Prince: the Man, the Musician, the Brand

By Tricia Allenson

What do mega superstars like Prince, Cher, Sting and Madonna have in common? Well, besides the obvious, (one name), they all have distinctive strong brands that make them incredibly successful, likable and recognizable. With the recent passing of Prince we are again reminded that people with this kind of mammoth talent and celebrity stature may only come along a few times in our lives but their legacy (and brand) will likely live on. How many of YOU have downloaded a Prince song or album from iTunes in the past week? (Prince has sold nearly 3.5 million songs and albums in the U.S since Thursday.)

Born in Minneapolis, Prince maintained his Minnesota roots right up to his death. He will be remembered for many things, among them; an Oscar, a Golden Globe, multiple Grammy's and millions of record sales, but none of that really represented his brand. Those were just mere trophies or acknowledgements of his genius and success. What he is remembered for are the things that the media, the music industry and most importantly his fans, defined him as. This is the ever so elusive brand identity that everyone strives for but few get right. It’s often out of their control unless carefully manufactured by a very savvy performer or clever brand expert.

Known for his eccentricity and 40 years of dedication to music and songwriting and even his own distinctive color purple, Prince couldn’t escape his own brand identity when he tried to drop his name and change his identity to a hybrid male / female symbol. 

Confused fans still referred to him as “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince” that was how they knew and loved him and there wasn’t much he could do about it.

Will the very large shoes of Prince ever be filled? Maybe someday, but for the moment it’s comforting to remember him for his unique gifts and that we were part of his journey.

Great brands are simple and cannot be ignored. Can you pick out the brand identity of these other music celebrities?

(Cher, Sting and Madonna)  

1.   Activist for Human Rights and Environmentalism / Philanthropist

2.   Fashion trendsetter/ Goddess of Pop/ Reinvention of Self

3.    Shock/ Material girl/ Relevant to the Times

1. Sting 2. Cher 3. Madonna