Aretha Franklin, commonly called “the Queen of Soul,” died on August 16, the anniversary of the death of the King of Rock, Elvis Presley. This left music fans mourning two timeless entertainment icons. And it left many people discussing the legacy of one of the most prolific women, ever, in the music business.
We won’t discuss Aretha’s incredible legacy. Others have done that, and they’ve done that very well. What we will do is look at how Ms. Franklin developed her magnetic diva persona and cultivated her brand, making it a rise above countless others in the same industry.
Aretha Created a Standout Brand
Whether you were introduced to Aretha Franklin through her many hits, her soul records or her star-making performance in The Blues Brothers, which has been turning millions of new fans on to Aretha for generations, there is no doubt that the singer created a standout brand. After all, she’s in that rarified air of recording artists who are easily recognized by just one name: Bono, Cher, Madonna… Aretha. There are just not that many people famous enough to be instantly recognized in a single word. From day one, she had a signature sound, a signature presence, and a signature delivery. There were many female soul singers, but there were precious few like Aretha. She knew who she was, and she absolutely owned it.
Aretha Made People Feel
Whether or not you liked her genre of music, listening to Aretha made you feel something, strongly and deeply. When she sang, you responded emotionally. That was the strength of her passion, her delivery, and her signature presence. If your brand isn’t creating strong feelings in your target market, you’re doing it wrong. Your message should impact people, leave them feeling something, so they do something.
Aretha Connected When Others Divided
During one of the most contentious times in recent American history, Aretha managed to speak out without dividing. She was very involved in the fight for Civil Rights, as were many other stars in that time, but she managed to live in both worlds – politics and entertainment – without alienating her fan base. How can your brand bring people together? How can you connect groups that may otherwise not be connected? Manage that, and you exponentially grow your market potential.
Aretha’s Messages Were Relatable
Think about some of Aretha’s most famous hits: Respect, Natural Woman, Chain of Fools, so many others. They were relatable. Her fans heard them and instantly connected, because they understood. Total strangers, who had never heard Aretha before heard the songs and they felt that someone knew them. This woman was singing their heart, their emotions, and their experiences. She was their voice. How can your brand be a voice for your target market? How can you answer a call or connect in a relatable way?
Aretha’s legacy will last in music for generations, and her lessons in how to build and manage a brand offers us much wisdom as well.