, he may change his mind. We are all allowed to change our minds. New experiences and new information often give us a new point of view. As adoring fans we’d like to say that we have no problem with an artist changing their mind, their viewpoint, their direction, but we do. It takes courage to change your mind (shout out to my girl Taylor Swift) and tenacity to stand firm in that change when challenged. Prince did this. Your brand should do the same!
I’ll admit, our admiration of celebrities is often misplaced. They have strong personal, emotional brand power. It’s hard to strike the balance between adoration and idolization, but perhaps if we focus on the positive things we can learn from them we’ll actually contribute to a better legacy in their honor. What’s your take? Share your thoughts below…