Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.
Identifying your true brand identity is one of the most important aspects of building a sustainable and enjoyable career. If you find yourself struggling to feel comfortable in your industry under the brand identity that has been given to you or that you yourself have allowed to take shape, then it may be time for you to take a step back and re-analyze your brand identity.
My company works closely with artists, both young and old, and we have seen many who claim a brand identity they personally do not believe in or one they have convinced themselves they do. It’s obvious to see when an individual is claiming a brand identity that is a falsity to their true self, and it’s painful for us as a company when we come across artists who have found themselves in this situation.
Now, it’s not our right to forcibly change our clients’ brand identities — unless, of course, that is what they hired us to do. However, we do vocalize how we’ve seen false brand identities work against artists, and we do suggest alternative paths we see as more fitting to their true brand identity. True brand identity is identified throughout the process of working alongside the artist and through learning more about the artist outside their artist persona.
Today, we will discuss three ways we’ve seen false brand identities negatively affecting artists. To help us confirm our observations, we recently spoke with Caleb Quaye, a well-known rock guitarist, about brand identity. Based on this, I was inspired to write this piece for creatives on why it’s so important to analyze your brand identity to ensure it’s a proper fit. We often bring in seasoned artists to help us consult our clients who are artists because it allows us to analyze potential artist issues and situations from both an outside perspective as well as from an inside perspective. These two types of perspectives are essential paired together to assure that clients are effectively provided with viable and dynamic information that they can resonate with.
Now, three ways we have seen false brand identities negatively affecting artists are as follows:
1. Your art suffers.
True art cannot be confined and must be allowed to flow freely. If it’s not, the quality of art inevitably suffers. The music industry is notorious for forcing artists into roles they themselves don’t want to play but must anyway because that role has proven to be financially beneficial. This has led to mediocre art within the industry that appears to lack any true creativity. In our conversations with Caleb Quaye, he expressed that the industry assesses you according to the success or marketability of your brand. Bottom line: If the product becomes successful, the industry will want a repeat performance of the brand — and on it goes because it’s all about the money.
2. You suffer.
Your suffering can be both mental and physical. Allow me to first touch on the mental portion. When an artist is forced to maintain a false brand identity, we have seen that it becomes taxing on the artist’s mental state, and they find themselves fighting to be comfortable with themselves. They walk throughout their lives being known as someone they aren’t, which can lead to a plethora of mental struggles that wears down on the artist and can stifle their creativity. Caleb articulated that not only can a false brand identity wear on an artists’ mental state, but he described his time at the top of the rock industry as a fast life he couldn’t maintain for long. The fast life the industry often bundles into the brand identities they thrust upon artists has both mental and physical repercussions. To avoid facing situations like this or similar, it’s important for the artist to know and stick with their true brand identity to ensure their career doesn’t adversely impact their life.
3. Your influence is diminished or distorted.
What people need to understand is that your brand identity is you. This is vital to comprehend, especially for those who have a large sphere of influence — an influence that reaches a multitude of people. If artists allow their brand identity to be altered and turned into a falsity, their message inevitably becomes tainted and no longer true to what the artist believes. This message gets passed down to the artist’s audience and fan base, which can be detrimental if the artist is claiming a false brand identity created by the industry for a profit with disregard for consequences. Caleb claimed a brand identity in his early career, but over time, that brand identity became a falsity. He understood that his identity would influence his fan base, so he pivoted and embodied his true self and now is a mentor to young artists, helping them navigate and create their truest brand identity.
Think about it: What would happen to you — and the audience you have influence over — if you adopted a false brand identity? In order to avoid the consequences that can come with claiming a false brand identity, you must ask yourself one question: Is my current brand identity a true reflection of myself, or is it a falsity created by my industry? If the latter, it may be time for you to rethink your brand identity.