It’s rare that one person can influence culture in the way Bad Bunny has over the past few years, and as a leader, it’s provided me an opportunity to reflect on his movements and take a few lessons from the man shaping culture to his tastes. I’m talking about looking beyond just the strategic branding and business moves Bad Bunny, aka Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, makes, and looking deeper into the expression, creativity and vibe for some valuable insights business leaders in the culture space can use to improve their brands.
While ongoing global events devastated businesses over the past year and a half, Bad Bunny managed to put out two studio albums and a compilation album, star in the hit series Narcos: Mexico and even throw down in the Wrestlemania ring, all while seemingly defying trends, predictions and expectations. The Puerto Rican artist, to me, represents how true cultural impact is possible when you’re confident in your unique identity and creativity. Here are three lessons business leaders in the culture space can learn from Bad Bunny.
Lesson No. 1: Be Your Flavor of Unique
Many leaders believe that the uniqueness of their business is an outcome of a process instead of it being an unshakable, core aspect of their brand. Bad Bunny is relentlessly defensive of his style, identity and tastes, going so far as to write an entire song called “Me Visto Asi” (“I Dress Like This”), which is mostly about him breaking down how expectations and norms don’t affect him because he’s going to do what feels genuine to him.
We can apply this in leadership by making sure when we’re evaluating our unique value propositions that we’re starting from within and not looking too hard at competitors and trends for clues as to how to set our businesses apart. When you put the work into knowing your brand, your core capabilities, positioning, and, especially important in the culture space, your people, you can distill from these learnings what truly makes your company unique. This is critical to growth because it gives you the right narrative to showcase the strengths of your company first instead of relying on comparisons to competitors or other external factors.
Lesson No. 2: Hyphenate Your Offering
Successful brands that navigate the culture space capitalize on nuances and complexities of different communities by emphasizing the impact they can have in more than one area. Bad Bunny went from rapping to acting and wrestling, which, on the surface, seems like typical Hollywood hyphen-chasing until you see the motivation behind it. Bad Bunny let his passion and dreams drive him to reach out to Wrestlemania to train and participate.
For leaders in the culture space, a great place to look for new areas of expansion is by reflecting on the early stages of growth. Often the projects, ideas and experiences that were put to the side during the early stages of growth are worth reexamining. Often the motivation, euphoria and excitement of early growth, which no doubt comes with stress, panic and instability, can become even more valuable as a company grows. This is because early in the growth stages, many big ideas and potential are too often sidelined. There’s a huge opportunity in examining what those things were and seeing if that is where the next product, innovation or line of business can stem from. If it’s successful, it’ll likely come with the same DNA that you’ve used to grow other aspects of your business.
Lesson No. 3: Make Them ‘Feel’ You
Bad Bunny’s interview on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah was one of the first times he ever did a full interview in English. When he was asked why he thinks he’s gained so much popularity and clout despite only rapping and singing in Spanish, he said he thinks people “feel” him.
How much people feel your brand is something that can’t be measured as a conventional KPI, but in the culture space, companies that are able to accomplish this are usually the most successful. It’s not just about a product, a service or even a story — it’s very much about flexing a vibe. When people come to your brand as customers or as part of your team and they can say they like it because they get it, they feel and experience what makes your company unique. That’s when you know you’ve gone beyond being understood or having your value clearly demonstrated; you’ve accessed that person on a deeper level.
It’s not very often that such a creative force hits culture in the way that Bad Bunny has; and as leaders in the culture space seek to make a meaningful impact, I believe it’s this unlikely Puerto Rican rapper whom we can look to for inspiration. I’ll continue to learn from those whose creativity translates to mass impact and I would highly encourage other business leaders to do the same.